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Lawmaker fights for his right to represent poor Nigerians as a lawyer in court

The lawmaker wants to continue being a lawyer while he remains a public servant.

Osun State lawmaker, Kanmi Ajibola, says he wants to help inmates with free legal services [PG]

The trained lawyer is asking the court to rule on his right to provide free legal services for suspects who are facing criminal charges but are too poor to afford legal representation.

Ajibola was elected as the lawmaker representing Oriade constituency in 2023, and wants to continue being a lawyer while he remains a public servant for his current legislative term that ends in 2027.

Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel of the FHC had struck out his suit at the lower court, noting that the lawmaker's extra-curricular activity was in contravention of the 1999 Constitution which forbids public servants from engaging in self-serving activities or businesses.

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In filing his seven-ground notice of appeal, Ajibola argued that the judge didn't sufficiently consider other facts of the case in reaching his ruling, which was delivered on May 16, 2024. He argued that the court misinterpreted and misapplied the provisions of paragraphs 1, 2 (a) and (b) of the Fifth Schedule Part 1 of the constitution.

The lawmaker noted that he's been providing pro-bono legal services for decades. He said he's always done this as "a public interest duty and not a personal interest or a private business, a trade or a profession for money making," according to a statement he sent Pulse Nigeria on Monday, June 17.

Ajibola further noted that Justice Ayo-Emmanuel didn't consider the role his NGO, Prisoners Aid Initiative, plays in helping inmates with free legal services. He said the NGO, registered in 2008, has helped to secure freedom of many innocent Nigerians who were subjected to trumped-up charges, thereby also helping the government to decongest prisons.

As of last month, 68% of more than 81,000 inmates in prisons across Nigeria were awaiting trial, many of them for years due to a host of factors, including no legal representation.

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and the Attorney-General of Osun State are the two respondents in Ajibola's case.

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