The Executive Director of the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), Mr Augustine Niber has cautioned community activists and leaders in mining-affected communities who have been offered paralegal training not to portray themselves as lawyers.
.“Let me caution participants against the temptation to assume the role of lawyers since the training workshops do not qualify you as such,”
Mr Niber made these remarks earlier this month while addressing paralegal trainees drawn from salt and sand mining communities in the Greater Accra and Volta regions.
The training workshop, supported by Ford Foundation was meant to contribute to the capacities of community leaders and activists in mining-affected communities for effective expression and engagement with public bodies and mining firms.
It also aimed to improve their knowledge of the mineral governance regime – mining policies, laws, procedures, and human rights issues and the roles and functioning of key institutions;
Mr Niber pointed out that it was necessary to engage and build up focal persons, who would understand the work of human rights paralegals, the Ghanaian judicial system and alternative dispute resolution in the mining communities.
He stated that the training included three modules of which the first session was held in August last year, and the others were held in November and December this year.
Mr Niber said refresher courses would be initiated yearly for the activists to keep them updated and ensure their communities were peaceful.
He urged the participants to disseminate and impact others in their communities to ignite citizens about their basic rights.
Mr Joel Degue, one of the participants, lauded CEPIL for the engagement and appealed that the initiative should be maintained and carried out in every region in the country.
Mr. Degue indicated that the training was an eye-opener and had enhanced his professional expertise. He pledged his commitment as an environmental activist to document all issues of rights violations and advocacy on mining issues in his district.
Since its creation in 1999 CEPIL has occupied and fulfilled a unique role. Two decades on it remains the only public interest law NGO working on extractive sector issues. CEPIL has produced paralegal training material for capacity building of mining-affected constituencies, carried out paralegal capacity building for CBO leaders and activists from mining and oil and gas areas, and represented numerous person groups from mining communities in litigation for their rights.