The Senior Counsel attached to the Pilot National Legal Aid (PNLA) programme, Ansumana Ivan Sesay has told the press in Kenema City that his organization PNLA was established on 6th January 2010 to help promote the concept of access to justice amongst ordinary Sierra Leoneans across the country.
He disclosed that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reports in Sierra Leone blamed problems associated with access to justice in the country as some of the factors responsible for the outbreak of the civil war.
Evan Sesay said to avert a reoccurrence of the civil war the government of the Republic of Sierra Leone in partnership with the British Government under the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP) established the Pilot National Legal Aid (PNLA) programme to provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford to pay the cost involved in soliciting justice.
He stated that the main beneficiaries of the project are the handicap, children, women and other vulnerable groups of people that cannot meet the demand side of justice as provided for by law.
He told all that they can be contacted at the fourth floor of the old government building in Freetown for their services which he said they are offering free of cost.
He stated that since the establishment of PNLA a year ago they have succeeded in resolving about a thousand cases across the nation either through representation in court or out of court settlement for complaints and people in conflict with the law at national and community levels.
Contributing another counsel attached to the program Leonard Taylor described the extension of the programme to the provinces as timely noting that their activities in the capital Freetown was a test case that has attracted the attention of Government and other donor partners that are now calling for the expansion of the pilot phase of the program to the interior of the country.
He also said his organization is giving priority to accused persons in court in order to ensure that justice is dispensed in a free, fair and balanced manner.
Olu Garba and Samuel Saffa who are paralegals working for PLNA emphasized the need for people to access justice in the interest of peace and stability for the enhancement of national development.
They catalogued the proliferation of irrelevant and minor cases to court for prosecution such as the use of abusive language and other offences that can be easily resolved outside the court as a factor responsible for the volume of cases in most courts across the nation waiting arbitration.
They appealed to all especially the targeted beneficiaries to make good use of the opportunity extended to them.
By Saffa Moriba