With the help of Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA), Nigerian lawyers are building new institutions that champion the fundamental human rights of West Africa’s poor and marginalized communities, especially those that are threatened by the destructive impacts of extractive activities. 

At the beginning of November 2023, ACA signed Memoranda of Understanding with three such institutions – the Public Interest Lawyering Initiative for West Africa’s Nigeria Chapter (PILIWAN), Caleb University College of Law (COLAW) in Lagos, and the Nigeria Bar Association Port Harcourt Branch (NBA-PHB) – to boost public interest law and representation.

Legal Clinic at COLAW

ACA, PILIWAN, and COLAW have agreed to collaborate to launch a public interest legal clinic at COLAW by March 2024.  Clinical students will gain practical experience of the law while contributing to concrete public interest cases – in other words, they will learn by doing, while doing good. 

ACA will provide curriculum, guest instructors, strategic guidance, and some financial support for the clinic’s operations.  PILIWAN will also collaborate on curriculum and guest instructors, provide opportunities for practical learning, and coordinate fieldwork, while COLAW will host the law school, provide basic instruction, and propose further opportunities for collaboration (such as research endeavors).

Public Interest Litigation Desk at NBA-PHB

A new partnership between ACA, PILIWAN, and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) centers on a public interest litigation desk, to be hosted at the NBA’s Port Harcourt Branch.  This collaboration will create a space where individuals and communities threatened by powerful economic actors can be connected to lawyers who will support their struggle.

 “This partnership with Nigeria Bar Association is to strengthen the public interest work they do, especially the human rights aspect of it”, said Courage Nsirimovu, PILIWA Nigeria South-South Coordinator and Founder of Pilex Centre for Civic Engagement.

“They have limited resources, so they need encouragement.  This collaboration will help the NBA Human Rights Committee to do more. We want them to do more so we can help indigent persons who do not have the opportunity to get access to justice”.

Jonathan G. Kaufman, the Executive Director of ACA, explained, “We are trying to bring to West African countries the idea that the law is an instrument for social justice.  This means that lawyers and the Bar can use the law to help make life better for communities, and individuals.  Being a lawyer is not just about greasing the wheels of the society and serving the interests of the rich and powerful.”

“That is what this partnership between ACA, PILIWA, and the NBA is all about.  Using law for social justice can mean so many things, like fighting for environmental justice when there is an oil spill, representing people who are wrongfully imprisoned, standing up for women whose rights have been downtrodden or subjected to abuse and seeking to change reality for them.  Human rights include all the things people need to live a dignified and reasonable life, and we hope the public interest litigation desk will help marginalized Nigerian communities to secure these rights.”

PILIWAN is the Nigerian national chapter of the Public Interest Lawyering Initiative for West Africa (PILIWA), a network of lawyers, law firms, and non-profits in nine West African countries that promote public interest law and representation for marginalized and threatened communities. 

Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA) is a Ghana-based non-profit organization that helped West African communities that are threatened by the destructive impacts of extractive projects to take control of their own future, through a combination of community-driven development support and community-based legal and advocacy programming.