By Walter Duru
Nigeria’s Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has expressed gratitude to the United Kingdom Government for sustaining its support to the country, even as he lauded the implementation of the Justice For All (J4A) programme, saying that it has shaped the Justice Sector reforms of Nigeria.
Osinbajo, who stated this while delivering a Keynote speech at a Close-out and Valedictory Programme of the Justice For All, held in Abuja Thursday, also described the programme as well thought-out and impactful.
The Acting President who spoke through his Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye, urged the United Kingdom government’s Department for International Development (DFID) not to relent in its support to good governance and justice sector reforms in Nigeria.
“The J4a programme is well-thought out. Its effects are being felt. What we are working on now is to ensure that the initiatives of the programme are institutionalized in our systems. The J4a model is what we are following in our Police reforms today. The Case Management and Information Communication Technology (ICT) in use today in the Justice sector is a J4a initiative. We need to ensure that it is adopted in every part of the country. J4a supported the Police Complaint Response Unit and today, they are achieving results.”
Speaking on sustainability, the Vice President stressed: “I hope the closure of the J4a will not be the end of support to the laudable initiatives.”
He commended the J4a team, led by Dr. Bob Arnot for what he described as their outstanding performance, urging them not to relent in their service to the nation.
Adding his voice, Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye was full of praises for the J4A programme, describing it as exemplary.
“It supported a whole range of measures in the area of economic justice, notably the improvement of service delivery in commercial courts. Starting with a baseline survey on the progress of cases in commercial courts, needs assessment of those courts, capacity building for judges who preside over the courts, infrastructure support to improve service delivery such as the furnishing of the Fast Track Court Registry and the monthly progress monitoring, Lagos Judiciary improved incrementally from one level to another.”
“To ensure this worked seamlessly and is sustainable, the judiciary created a separate registry for fast track cases with the encouragement and financial support of J4A.”
Continuing, he gave credit of the early achievements recorded by the PACAC Committee to the support it got from the J4a Project.
“J4A recognized the importance of co-ordination and co-operation amongst justice sector institutions. It thus supported the creation of a platform through which regular engagement and interaction could talk place. This initiative in my view is a major legacy. I can say this now because PACAC borrowed from this model by recommending to government a high level inter agency platform for conversation on the anti-corruption issue. J4A, without doubt, has been of immense benefit to Nigeria in all of the thematic areas of focus.”
In his presentation on: J4a: The Journey, Achievements, Experiences, Lessons and Legacy, Portfolio Lead for Justice Security and Conflict in Sub Saharan Africa for the British Council, Dr. Bob Arnot explained that the programme was organized around four components: Policing and Security; Justice, Anti-Corruption and Cross-Sector Coordination.
Speaking on the scope and methodology of the project, Arnot explained: “the programme worked at federal level plus five focal states (Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Jigawa) & FCT. Models based upon best practice were to be replicated, disseminated and sustained; working in the formal and informal sectors.”
He further explained that the ultimate aim of the programme was to create: “a more capable, accountable, responsive and integrated justice sector that is fair, equitable and accessible with sustainable reform momentum creating growing user confidence and respect amongst Nigerians.”
On successes recorded by the Policing component, Arnot, a former National Programme Manager of the J4a, enumerated them to include: “Work in 7 states affected 44.8 million people by introducing Community-based Policing (CBP) in Model Police Stations (MPS); introduced 12 modern police stations with 177 interventions and 645 replications; engaged with more than 100 police divisions and trained over 5000 Police officers.”
“J4A states citizen’s satisfaction with police up from 40% in 2011 to 59% in 2012; a total of 776 VPS leaders trained in leadership skills and over 1000 operatives have been trained in conflict management skills”
In the Justice component, Arnot explains: J4A worked with 26 pilot Magistrates, Sharia and Customary Courts in 3 states (disposal time reduced by 30%) equal to saving over 900,000 days in court. Since 2012, nearly 1,400 Traditional Rulers in two states have been trained on human rights, dispute resolution and record keeping. It is estimated that over 400,000 citizens will have benefited from the traditional rulers’ enhanced skills.”
Speaking on achievements by the anti-corruption component, he says: “The EFCC, ICPC and CCB now have strategic plans being implemented to direct their longer term work; J4A supported the EFCC and ICPC to investigate, prosecute and recover the assets of corrupt persons. By March 2016, assets worth over 210 Billion Naira had been recovered. Over 700 anti-corruption agency operatives have been trained in investigative and prosecutorial skills. J4A training modules now delivered by anti-corruption agencies (ACA) Trainers and key anti-corruption legislation developed.”
Continuing, he stressed that: “Reformed Anti-Corruption Transparency Units (ACTUs) are now in 427 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); Inter-agency cooperation and exchange of intelligence have been improved. Civil society groups and coalitions have been supported to increase oversight of the anti-corruption agencies and the government’s work on anti-corruption, as well as increased advocacy on stalled high profile corruption cases by Media/Civil Society actors through the Reporting Until Something Happens (RUSH) initiative.
Also speaking, J4a National Programme Manager, Danladi Plang outlined the programme’s achievements in providing justice for victims of sexual violence in the country.
“What we have tried to do is to provide justice for victims of sexual violence and their families. We did three major things in this regard. One is to provide facilities where victims can go and be treated; either by providing medication or counselling. The treatment is free of charge. Second, we increased the level of awareness of people on sexual violence. Next is in the area of training and capacity development for all stakeholders.”
The Programme’s anti-corruption Manager, Emmanuel Uche also expressed satisfaction with the achievements of the programme, describing them as remarkable.
“I am happy that the programme is a huge success. We have made the anti-corruption agencies more responsive and capable. Their level of engagement is back to the early days of their existence. We have supported government by strengthening institutional mechanisms of the anti-corruption agencies. We also strengthened the voice of the citizens. The J4a approach is holistic and has left a mark in the sands of history.”
The J4a Close-out event was attended by stakeholders from public institutions, Civil Society organisations and the media.