Engaging students from the Nigerian Law School: making people-centred justice happen in Nigeria

Two auditoriums filled with expectant Nigerian Law School students made for optimistic energy for the forum. Maryam Abba-Shehu gave her personal story of how she went from being a law student to being called to the Bar before seeking an opportunity to work for an international NGO.

Maryam along with HiiL’s very own Ijeoma Nwafor and Theresa Smout presented the makings of a people-centred justice in Nigeria to two auditoriums of 500 students and 650 students respectively. 

Nigeria Law graduates are expected to go through a one-year post-graduate programme at the Nigerian Law School before they are called to the Bar to practice law, making them particularly receptive to HiiL’s work. Not to mention that we had future Nigerian justice leaders in the room!

 The presentation discussed local realities, linking different examples to the five-pillar approach we practice at HiiL.

The importance of working from data was followed by highlights of the Justice Needs and Satisfaction Survey and a call to action for the future lawyers to consider a career in measuring justice. 

With applying best practices, we shared the 7 Gamechangers that have emerged thus far from justice innovations across the globe. The participants were then encouraged to consider innovative solutions that can be scaled as gamechangers to have a great impact in solving people’s most pressing justice challenges. Examples of some of HiiL’s innovators from past Innovating Justice Challenges were shared with an emphasis on Nigeria and West Africa, at large. 

The importance of creating an enabling environment by bringing justice leaders and other stakeholders together in a justice transformation dialogue through our labs were also explained. We briefly shared the outcomes of the Imo State  Justice Transformation Lab and Ogun state Civil Justice Transformation Lab. During this particular pillar, we made them realize that in less than a year they would join the pool of stakeholders and policymakers that can make people-centred justice happen in Nigeria. 

Strengthening the movement was explained as not just the global community but also in-country movements, from the small community spaces like the Nigerian Law School to states, villages and countries.

We asked a few reflective questions  to the students:

  • What does justice mean to you?
  • What motivates you to become a lawyer?
  • Which words come to mind when you hear the term people-centred justice?
  • Only 8% of people turn to lawyers for legal advice. Only 15% turn to the legal sector for resolution. Does this information resonate with you? Do you see the opportunities that this offers?

While some of the students answered the reflective questions, others asked further questions and made comments. In the end, all echoed that the forum has inspired them to think outside the box and to challenge their professional space to make justice user-friendly. A large portion of the student body wanted to know if HiiL had any platform for a network of like-minded persons interested in working to make people-centred justice a reality. Some of the students are already part of the social impact space and wished to collaborate with us. Of course, we always encourage those interested in justice to engage with us, and each other, on our social media channels. 

 In all, the forum has made it clear that this “catching them young” approach embarked on in Nigeria is poised to give future justice leaders, innovators and perhaps investors what it takes to “Make people-centred justice happen in Nigeria.”

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