The fate of thousands of Ghanaians living below the minimum wage who need legal representation continues to hang in the balance because of the dire state of the Legal Aid Scheme, meant to provide legal assistance to such persons.
Established in 1987 by law, the Scheme is now bedeviled with almost every challenge known to a typical public institution in Ghana.
Its biggest woe is space.
Currently, it occupies only a section section of the ground floor of the Council for Law Reporting building in Accra.
This affords it only 7 rooms to operate both the head office and the regional office.
The Legal Aid Scheme is also heavily understaffed as it only has 21 lawyers and 40 alternative dispute resolution personnel serving its 10 regional offices and 16 district offices.
In Accra, the Scheme has to depend on only 4 lawyers and 4 mediators for all its cases.
A worker with the Scheme, Saani Mahmoud Adbul-Rasheed said the workload is unbearable.
“Sometimes the work is just too much and then you cannot look at people in the face and tell them you cannot assist them simply because you are just a few people doing a whole lot of work” he said.
The Scheme cannot afford to provide workers with computers thus they are compelled to use their personal laptops.
Sometimes, the office can be plunged into darkness for days when the electricity pre-paid credit runs out.
The situation in turn leaves the dozens of poor people who visit the Scheme to seek legal help frustrated. Ultimately, the snail-paced processes also delays the justice people desperately need.
Getrude Kotey, a beneficiary of the Scheme spoke to Citi News about her dissatisfaction.
“The other day, I spent the whole day there because there are not enough laptops to draft down the issue before it gets to the lawyer to go through” she lamented.
We’re determined to protect the rights of Ghanaians – Nana Addo
President Akufo- Addo recently said his government is determined to protect the rights of all Ghanaians in the delivery of justice.
This, according to him, will be made possible by his administration’s commitment to work tirelessly to address legislative and policy loopholes.
Speaking at an Awards Dinner in celebration of 10 years of the Justice For All Programme (JFAP), Nana Akufo-Addo said Ghana cannot be a nation where some are under the shed of freedom and justice while others are rid of its protective shade.
The Ghana Legal Aid Scheme
The Ghana Legal Aid Scheme is a public service organisation within the Justice delivery system of Ghana.
It is one of the component institutions which the Ministry for Justice has oversight responsibility over, and it operates countrywide from ten (10) offices in all the regional capitals.
The Scheme is tasked under the Legal Aid Scheme Act 1997 (Act 542) to provide legal assistance to the poor and indigent, as well as other persons in the prosecution and defence of their rights under the Constitution of Ghana.