This week Nigeria marked an important milestone in its efforts to fight terrorism, as Nigerian, EU, and UNODC officials came together for a final Project Steering Committee meeting to reflect on the achievements made under the 2nd phase of the EU-Nigeria-UNODC partnership to counter terrorism in Nigeria, which comes to a close at the end of March, and to lay the groundwork for a follow-on three year project expected to start in April.
The two-year project, funded by the European Union, focused on further strengthening the capacity of Nigerian criminal justice officials to effectively investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate terrorism cases, in accordance with the rule of law and human rights.
At the final Steering Committee meeting, Ms. Catherine Udida, from the Office of the National Security Advisor, stated " I want to express our sincere gratitude to the EU, UNODC and all stakeholders for the progress and achievements made under this EU-Nigeria-UNODC-CTED partnership project, which is highly valued by the Government of Nigeria. Our close collaboration has led us to explore areas where your support and assistance are most needed, in the Northeast Nigeria. We very much look forward to continuing working together in the next project phase".
Ms. Elisabeth Bayer from the UNODC Office in Nigeria thanked the European Union and Nigeria for their on-going close collaboration, noting that "This project has been tailored to the needs identified by the Government of Nigeria. As a result, it has built a significant cadre of trained Nigerian counter-terrorism practitioners who are armed with the skills and knowledge needed to respond to the terrorism-related criminal justice challenges that Nigeria is currently facing".
The project delivered 82 capacity building activities, including providing extensive training to select groups of investigators, legal advisors, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges on a range of practically-focused terrorism-related criminal justice issues. It strengthened the capacity of Nigerian criminal justice training institutions, providing in-depth train-the-trainer courses to groups of Nigerian trainers on counter-terrorism investigations, adjudication of terrorism cases, and human rights, respectively, and producing a manual on counter-investigations for use by police practitioners and trainers.
The project also expanded its work in Northeast Nigeria. Ms. Isabel Candela from the European Union noted "I would like to reemphasize the importance that the European Union has attached to this Partnership Project with the Government of Nigeria and UNODC. The European Union has not only funded it, but has also demonstrated the close commitment and engagement during implementation, which will continue into the next phase. We are happy to see how the project has evolved and moved into more action in the field to address the challenges in the Northeast and, we are pleased that the next project will give us the flexibility to address new developments and opportunities. We are glad to continue supporting the Government of Nigeria, together with UNODC, and we are also looking forward to the next phase of this project."
The Project Steering Committee was attended by representatives from the Nigerian entities who most closely worked with the project including: the Office of the National Security Advisor; Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Court of Appeal, Federal Ministry of Justice, Federal High Court, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Assembly, National Human Rights Commission, National Judicial Institute, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Bar Association, and Nigeria Defense Headquarters.
Nigeria, the European Union and UNODC have already committed to continue this successful partnership with an EU-funded three-year counter-terrorism project starting in April 2018 which will build on and expand the work already initiated.