NACL: Advancing the cause of justice

The just-concluded Provincial Executive Council (PEC) Meeting of the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria offers another opportunity for the National Association of Catholic Lawyers (NACL) to highlight its various programmes that are geared towards promoting the rule of law and advancing the cause of justice in Nigeria. The PEC meeting was held at the Domus Pacis Pastoral Institute, Igoba, Diocese of Ondo.

Speaking on the report, the Protem President of NACL Ibadan Province, Michael Agbolade, said that there had been great effort since 1994 to bring practitioners of law, who are Catholic members under one body in view of what operates within the umbrella body of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). At the inauguration of the association in Ibadan Archdiocese, it was named Catholic Lawyers Forum (CLF). This letter was addressed to the Archbishop of Ibadan, Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel ‘Leke Abegunrin, Metropolitan Archbishop of Ibadan, which made the association to be known and called National Association of Catholic Lawyers (NACL), Ibadan Archdiocese.

Furthermore, national officers were recognised and inaugurated alongside other trustees throughout the country such as Hon. Justice Peter Olabisi Ige (JCA) Rtd, as member of the National Board of Trustees, representing the Ibadan Province; Titus Asaolu (SAN), an Ilorin-based legal practitioner as the Provincial Patron, while at the plenary meeting at the provincial bishops meeting in Ibadan, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Akingbade, was appointed as the Provincial Chaplain. The President, Ibadan Provincial Laity Council, Mr. Bernard Salako, had equally given recognition to our association to attend the provincial laity meetings since 2023.

It is noteworthy that as lawyers, who are lay faithful in the Ibadan Province, we owe it a duty to enhance the desire of the church in promoting rule of law to all, who are denied of their inalienable rights since law is a vital tool for liberation, which humanity requires to enhance human development, which cuts across economic, intellectual property, healthcare, formal education, human rights, care of for the physically-challenged, orphans and destitute persons, widows, child’s rights enforcement, social communication and family law advocacy, among others. Agbolade added that the secretariat of the province is located at the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) office in Ibadan.

He listed the aim and objectives of the association to include: to cooperate with the ecclesiastical authorities of the province and shall be dedicated to the cause of the Catholic church in the promotion of the gospel message of salvation. It shall work to promote love, unity and progress among all people in Ibadan province, Nigeria and the whole world. The protem president said the focus of the group comprise rendering of advisory, advocacy and/or legal services to the Archdiocese through any of its established institutions such as hospitals, schools and colleges, and seminaries ad-hoc committees with ecclesiastical recognition, to mention some.

With these proposals in mind, there is the need for an action plan to guide our profession as Lawyers within the local church to enhance and embrace our activities as a body of professionals for access to justice for all. As part of our proposal, we hope to have legal year thanksgiving Masses in all the dioceses in the province within the months of October and November every year on the approval of the local ordinary subject to chaplain’s contact to the bishops on a date to be fixed. We are making this demand because the Catholic church in Nigeria observes the month of May as the World Social Communication Sunday with the delivery of the Holy Father and pope’s message.

In Nigeria, our training venues at the Nigeria law schools are found in Abuja have numerous campuses. He noted further that we consider it necessary and relevant to mentor Catholic law students from our dioceses preparing to go to law schools from their respective universities through the Nigeria Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS) to enhance proper ethics of the profession after being called to the Nigerian bar. This is in line with the slogan of NACL, ‘Justice through Christ’ and the laity manual of the National Laity Council of Nigeria (NLCN) with the slogan ‘Salt of the Earth … Light of the World’. He informed that the provincial summit comes up on Friday, September 30 to October 1, 2024, tagged ‘Ede 2024’, at the St. Augustine Regional Pastoral Institute (SARPI), Ede, Osun state.

Towards this, each diocese in the province is to send three delegates, chaplain inclusive to the summit with the theme, ‘Legal profession in a distressed economy: Catholic lawyers in perspective’. Agbolade appreciated the local ordinaries of the Archdiocese of Ibadan, dioceses of Ado-Ekiti, Ondo, Osogbo, Oyo and Ilorin as well as the president and executive council members of the Ibadan Provincial Laity Council of Nigeria for the opportunity extended to the lawyers. “It is our hope that our group will be considered to contribute our quota to the access to justice since already the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has allowed the national body to be registered as an umbrella for all lawyers in Nigeria”, he stated.