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Building trust in Nigeria’s criminal justice system

Improving channels for access to information and complaints


According to a 2017 survey, Nigeria’s over 300,0000 police officers make up close to half of all public officials on the receiving end of bribery in the country.

The Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has been making some progress against this problem through a complaint channel called the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU). Between November 2015 and November 2017, the PCRRU registered over 7000 complaints, over 80 per cent of which were resolved, leading to the sanctioning of 81 officers.

Set against the scale of the problem, however, those numbers still seem low. This might be due to a lack of awareness of the PCRRU’s mandate, and citizens’ low trust in the police.

That is why we have embarked on a partnership between the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) in Nigeria and the PCRRU. One of over 100 such services run by Transparency International chapters around the world, the ALAC in Nigeria receives reports from victims and witnesses of corruption, and provides citizens with legal aid. Through the partnership, ALAC stations across Nigeria receive, document and forward complaints to the PCRRU. The aim is to increase awareness of the unit, and ensure there is justice in cases of misconduct.

Ultimately, the cooperation will help bridge the lack of trust between members of the public and the police.

Increasing trust through cooperation with civil society

This partnership is the result of the CRIMJUST project, a joint initiative by Transparency International, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL, aimed at strengthening criminal justice systems.

Drawing upon this project, Transparency International has developed a tool to increase institutional integrity by promoting partnerships with civil society: The Justice and Law Enforcement Accountability Dashboard (JustLEAD).

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), TI’s chapter in Nigeria, used the tool to conduct a mapping of three target institutions in Nigeria’s criminal justice system: the Nigerian Police Force (NPF); The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Federal High Court.

Two main problems emanated that needed to be addressed: the lack of interactive and regularly updated complaint channels, and a lack of adherence to Nigeria’s Freedom of Information (FoI) law. It is important to state that the assessed institutions have attributed some of their lapses to the paucity of funds.

Access to information

Apart from the cooperation with the NPF, first steps have also been taken to address the second finding at the other two mapped institutions. The NDLEA has shown commitment to update their website to make information relevant to the public available. The agency’s leadership are in talks with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime about further support for this project.

At the Federal High Court, CISLAC’s engagement at different levels, especially with the FoI desk officers, has led to an increase in compliance to the 2011 Freedom of Information Act. This is closely being monitored.

The importance of non-state actors

To ensure an effective criminal justice system, there needs to be a synergy between state and non-state actors. Where capacity is limited and challenges seem insurmountable, assistance from non-state actors is crucial. They have an important role, as they often enjoy higher levels of public trust and are usually less susceptible to bureaucratic bottlenecks.

Transparency International and its partners in the CRIMJUST project are building on this position to strengthen cooperation and increase trust in criminal justice systems.

Samuel Asimi, Program Officer
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
[email protected]

This blog post is based on the work done via the Justice and Law Enforcement Accountability Dashboard (JustLead), developed under the CRIMJUST project that is being implemented by Transparency International chapters in 9 countries. Funding from the European Union Cocaine Route Programme under the CRIMJUST project supports tool implementation in Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ghana and Panama. Funding from Global Affairs Canada under the IMPACT project supports tool implementation in Honduras, Guatemala, Nigeria, Peru and Venezuela.