Human Rights Law Practice Interview with Caleb Onwe

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Caleb Ekene Onwe, Founding Partner, PENLIT AND GREYSON SOLICITORS

Caleb is the Founding Partner of PENLIT AND GREYSON SOLICITORS located at No. 18 Shipeolu Street, Shomolu Lagos. He is a human right activist and into general public interest litigation.

He graduated from Ebonyi State University in 2013 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2015. He briefly worked with Perchstone and Greays before he resigned to start his law firm and follow his passion.

He passionately craves to serve humanity through his NGO that mentors young men and women to make mark in their society and community. The NGO partners with like agencies to provide identified beneficiaries with skills and the opportunities to be the best they can. He loves reading and travelling.

Please note that all opinions expressed in this interview are the opinions of the lawyer interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of their employer or of Legally Engaged.

Human Rights protection is sometimes referred to as public interest litigation. This area of law includes representing people whose human rights are violated either by state agencies or corporate organizations and individuals. It also involves holding the government accountable or challenging policies and programs of government that are anti-masses in court of law.

I choose this part of the profession because of my passion for humanity. I believe that we all owe a duty to ensure that our society is free for all, and everyone has equal opportunity to attain the zenith of his/her aspiration in life. When this is not guaranteed, there is bound to be rift and chaos in the society as it is today.

A young lawyer needs the zeal and passion for humanity. The road is very tough especially for young lawyers but with uncompromising zeal, you will not be cajoled by forces against humanity.

I work with all types of people whose fundamental human rights are infringed.

The workload is very tedious especially if you work alone like I do in my newly established law firm (PENLIT & GREYSON SOLICITORS). It can be difficult to meet up with schedules. I work 15hrs a day including weekends.

The most challenging aspect of the work is lack of funds, slow pace of our justice system and wrong impression of the duties of lawyers by pedestrians. For instance, when after listening to the magistrate conclude the case of an accused yesterday 11/5/17 without trial and conviction, I stood up to take over the case, to many people who were in the court I was not doing any good thing because according to them the accused committed the offence thereby does not need legal representation. I however told the court that even though it seems the case has been concluded against the accused, that my coming is to ensure that the prosecution proves his case as required by law before he is convicted; my duty is not to secure acquittal but to ensure that justice is done in the matter.

But in all, the most pressing challenge is fund if you are starting newly and on your own because most of the client you may stand for might not have the money to pay.

The fulfillment of helping some people regain their societal value in life and also seeing that you are contributing to the advancement of your society and our laws.

Law School prepared me but not adequately. I was however able to catch-up through dedication and devotion during my time in the employment of one of the big firms in Nigeria. I learnt most things I didn’t know in law school then and most importantly is the burning desire to live your dream. I would have not been here today if I didn’t take the bold step to quit my well-paid job as a young lawyer to live and practice what I believe in.

With undivided attention and focus, I think someone in my career would be able to be among the leading young human rights advocates in the profession where the person can be able to have contributed in shaping many issues in the country. I would like to end up in the zenith of this profession.

Giving back life to someone who already lost hope in the society he lives. One of my clients, let’s call him LJ, would have died in prison hospital if I did not intervene. He was hospitalized throughout his two months’ incarceration in Ikoyi prisons with the kidney disease, fainting daily and not feeding properly. My intervention ensured his bail, discharge and onward treatment after. I filed for the variation of the bail terms of LJ and the prosecuting police officer asked me to “settle” him or else he will oppose my application. Fortunately, his opposition did not see the light of the day and justice prevailed.

Young lawyers who have interest in taking a career in Public Interest Litigation should be sure they have passion for humanity. Your interest should be genuine in order to make the best of it. It may not be paying at the beginning but with consistency and persistence, the future is bright.

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There are 1 comments

  1. Thank you very much for this post. This was definitely worth the read, and also very inspiring. More grease to your elbows, Mr. Caleb!

    Reply

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