L-R; UNODC Country representative in Nigeria, Oliver Stolpe; Justice Tijani Abubakar of the Court of Appeal; Coordinator, Counter Terrorism Centre, Rear Admiral YEM Musa; and EU delegation, Sharon Heart during a Project Steering Committee meeting on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and Violent Extremism, held in Abuja recently.
As Nigeria continues to deal with the challenges of terrorism and violent extremism, major successes have been recorded. This has been seen in the liberation of major towns and villages in the North East, the steady return of internally displaced persons to their communities and the gradual reconstruction of whole communities. There has been continuous capture and detention of active Boko Haram fighters by Nigerian security forces leading to the need for these fighters to face justice within the rule of law. The need to also seek justice for victims of the heinous crimes perpetrated by the terrorists has remained one of the cardinal objectives of the present administration.
ONSA as the coordinator of Nigeria’s counter terrorism efforts has continued to manage the implementation of the NACTEST which under the Identify pillar, has among other objectives to work with foreign government and multilateral organisationsto tackle the threats of terrorism and violent extremism. Its efforts to counter violent extremism is also guided by component 2 of the PCVE Policy Framework and National Action Plan, which focuses on strengthening rule of law and access to justice and human rights. An approach that not only punishes terrorism offenders but also ensures that victims are given access to justice while protecting human rights. Thus, the Nigeria-EU-UNODC-CTED Partnership Project on Strengthening Criminal Justice Response to Terrorism and Violent Extremism is a timely support to Nigeria’s efforts at countering terrorism. The Project was designed to build and improve capacity for the Nigerian Criminal Justice System to investigate, prosecute and sanction people who commit terrorist offences.
The Project has recorded notable achievements since its commencement in 2017. Among other supporting efforts, it has contributed positively to the ongoing trials in Kainji and Maiduguri and is currently embarking on capacity building activities for investigators in the field to collect evidence to support prosecution of terrorism cases. Specially, some its achievements include; training and mentoring for prosecutors, legal advisors; defense council, and judges involved in the Kainji trials process which led to the discharge of 882 terrorism cases, and 336 convictions. The project has continued to support active terrorism related cases from this process in the Federal High Court undertaken by prosecutors from the Government Complex Case Group (CCG). There were also12 bimonthly deployments of CCG Prosecutors to support the Joint Terrorism Investigation Committee (JIC) in Maiduguri, which resulted in the review of over 1,500 cases files relating to detained Boko Haram suspects. Additionally, there were joint training workshops on the collection and preservations of evidence best practices, including interview skills training for the JIC. Overall about 34 training workshops and work sessions were conducted in the last one year, with training provided to 786 Nigerian officials from 33 different agencies.
While sustaining its current efforts, in the next 2 years, it is envisaged that the project would focus on the publication of CT investigations manual and related train the trainer workshops on CT investigations. It also plans to articulate and publish a judicial training modules and facilitate related workshops on supporting development of battlefield evidence collection protocols.