Dr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, Minister for Inner- City and Zongo Development has stressed the need for the expansion of legal education to bridge the lawyer-citizen ratio in the country.
This will ensure the availability, efficiency and accessibility of legal services to all regardless of one's social, political or economic circumstances.
Ghana has an estimated population of over 30 million with Lawyer to citizen ratio of 1:80,000 with concentration largely in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi leaving many of the rural areas unserved.
Dr Hamid was speaking at the launch of a programme dubbed: “Law Clinic”, organised by the Law Students’ Union of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Inner-City and Zongo Development as part of its law week celebration.
He said access to legal services was the surest way to guarantee the rights and freedoms of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution to enable them contribute their quota meaningfully to national development.
According to him, if people were well informed about issues concerning their freedom and fundamental human rights, they would stand up for themselves to resist any attempt aimed at violating their rights.
He said it was the Ministry's vision to undertake special programmes including economic empowerment, social development, infrastructure and sanitation enhancement, cultural promotion and security as well as crime control to enhance the livelihoods of inner-city settlers.
Inner city settlements were characterised by poor living conditions, low education, poor infrastructure among others and making justice inaccessible process of delivering justice adding that, many well-meaning citizens have had their rights grossly abused due to poverty and lack of education or inaccessibility to legal counsel. Dr Hamid added that his outfit would do all it could to protect and defend the rights and privileges of marginalised groups in inner-city settlements and called for massive support from the legal sector.
Mr Swanzy Essien, a Law Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, UCC indicated that the difficulty in accessing lawyers had eroded the confidence in the judicial system as some people failed to seek redress at the law courts.
The Vice Dean of the Faculty said it was the vision of the University to engage the surrounding communities to educate them on legal issues for them to better understand the processes and have confidence in it.
Mr Alexander Hackman Aidoo, President of the Law Students’ Union said the Law Clinic was to create the platform for people who were unable to engage the services of a lawyer to share their legal problems and receive solutions to them.