Shama District Chief Executive Ebenezer Dadzie is making a strong case for each Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembly (MMDA) to get a functioning office for the Legal Aid Commission.
He is confident that the nearness of such office will undoubtedly enable a good number of the poor and vulnerable get access to free legal services without any hindrance.
Speaking at a community engagement at Abuesi in Shama as part of the 2021 Legal Aid Week, the Shama DCE described as regrettable how many people especially the poor and vulnerable are unable to get access to legal service for the simple reason that they do not have fares to travel to the office of the Legal Aid Commission.
He explained that apart from the fare there is also the issue of distance because often the office of the Legal Aid Commission is located far away.
It was, therefore, not surprising when Mr Dadzie accepted to grant a request from the Legal Aid Commission for the Assembly to help with an office space.
According to him, getting an office for the Commission in Shama is in sync with the long-held vision of ensuring that offices of strategic departments are located in the district.
“Shama is the gateway to the Western Region. Therefore, it should not be the case that everyday we will travel to Takoradi for almost everything. This district is opening up and because of our strategic positioning, we have decided that we will get all the critical departments here. So, I want to assure you that we will get an office for you, we are ready. Your services are critical. Not everyone has the financial muscle to engage the services of a lawyer. So, if we have a legal aid commission, we must take full advantage of the services it offers.”
The community engagement was a USAID Justice Sector Support Activity and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in collaboration with the Legal Aid Commission.
It was to deliberate on legal aid issues and to solicit views from the public for the development of legal aid policy.
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)/Public Education and Advocacy Specialist Esther Ahulu explained that the purpose for the engagement was also to encourage the poor and vulnerable not to hesitate to resort to the Legal Aid Commission for free legal services.
“…several research have shown that there is a lot of challenges with our justice delivery system. One of the challenges is how to access legal services and you are aware of how expensive it is to get a lawyer. This is why the legal aid commission comes in handy and so there is an urgent need to create the necessary awareness for especially the poor and vulnerable to take full advantage of the services the commission offer.
“…and I must say that we have been overwhelmed with the numbers and the kind of responses we have had from the people. It shows that this engagement has been very useful and timely. We think more needs to be done in terms of awareness creation on legal aid”
A lawyer with the Western Region office of the Commission, Ebo Donkor, corroborated the concerns of the DCE and said the importance of a Legal Aid Commission in each MMDA in respect to access to legal service cannot be underestimated.
“As you are aware, our services are tailor-made for the poor and vulnerable in society. Therefore, if in accessing that service they have to travel long distances and also incur cost, then the very people we are there to serve will be denied because already they are financially challenged. This is not what we want to see happening. So, bringing the service to the doorstep is a big relief because the issue of particularly transportation and time will be erased thereby making our service easily accessible to them.”
Scores of residents who attended the community engagement were happy that very soon they will not have to travel long distances to get free legal services.
By Eric Yaw Adjei|Connect FM|3news.com|Ghana