The Lagos State Government recently set up the Public Advice Centre, PAC, to provide Lagosians easy access to information and advice which can improve their lives.
The aim of PAC is for it to serve as the first port of call for citizens who are inÂ distress and those who need information about their rights and responsibilities. The PAC is alsoÂ to collate data for the state government- data which are to be used for policy formulation.
The agency has promised Lagosians that it will be accessible to all, rendering free services particularly to people in dire need of legal service and those who have been socially excluded or subjected to discrimination.
There is hardly any more reassuring news than that of the fact that the poor and the downtrodden people in our society can have free access to justice. We have cases of landlords in Lagos who make life difficult for their tenants by increasing house rents outrageously. And when those tenants cannot afford to pay, they begin to issue threats. Some even take to evicting such tenants using extra-legal methods. These hapless tenants can now run to PAC for legal advice.
Other possible beneficiaries of the services of PAC are victims of ATM fraud. We have had several complaints by people that unauthorised withdrawals were made from their accounts via the ATM. And in many of those cases the managements of the affected banks seem to prevaricate in their response to the complaints of the disgruntled customers. At the end, in most cases, nothing is done about such complaints. But these peopleÂ now have an opportunity to seek legal redress through the Public Advice Centre.
The PAC also gives an opportunity for company workers who feel that their organisations are not committed to their welfare to have their grievances addressed. A lot of manufacturing companies, especially those that are Asian owned, embark on policies which are not in the best interest of their workers. They are interested in cheap labour. They hire workers and fire them at will. Over-casualisation of the work force is their stock in trade. These workers are not generally given the opportunity to express their grievances. This is where PAC will come in handy for such people.
We believe the vision behind PAC is a noble one. Hence, it is a welcome development. We therefore call on Lagosians to seize the opportunity that PAC offers for them to have their problems addressed.
We also want to advise the agency to be prompt in responding to the complaints of Lagosians. Under no circumstances should the officials of PAC engage in favouritism in its dealings with Lagosians. There should be equity and fairnessÂ while they are discharging their duties.