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Saturday, June 03, 2017

DFID's Justice for All programme: Six years after

Commentary@ITRealms:

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 is a popular passage in the Holy Bible that deals with the cyclical nature of life and says that there is time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: “a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal…”

The above is a perfect consolation for many, who queried the closure of the Justice for All (J4A) programme of the British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID). For most stakeholders, the programme should not have ended, or at least, not at this time.

At the close-out event of the programme held at Chelsea Hotel, Abuja recently, Nigerians, in emotion-laden tones, poured encomiums on the programme and the Dr. Bob Arnot-led management team, for effectively driving the programme and achieving its overall objective. The fact that citizens, particularly, stakeholders in the areas of focus actively participated in the programme makes it exceptional.


My heart was gladdened at that moment Nigeria’s acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo pledged that Nigeria will “institutionalize J4A’s initiatives and programmes.”

From speaker after speaker, the programme earned an all - round distinction, with no dissenting views. The popular question at the event was: why must J4a end now? Never in the history of donor experience in Nigeria has this level of endorsement been witnessed.

In his remarks, Nigeria’s Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo 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. He also described the programme as well thought-out and impactful.

Speaking through his Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye, he 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 to fast track cases with the encouragement and financial support of J4A.”

Continuing, he gave credit for the early achievements recorded by the PACAC Committee to the support it got from the J4A programme.
“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, Arnot explained: “the programme worked at federal level plus five focal states (Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, and Jigawa) and 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 explained: “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 said: “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.” 

The above was confirmed by the Secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Emmanuel
Aremu Adegboyega, while speaking at the close-out event. Continuing, Arnot 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.

On cross-sector successes, J4A developed Justice Sector Reform Teams (JSRT) that are today adopted and in use at all levels of government in Nigeria. Other donor agencies in Nigeria have also adopted same.
Twenty four (24) JSRTs are in place and functioning; one hundred and ninety three (193) justice reform initiatives implemented by JRTs; with 138 achieving desired outcomes; duration in custody of awaiting trial persons (ATPs) down by 30% in two pilot states; 429 indigent Awaiting Trial Prisoners (ATPs) offered pro bono legal services under the CH Scheme and Clearing House being rolled out across Nigeria by LACON.

J4A played a key role in the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJ) and the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP). They supported the implementation of the ACJ in Lagos and Anambra states. They continued to support advocacy for the passage of other relevant bills, prominent among which are: the Proceeds of Crime, Whistle Blowers and Witness Protection (Public Interest Reporting and Witness Protection), Money Laundering, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Centre, Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters bills, among others, which are making steady progress at the National Assembly. Some of them have already been passed by the Senate, while others have reached advanced stages in the legislative process. Worthy of note is the fact that they were all passed by the 7th National Assembly, but were not assented to, following the change in power;
hence, their reintroduction.

On civil society engagement, J4A’s shoes are too big for any other donor-funded programme in Nigeria to step in. One can only hope and pray that other donors will attempt to get close to, match or surpass the J4A record. J4A engaged with more than 100 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), which made 144 direct contributions to justice
sector policy and practice and influenced change on 79 particular occasions. Forty four (44) grants awarded, valued at, over eight hundred million Naira (N800M/ over £3.1M). Twenty seven (27) grants have gender element.

Realising the need for the programme to be Nigerian-led, J4A elevated one of its component managers, a renowned development expert, Danladi Plang to the position of a National Programme Manager. This step
further deepened the peoples’ confidence in the programme and strengthened engagement.

Expressing gratitude for the overall success of J4A, the 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.”

One other name at the centre of the programme’s success is Emmanuel Uche, anti-corruption component Manager. His ingenuity was all that was needed in difficult situations. At every stage of implementation,
he displayed exceptional mastery of issues and problem-solving skills. He is the brain behind most of the successes recorded by the anti-corruption component, adjudged by many as the most successful in
the programme.

