The office of the Public Defender, a sub-department of the Directorate for Citizens’ Rights (DCR) was established in July, 2000 to fulfill the desires of the poor in the society towards access to justice. It was established under the OPD Law, 2003, reviewed in January 2008, to serve as an autonomous institution with the primary objective of providing free legal services to the indigent in line with the Lagos State Government’s policy on access to justice.
The OPD therefore epitomizes a transformation of the Justice Ministry from a defacto “Ministry of Law and Order”, which it was under the military rule until 1999, to a Ministry where protection of the rights of the citizen is a core objective.
Fundin for the sub-department was initially by the State Government and some donor orgnaizations such as Ford Foundation and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The State Government is currently the sole source of funding for the department.
Under the leadership of Hon. Justice Bisi Akinlade who headed the department from inception till March, 2008, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi took over, Mrs. Olubukola O. Salami then took over from her. The office became the flagship of legal aid not only in Nigeria but in sub-Saharan Africa. The department is currently headed by Mrs. Adenrera Olayinka Adeyemi and has five offices located at strategic areas of Lagos State. It has formed partnership with several civil society groups to further extend the reach of its operations.