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Stakeholders parley to strengthen justice system with ADR  

By Oludare Richards
27 April 2021   |   4:20 am
The strengthening of the justice system and strategic applications of ADR was advocated for effective de-escalation of conflict, violent extremism and insecurity during a three-day training workshop on capacity building on conflict resolution....

Participants at the workshop

Public education is important, says Awomolo

The strengthening of the justice system and strategic applications of ADR was advocated for effective de-escalation of conflict, violent extremism and insecurity during a three-day training workshop on capacity building on conflict resolution among stakeholders in Ekiti State.

Stakeholders believe that ADR would help, not only to reduce court dockets, but minimise or de-escalate conflict and violent extremism.
The workshop themed: “Implementation of the Conflict Sensitive Approach to Development Programming, Budget Formulation, Monitoring and Reporting,” was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ekiti State Government with support from the Government of Norway.

It was aimed at sensitising participants on how to apply ADR to development programming, budget formulation, monitoring and reporting.
The workshop held in Ibadan and was attended by 26 members of Ekiti State House of Assembly, including the Speaker and his deputy; 47 participants from the State’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s), three Commissioners and some Civil Society Organisation (CSO) representatives.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Lealem Dinku, represented by Team Lead, Governance, Peace and Security Unit, UNDP Nigeria, Mr. Mathew Alao, stressed the importance of peace, justice and strong institutions to the collective well-being and advancement of the country’s development in line with the SDG16 of the UN.

While insecurity remains a bane of Nigeria’s development, he said, it is not peculiar to Nigeria. Alao clarified that one of the fundamental causes of insecurity is unemployment among youths, who vent their anger against the system one way or the other.

“It has been growing in Nigeria and in the North East. One of the assessments on violent extremism, we conducted among emergent states revealed that human rights violations are at the centre of the major causes of violent extremism.

“People who felt there are injustices against them but there is no credible platform for them to complain and get justice. That was in our assessment, the major causes of violent extremism,” Mr. Alao said. He said that the way out is the strengthening of the justice system, to ensure that anyone who commits a crime gets punished.

Alao stressed the importance of this with reference to the culture of impunity, saying if left unchecked, there would likely be no end to violence and extremism. 

“Whenever a system has a mechanism in place to identify, prosecute and sanction, that will serve as a deterrent to others. When I lived in the United Kingdom (UK), I noticed how the system responded to people who committed crimes. They are promptly identified and prosecuted. And if you lie, the system will expose you. But in Nigeria, it is not like that.”Alao said in 1998, the UK did a reform and categorized cases into 3: Fast track, Middle track and the long one. This, he said, is unlike the current system in Nigeria.

“If you are a criminal and you have money, you could engage lawyers and continue the case for even 10, 20 years. You can be granted bail and may even continue to perpetrate your injustices. The kidnapper, Evans, is a good example. The case has been on for about five years now and any system that is that slow, will encourage violence.”

When asked if a special legal response such as criminal courts should be set up against violence and extremism by the government, he said, it is his opinion that it will not work.

“Special courts or special tribunals will not work. We have different tribunals already including the Code of Conduct Tribunal, has it sped up justice? No! All we need is to look at the system, purify it and get the system to work for the people in an expeditious manner.

“If a civil crime is committed, we need three months maximum for the determination of the case and for judgment delivery.

“In Nigeria, looking at the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, for example, is Innovative in a way because it encourages the day after day trial of a criminal matter, but then, the legal practitioners still exploit the loopholes, and continue to delay.

“You can’t see in Nigeria today where you start a criminal or civil case and finish within 12 months. Not until we get to a point we can dispense justice timely, you still will find people who can get away from the tracks,” he added.

Peace Desk in partnership with the Police
The UNDP examined the fundamentals of violence at the community level and what was found was that there were no platforms to vent anger. Because of that, they take laws into their hands.

Mr. Alao said to get people out of that mood, people want guarantee that whenever something happens, they have a platform that listens and dispenses justice.

The UNDP started out a conflict de-escalation project with the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and created the Peace Desk for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Mainly, people report cases to them free of charge, they mediate between them and they sign agreements, which bind parties to whatever resolution is reached.

The UNDP also felt that the Police are a major institution in Nigeria for the promotion of peace at the community level. 
“They are doing it already but it is not institutional. Because when you go to the police station and find the experienced ones at the desk, they can invite parties to peaceful resolution where necessary.

“We need to institutionalize ADR, that is why we are engaging them in a way that they do not see every offence reported at the Police Station as a crime. Not everyone must be arrested and put behind bars. No! Because, the society must continue to enjoy relationships. That is the bond that keeps them together.

