As Mobility, Pay Rise, and Printer Take Centre Stage
By Kebba Secka
Anonymous source at the National Agency for Legal Aid (NALA) has informed this medium that the agency’s legal unit will begin an indefinite sit-down strike effective July 1st 2021 until their demands are addressed by the concerned authorities.
In a petition by the legal staff addressed to the Executive Secretary of NALA and copied to Boards of Directors of NALA, Office of the President, Attorney General and Minister of Justice and National Assembly Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters, the lawyers demanded to be accorded the same pay rise as their counterparts at the Ministry of Justice with drawback of pay from the month of January, 2021.
They also demanded the provision of adequate mobility to be able to access court sittings and a printer at the legal unit to be able to print court processes (court documents). The lawyers claimed to be using their own money to print court documents simply because they do not have access to a printer.
The protesters in their letter referred the executive secretary to the minutes of the Legal Unit meeting that was held on 4th June, 2021 at NALA’s head office, where the officers highlighted their frustrations as workers who deserved dignity.
While defending their claims, the lawyers explained that their counterparts at the Ministry of Justice have been accorded one hundred percent (100%) pay rise with draw back from the month of January.
They want the same thing to be equally extended to them as they are all state lawyers. They explained in the petition that several efforts were made to engage the executive secretary and the government relevant agencies, including the office of the president but without improvement.
Therefore, the lawyers resolved to embark on a sit-down strike until their mobility constraints are addressed. According to their petition, the Agency covers all superior and Children’s Courts throughout the country with only one roadworthy vehicle which is barely available to the entire legal unit.
”Legal Aid 3, the only pickup that has been assigned to transport the lawyers, is so dilapidated that it often breaks down in the middle of the road thereby leaving lawyers stranded on the road or forced to join public transport in order to get to court,” the petitioners complained in their letter.
The protesters further pointed out in the petition that the cushions of the car that should cover the seats of the pick-up are all worn out, making the foams dusty and open wires on the seats.
In spite of the vehicle’s condition according to their letter, they still tried to ”bear the embarrassment of coming out of our car with foam dust all over our clothes.”
They further claimed that their vehicle’s poor condition caused them several road accidents which the agency’s management was aware of.
Thirdly, the protesters demand the authorities to provide the legal unit of NALA a centralized network-connected printer to print court processes.
They alleged that the only readily available printer is installed at the Assistant Account’s office and whenever the said office is closed, printing of court processes becomes impossible.
However, it’s worthy to note that NALA is established to provide legal representation and advice to people who cannot afford private legal services.