The European Union, Nigeria, UNODC, and CTED: A partnership towards ‘Strengthening Rule of Law-Based Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and Violent Extremism’

Abuja, 12 May 2022- Europe Day provides an important opportunity to reflect on the role of the European Union in the world and in particular in Nigeria. For us at UNODC, the EU-Nigeria partnership manifests itself most visibly in the many projects in the area of peace, governance and security. UNODC is proud to be the implementing agency for a considerable number of these projects - with one prominent example being the EU, Nigeria, UNODC and CTED partnership project on “Strengthening Rule of Law Based Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism and Violent Extremism”.

For nearly a decade, the EU and UNODC have been working together with the Nigerian Government to prevent and respond to terrorism and violent extremism in the country. The third phase of this partnership began in 2018. This 8,100,000 euro project runs until 30 September 2022 and is benefiting a broad range of Nigerian counter-terrorism and criminal justice partners, in particular in Northeast Nigeria.

The main focus of work is on providing policy and legislative advice, as well as related capacity-building support, on a wide range of topics, including investigative interviewing, effective prosecution and case management, confronting sexual and gender-based violence, and ensuring human rights compliance. Overall, the most recent phase of this project has delivered 197 capacity building activities, training 4,452 investigators, intelligence analysts, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges from a total of 102 Nigerian institutions, and has provided legal advisory services to Nigerian Lawmakers on the drafting of new counter-terrorism legislation currently awaiting Presidential assent.

We have also worked with the European Union to support the regular deployment of federal counter-terrorism prosecutors from the Complex Case Group of the Ministry of Justice to the Joint Investigation Centre in Northeast Nigeria to guide investigations and review case files. The project has been providing equipment and logistical support to the Joint Investigation Centre, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Department of State Security Services. In addition, the project has supported the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) in gaining access to suspected associates of Boko Haram currently held in federal custody to provide legal counsel.

As a result of this assistance, federal prosecutors have reviewed approximately 2,900 case files, resulting in the release of 1,800 adults and 580 children from custody, as well as the referral of 230 cases for trial before the Federal High Court.

The promotion of comprehensive screening, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration strategies for suspected associates of Boko Haram has also been a key goal of our partnership with the EU. The project has worked closely with the Lake Chad Basin Commission to organize a number of meetings to bring together key criminal justice officers from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria to identify key issues and good practices and areas for further cooperation in order to support efforts to develop targeted responses for those who have been associated with terrorism, including effective rehabilitation and reintegration strategies, while also ensuring that those who have committed gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including sexual violence are brought to justice.

Furthermore, the project has built in sustainability through the development of training resources and the training of trainers. This has included the development and publication of training tools such as the “Nigeria Training Module on Investigative Interviewing, the Right to Remain Silent and the Prohibition of Torture”, which serves as a reference tool for Nigerian criminal justice officials; The “Nigeria Training Module on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism”, which is a practical tool for training criminal justice sector practitioners working on terrorism-related cases on the gender aspects of counter-terrorism; The “User's Guide to the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 (TPA) as amended by the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 (TPAA)”, which serves as a reference guide for prosecutors, investigators, the Courts and all those involved in the criminal justice system on the application of the TPA, as amended; And lastly, the “Nigeria Handbook on Counter-Terrorism Investigations”, which was designed to help Nigerian investigators to develop the skills and approaches necessary to ensure that evidence left behind at crime scenes is recovered and analyzed, that investigative leads are effectively identified and pursued, and that potential intelligence opportunities are leveraged and exploited. The trainers trained by UNODC are now actively utilizing these tools in their delivery of training to their Nigerian colleagues across the criminal justice system.

We have been especially pleased in recent months to see how our work has helped to provide a solid basis for the Federal and State Government to develop gradually a functional, human rights compliant transitional justice system in support of the ongoing mass defections from Boko Haram. We could not ask for a more important legacy for the enduring partnership between UNODC and European Union than helping to contribute to the return of peace and stability in the Northeast.