“There’s a saying that you don’t go to court and return as friends. It also applies that ‘you don’t go to the Police Station and return as friends’. But you can go to a Police Station with a Peace Desk and come out laughing together and even become better friends because most of the issues are sometimes not even conflict but mere communication gaps. Sometimes, people need to also be asked critical questions such as: ‘Why am I pursuing a case? Why do I need to get justice?’ It is about interests. 

“I told a participant in the training that when I was studying in the UK, one of the cases we reviewed was that between a Police Commissioner and some civilians. The case had been in the court for three years. What was the interest of the Commissioner? Just to say sorry.”

SPEAKER, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Mr. Fuminiyi Afuye, said for any meaningful development to occur in any society, efforts must be intensified towards prevention of crisis and towards resolution of conflicts of any nature.
The speaker said that the State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, subscribed to the UNDP’s programme to promote peaceful co-existence in a bid to make Ekiti indigenes live a life of dignity. He noted that the UNDP had early engaged security personnel in the state during a six-day capacity building on early warning and response to conflict prevention.

It also conducted assessment on victims of violent conflict in different skill acquisition programme of their choice all in a bid to ensure peace in the state, thereby engendering development.

“Business thrives only in societies where peace avails. Nigeria in recent times is faced with a lot of crises resulting in insecurity, thereby constituting a clog in the wheel of the nation’s development.

“Hence, this sensitization workshop involving the critical stakeholders and civil society groups in Ekiti State on implementation of conflict sensitive approach to development programming, budget formulation, monitoring and reporting is a relevant and timely intervention, which will give a strategic direction to the state development.

CSO’s at the workshop urged the Federal Government to forget about conventional ways of doing things, which in significant ways have indirectly led to conflict escalation and sparked nationwide damaging reactions. 

Such reactions were pointed out to include the #EndSARS protests and hoodlum attacks that occurred in the last quarter of 2020.Civil Society representatives said the reason Government must forget about conventional ways of doing things is evident in the endless approach to containing the Boko Haram onslaught and escalated kidnappings, Farmers/Herders crisis and banditry, with destruction of lives and properties, destabilization of families and devastation of whole communities, which were classified as being far worse than the impact of the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70.

Chairman of the Coalition of Ekiti Civil Society Organizations (COECSO), Prof. Christopher Oluwadare, said there is no geo-political zone, state, family, country or individual in the country that is not affected by the conflict in the nation.

“Public policies, programmes and legislations must therefore be comprehensive enough to generate comprehensive security and adequate livelihood for the people, especially rural dwellers,” he said.

He added that budgetary provisions would be conflict sensitive if the needs are generated through adequate communication in partnership with CSOs to reach target beneficiaries like the communities, women, Persons With Disabilities (PWD) and the youth.

Ekiti State’s Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Femi Ajayi, commended the UNDP for the conflict prevention and peace-building programme to help build a society free of conflicts and chaos.

He described the workshop as relevant and timely especially at a time that insecurity was a major challenge in the nation.

In his view on ADR, conflict de-escalation and the administration of justice, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Adegboyega Awomolo said over the years, the courts have become burdened by the volume of cases filed by citizens concerning their business lives, family properties and enforcement of their fundamental rights and all these have resulted in complaints of delays in the administration of justice.

According to him, experts have suggested various measures to accelerate hearing and disposition of these cases. 
Such measures, he said, include alternate dispute resolution of arbitration, mediation and other dispute resolution mechanisms indigenous to Nigerians.

“The alternative mechanisms are still applied voluntarily and this is because the decision of such bodies must be accepted by parties as binding. Almost all the courts have sections or divisions with trained experts manning the ADR courts.

“The attitude of many Nigerians to the ADR is lukewarm and public education is still required. It is cheaper, faster, reconciliatory and admits of peaceful coexistence after the apparent hostility. The administration of justice stands to benefit citizens and Government agencies too.”

On strengthening of the judiciary, he said as an arm of Government, the judiciary has the constitutional right to be strong, independent, and courageous and must enjoy the confidence of Government and the citizens. 

“The Rule of law demands that both the Government and Citizens must be equal before the law. Every decision of a court must be respected and obeyed by all. Both the Executive and Legislative arms of Government must do nothing to inhibit the powers and capacity of the judiciary,” he said. 

Also, a Senior advocate and constitution lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said: “Employing ADR will undoubtedly help in fair, agreeable, acceptable and speedy resolution of conflicts. It will aid in decongesting courts, and freeing the overburdened dockets of backlog of cases. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.”