A Rights-based law firm that provides free legal representation and service to communities and other indigenes who cannot afford legal services that is a non-profitable organization headed by the Executive Director Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) Lawyer. Augustine Niber has concluded training for 50 paralegals in the Upper East Region.
Engaging the media during the training workshop, Lawyer Niber said, they have been providing training on Human Rights and para-legalism to communities.
According to him, the present program that they undertake here in the region is a paralegal training program that started 2 years ago with support from the FORD Foundation in building the capacity of community groups, opinion leaders, and community representatives from Upper East and Upper West on mining-related issues for person and district where mining is currently taking place.
He stated that, “The basic requirement for the program is to train these paralegals to serve as vocal persons in communities and they are to play a kind of liaison role between their communities and other Civil Society Organizations and try as much as they can to serve as the voice of a community in bringing up mining-related issues and generally equip them with some basic legal knowledge that will support them as vocal persons in their communities and also provide them with some level of cost-effective to basic legal services to their communities”.
The 50 paralegals comprise two regions and 5 districts Talensi, Nabdam, and Zebilla in the Upper East Region, and participants from the Nadowli and Wa East districts in the Upper West Region.
Meanwhile, throwing more light on the training workshop, Laywer Niber explained, that one must complete the three modules before he or she is certified, “There are three modules for the training before one can be certified as a paralegal. The first module took place in Tamale in 2022, and the second module took place in the Upper West Region and what is happening in Bolga is the Third and last module and after which will certify them. The director explained
He added, that the response they have gotten from those they have trained is already positive, because they have indicated the knowledge they have acquired from issues of mining including the right they were educated on.
He believes, they now approach issues based on informed position and based on the advancement of what they have learned.
“They are expected to create the awareness in their communities from the training they have had and also to enable demand respect for their rights and protect their rights within the context of mining activities in their communities”.
However, asking what the next step will be for CEPIL, the Executive Director said, they will be doing a follow-up to ascertain the extent to which the trained paralegals are using the knowledge in their communities and also add that, when necessary, they may be organizing refresher programs for new things might come up.
Chairman Savannah Research and Advocacy Network (SRAN) Mr. Nyeya Yen expressed satisfaction with the education provided so far by the Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) to persons from mining communities in the northern parts of the country.
Mr. Nyeya, is optimistic that the training will produce good results, especially in tackling and managing issues that could result in conflict and as well as help community member understand their rights
“Sometimes, the mining companies enter a community without following due process.
Sometimes, some of these mining companies walk in and start mining and sometimes they walk into the community and give just a fowl to the landowners for them to do their sacrifices to enable start mining.
Sometimes, what they called community entry, they may just meet with the District Chief Executive (DCE) and probably talk to the chiefs and start mining without talking to the community but as an activist in the community you should be able to let them do the right thing”. He stressed
“So, we expect these categories of people who are trained as paralegals to help engage the community, engage the chiefs, and engage the Tindanas to guarantee a better deal”.
Chief Operating Officer of TAMA Foundation Jonathan Adabre Akatue said, all the 50 activists have been trained on, issues of compensation, resettlement, environmental safety, and more.
According to him, the importance of this training is that, it will guide communities, citizens in mining communities on what they need to do when mining is taking place, the responsibility of the mining company, the responsibility of the state regulator which is the Mineral Commission, the responsibility of the Assembly, the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency and the responsibility of many other actors who play a role in mining.
He was satisfied that so far, the results from the field are encouraging and the majority of them have taken steps to deal with resettlement discussions, to deal with compensation matters and it is for the good of all of us as citizens of this nation.
However, before awarding certificates to the trainees, the Executive Director of CEPIL cautioned all qualified candidates not to misuse their opportunity by using the certificate acquired from the training to engage in any form of illegality.
If I hear anything, I will be the first to report you to the police and I will be the first to testify on the case. As I said, you are to use this knowledge to benefit your community. Don’t go and use it to solicit funds. If I hear that you have collected money to take or provide any kind of advice, I will be the first to report you to the police and am serious about it. He warned
“I have not trained you to use your knowledge to cheat your community”.
On behalf of the 50 trained paralegals, Mr. Sapak of SRAN extended their gratitude to the staff and the Executive Director Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) Lawyer. Augustine Niber for taking through mining law that will help guide them in their various communities.
However, as Oliver twists, Mr. Sapak also appealed to CEPIL to continue considering them as stakeholders in their future activity.