He did not fail to express his joy with the success of the programme. Hear him: “I am happy that the programme is a huge success. We have made theanti-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.”

Another name that cannot be left out in the success story of the J4a is Juliet Chikodinaka Ibekaku, Special Adviser to the Nigerian President on Justice Sector Reforms. From the inception of the programme, till its end, her contributions were enormous. Those conversant with the Police component know that Professor Olu Ogunsakin, a renowned Professor of Police Affairs worked tirelessly and made the component successful. 

What manner of programme is J4A, that even other donor programmes and agencies relish at the mention of the name? The answer is not far-fetched, as success has many friends, while failure is an orphan. Even civil society organisations, naturally known for being critical of issues hailed the programme. Hear some of the stakeholders speak: 
David Ugolor, Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice- ANEEJ, described the J4A as a huge success and worthy of emulation by others in the sector.

Emeka Ononamadu, Executive Director, Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights and the Chairman, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) expressed satisfaction with the programme and its implementation and passed a vote of confidence on the management team. Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption - MIIVOC described the J4A programme and its achievements as legendary, but wondered why it must be brought to an end at a time, when its impact is being felt and is yielding immeasurable results.

Little wonder, Enugu State governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi called for an immediate successor programme to continue with the noble works of the J4A.

Another proof of its success is that some other donor agencies have approached the J4A to hand over their on-going intervention programmes to them to take over their implementation. For a donor, whose programme is already being implemented to approach the J4A team to take over the management and implementation of their programme is further evidence that there is a silent consensus in the donor community that the J4A leads, while others follow.

The entry of J4A to the implementation of Nigeria’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act made a huge difference. Today, the compliance level of public institutions with the provisions of the FOI Act has increased tremendously. Citizens’ demand for accountability using the FOI Act has also increased, courtesy of the J4A.

Be that as it may, the programme, having been designed by men, was not infallible. It had some shortcomings that took the ingenuity and creativity of the team to overcome.

First, it had a funding mechanism that was a little inflexible. This did not help issues at all.

Again, the programme did not make adequate provisions for sustained structured support to Civil Society. This is a major minus. Save for the creativity of the management team, it would not have been easy. More so, the programme did not have a professionally-designed and robust communication strategy as part of the programme design, made worse by the absence of budgetary provisions for publicity and communication. The fact that the J4A enjoyed the level of visibility and media hype it has, however, is a testimony that it is an all-round success.

While Nigerians patiently await successor programmes, particularly, one which focuses on anti-corruption, not keeping the J4A team intact will be a grievous mistake, as it is rare to have an excellently progressive team in any given organisation.

Again, whatever new programme that is to be designed should have a robust  communication strategy that will build on the successes of the J4A to deepen engagement, create understanding, effectively explain the issues, programmes, activities and policies of the programme and ensure proactive communication with stakeholders and indeed, the world. It is outlandish to hold on to the belief that donors rarely spend on publicity. The success or failure of every human endeavour rests on effective and ideal communication.

More so, there is need to ensure a deliberate strategy for sustained structured support to civil society and other relevant stakeholders.Particular interest must also be shown in activities aimed at holding he anti-corruption agencies themselves accountable. As at today, no one is watching those empowered to watch Nigerians and there has to be a way of closing the gap.

Furthermore, there is need for some flexibility in the funding mechanism of programmes in order to cope with emergency situations in the course of programme implementation. Political sensitivity is also very important for the success of donor-funded programmes. Unlike the proverbial lizard that jumped from a multi--storey without
any acclaim, J4A is leaving several enduring legacies and all and  undry have poured out encomiums on DFID and British Council for a job very well done. Posterity will always remember you and you deserve to
be celebrated.

Pop Champagne!!!

Dr. Walter Duru is a Port Harcourt and Owerri - based communication teacher, professional and online Publisher. He is the Chairman, Board of Governors, Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria.walterchike@gmail.com
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