EU, Nigeria’s partnership project on Counter Terrorism ends
By Mnena Iyorkegh, Abuja
The EU-Nigeria-UNODC-CTED Partnership Project III, ‘support for criminal justice, responses to terrorism and violent extremism’, the third and final phase of one of the most enduring international efforts to support Nigerian law enforcement entities in their struggle against Boko Haram and its associated groups has ended.
This was disclosed in statement released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) office in Nigeria.
In 2013 the Government of Nigeria and the European Union Delegation in Abuja came together to address multiple challenges posed by the outbreak of violence in the north east of the country and the emergence of Boko Haram as a serious threat to regional stability.
Working closely with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the EU chose to partner with the UNODC Country Office and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) because of their deep experience working on these issues and their long-term prior engagement in Nigeria.
According to the statement, “Over all the three phases of the project, UNODC has delivered a total of 323 capacity building and technical assistance activities, in which it provided extensive training to more than 7,765 criminal justice officials, including investigators, legal advisors, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges on a wide range of terrorism-related criminal justice issues. These trainings were designed to strengthen the professional and technical capacity of Nigerian criminal justice officials by delivering in-depth and practically-focused instruction on how to conduct effective counter-terrorism investigations and prosecutions within a human rights and gender sensitive framework”.
As a result, Nigerian officials have processed more than 3,000 terrorism cases since 2018, resulting in over 650 terrorism convictions. In addition, some 1,800 adults and 580 minors have been released from federal custody and a further 230 new cases have been referred for trial.
Most recently in October, UNODC supported LACON in securing the release of 101 suspects from Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos who had been detained on terrorism charges reportedly struck down in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
The statement explained that “to support these trainings, UNODC developed a range of practical manuals and modules tailored specifically to Nigeria’s local circumstances including a Nigeria Handbook on Counterterrorism Investigations, a Nigeria Training Module on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism, a Nigeria Training Module on Investigative Interviewing, the Right to Remain Silent and the Prohibition of Torture and a User’s Guide to the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 as Amended by the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act 2013.
In 2020, during the first few months of the global pandemic, the project team also prepared and distributed Guidelines for Policing During the COVID-19 Emergency to tens of thousands of Nigerian police officers serving around the country.
At the strategic level, UNODC has provided support to Nigerian policymakers developing the Action Plan on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism in Northeast Nigeria, the National Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism National Framework and Action Plan.
It has also provided advice and assistance to Nigerian lawmakers as they prepare new legislation, such as the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act of 2022, to ensure that relevant international conventions and protocols are also incorporated into Nigerian law.
The statement also said that “In the north east, the project team has provided practical assistance and equipment for the establishment of a new Nigeria Police Force Terrorism Investigation Branch (TIB) Field Office in Maiduguri and a new Borno State Digital Forensic Unit. The team has also responded to the capacity building and infrastructural needs of the Joint Investigation Centre (JIC) in Maiduguri, which along with the Federal Ministry of Justice’s Complex Case Group (CCG), has become a critical institution in the effort to bring terrorists to justice in Nigeria.
As a direct consequence of the EU’s unwavering support and sustained financial contribution, the project has greatly influenced Nigeria’s fight to bring terrorists and violent extremists to justice.
At the valedictory meeting of the Project Steering Committee, a Senior Research Fellow at the National Judicial Institute, Ms. Comfort Olubo Umaru, shares her thought on the success of the project.
“UNODC went after the human element. The focus on capacity-building for local Nigerian professionals is the greatest achievement in my view. The training programmes had great attendance, active participation and with time, a great and very visible impact on how things are done in the justice sector.
Head of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in the Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA), Mairo Abbas, expressed ONSA’s appreciation to UNODC and the EU for their support and partnership over the years.
She also praised the “huge dividends” the project had yielded across its three phases, and urged her colleagues from across government to work to consolidate these gains in pursuit of lasting peace in the country.
The statement also disclosed that UNODC and the European Union hope to launch a new project in 2023 – this time in a consortium with UNDP, UNICEF and IOM – responding to the current developments in the north east of Nigeria, but also ensuring that the criminal justice system continues to address the terrorist threat effectively and to support the implementation of UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Nigeria, especially in relation to the protection of women and children from sexual and gender based violence and exploitation.