Stakeholders laud UNODC as ‘Support to Justice Sector in Nigeria’ Project ends
New EU ‘successor project’ takes off
ABUJA – The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) formally ended its five-year ‘Support to Justice Sector in Nigeria’ project today amid high commendations and accolades by stakeholders for its huge support and inspiring efforts towards the country’s justice reform.
The stakeholders which include Federal ministries and agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Judicial Institute, the Nigerian Law Reform, Commission, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, the Federal Justice Sector Reform Coordinating Committee, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Prison Services, the National Human Right Commission, the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the Nigeria Bar Association and other Civil Society Organisations and Coalition and nine state governments were unanimous in their assessment: The “Support To Justice in Nigeria” project had in its five years of implementation not only assisted Nigeria to lay a solid foundation for justice reform but led the way towards the actualisation of the process in the country.
Welcoming guests to the End of Project Shareholders’ meeting at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja, the UNODC Representative in Nigeria, Ms Cristina Albertin described the project as “remarkable and unique” as it has “built a lasting platform for partnership among a wide range of Federal and State actors in justice administration including network mechanisms with the aim to enlist holistic and comprehensive support across Nigerian justice institutions at federal and state level for fair, accessible and faster delivery of justice for all.
“In my view, this approach and resulting collaborative work cannot be anything less than a guarantee for continuity and sustainability in justice reform while the project formally ends.
“The entry into force of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA Act I 2015) which formulation and development was accompanied and supported by the project has been a major breakthrough in Nigeria towards fair and speedy justice which now allows justice officials not only to expedite justice and overcome the appalling situation of 75 per cent of remand prisoners but also to prevent similar situations in the future applying for example, alternative methods to imprisonment when warranted.
“While the ACJA can be seen as a breakthrough and bedrock for justice reform in the country, a series of critical inter-connected initiatives have been advanced in the last years under our joint partnership projects including the preparation of a national justice policy (National Justice Summit), the set up of a network of justice reform committees across Nigeria, the approval of sentencing guidelines including ToTs in human rights for police officers and prison officials and on prison management for prison officials, preparation of manuals and guidelines for courts, assessment reports, such as on children in conflict, the establishment of JCRs, the adoption of Legal Aid Strategy and a guidance manual for legal services in Nigeria and so much more.
“With these needed policy, legal and operational instruments and tools, justice practitioners are now equipped to deliver justice more effectively and efficiently, including to the vulnerable and poor without leaving anybody behind
“On behalf of UNODC, I wish to congratulate Nigeria, the Government, legislative and judiciary for their persistence in pursuing justice reform in Nigeria as well as the civil society, its organizations and private persons, who often have been at the forefront of identifying, initiating, advocating and implementing required reforms and services.”
Albertin assured the stakeholders that UNODC’s commitment to justice reform in Nigeria would continue beyond the project “as we know and recognise justice reform as a critical foundation to ensure the respect for human rights for each and every Nigerian including the principle of equality before the law and the right to due process and fair trials.”
Meanwhile, the European Union has announced the take off of another project to build on the gains of the “Support for Justice Sector in Nigeria.”
In his speech at the event today, the Head of Development Cooperation, European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Kurt Cornelis disclosed that the goal of the “successor project” tagged “The Support to Rule of Law and Anti-corruption in Nigeria Project (RoLAC) is to enhance good governance in Nigeria by contributing to strengthening the rule of law and curbing corruption.
“The main expected outcomes are to: advance the timely, effective and transparent dispensation of criminal justice; strengthen access to justice for women, children and persons with disabilities at Federal and State levels; strengthen the fight against corruption by reinforcing prevention mechanisms and building the capacity of anti-corruption agencies to effectively address corruption in public procurement, the criminal justice system and the extractive sector and; to enhance civil society and public engagement in the fight against corruption and the criminal justice reform process.
Speaking on the rested project – “Support To Justice Sector In Nigeria,” Cornelis said the EU-funded project which began in 2012 was formulated around the overall objective of improving the effectiveness, accessibility, accountability, transparency and fairness of the justice system.
“In doing this, the project has collaborated with the Nigerian Justice sector institutions in enhancing coordination and cooperation with a view to building consensus and working together to develop, implement and monitor more effective justice sector policies and plans which are mutually supportive and address common problems across the sector.”
Cornelis thanked all the project beneficiaries “that have demonstrated a considerable level of ownership, support and dedication throughout the implementation of this project. None of the achievements recorded by the project would have been possible without your active engagement with project activities,” he further said.
Responding, the representatives of some of the beneficiaries commended both the UNODC and EU for the positive impact of the project in the country’s efforts towards its judicial reform. They pledged to sustain and continue to build on the gains of the project.
One of them, Justice Ibrahim Jauro of the Yobe State Judiciary recalled that the project was launched in the heat of insurgency in the state. According to him, UNODC had to extend the project in 2016 because of Yobe and a few other states and in the process, helped the state to build a solid structure for the judiciary.
“Yobe state built the structure with N60 million but what UNODC brought was far more than that,” he told the audience.
Justice Jauro however had one more request from UNODC and the EU: “Please consider us in Yobe State in your next project.”
A major highlight of the event was the presentation of gifts by UNODC to some of the outstanding beneficiaries and special parting memorabilia to the audience by Dr. Uju Agomoh the project officer for the ‘Support to Justice Sector in Nigeria’ Project.