Paralegals in Enugu, Nigeria
Paralegals Enugu, Nigeria ©

Nick Cavanagh/Nigeria Justice for All Programme

Most citizens do not have access to the formal justice system to resolve disputes due to the high cost of litigation (court fees, lawyers’ fees and transport costs). 

There is low patronage at Citizens' Rights and Mediation Centres in Nigeria (CMRC) (e.g. Enugu CRMC had only 231 users in 2011). Reasons include distance of centres from users, lack of awareness that the centres exit and the quality of services provided.

This has contributed to large numbers of prisoners awaiting trial, with access to pro bono legal aid assistance at only 11.4% (UNODC survey 2007).

What people say about J4A's work

'The training highlighted a lot of gaps in our management skills and increased my capacity to perform in my position as manager.'

- Head of Citizens’ Mediation Centre, Agege

'As a result of the training, the Citizens’ Mediation Centre is the only unit in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice that has agreed and communicated its mission, vision and goal for 2012.'

- Head Citizens’ Mediation Centre, Lagos

'The paralegals are a welcome development. So many cases have been settled by these men and women. Their work has been a huge relief to us.'

- Chief of Onaenyi of Ihenyi Village

Our aim

  • Ensure poor and vulnerable citizens, especially women, are provided with access to fair, equitable and speedy dispute resolution systems
  • Enable citizens to understand their rights and options for accessing justice and resolving disputes by building awareness and understanding of available options
  • Ensure the Citizens' Rights and Mediation Centres are delivering high quality mediation services and are accepted as reliable means of dispute resolution by improving their effectiveness, with an emphasis on enhancing their ability to meet the needs of poor people
  • Support the dissemination of information and guidance on best practice, with lessons from the development and implementation of legal services and mechanisms at the community level

Our approach

  • Establishing Community Paralegal and Village Mediation Programme (CPVMP) in partnership with civil society
  • Enhancing services provided by Citizens' Rights and Mediation Centres (CMRC): improving data collection, implementing a communication strategy and training staff to improve mediation skills
  • Revitalising CRMC networks to share and learn best practices
  • Dissemination and replication of activities

Who we work with

Citizens’ Rights and Mediation Centres

  • Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC) Lagos
  • Citizens’ Rights and Mediation Centre (CRMC) Enugu
  • Citizens’ Mediation Centre (CMC) Kano

Government ministries and agencies

Civil Society organisations (CSOs)

  • Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDoC), Enugu
  • Lagos: 25 CSOs

Delivering results

Increase in number of mediation cases handled and resolved:

  • 2012: 22,509 cases handled, 9,987 resolved
  • 2013: 28,556 cases handled, 12,610 resolved

Lagos Citizens’ Mediation Centre:

  • 65 mediators being mentored on mediation skills
  • Upgraded data system continues to provide more accurate information on trends and performance of the CMC
  • Continuous increase in number of users and cases referred from other justice agencies
  • Continuous improvement in quality of settlements with fewer agreements coming back due to non-compliance with terms
  • Paralegal and village mediation
  • 22 paralegals and 150 village mediators being mentored provide paralegal/ mediation services
  • Cooperation now established between the Community Paralegal and Village Mediation Programme and the formal and informal justice institutions
  • In July-December 2013, paralegals/ village mediators resolved 67 cases/disputes (of the 84 handled) and provided assistance in 19 cases in police stations

Spotlight on gender

Citizens Mediation Centres in Lagos

  • July-December 2012: 30% female disputants or complainants
  • July-December 2013: 35% female disputants or complainants 

Enugu Community Paralegal and Village Mediation Programme (CPVMP):

  • Of the 84 cases handled by community paralegals and village mediators, 49% were initiated by women.

Village mediators

  • 137 village mediators (63 women and 74 men) were trained on gender and human rights.