By Bennett Oghifo
The ongoing fight against terrorism in Nigeria received a boost as the European Union unfolded a three-year funding plans commencing this month.
A statement by Mr. Sylvester Tunde Atere, Outreach and Communications Officer United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said this was the highpoint of a final Project Steering Committee meeting involving Nigerian, EU, and UNODC officials to reflect on the achievements made under the second phase of the EU-Nigeria-UNODC partnership to counter terrorism in Nigeria.
The two-year project funded by the European Union came to a close at the end of March. While it lasted, the project 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. It built on the groundwork laid under the previous EU-Nigeria-UNODC project.
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. Mr. Kurt Cornelis from the European Union noted that “The European Union is particularly pleased to have been able to support the Government of Nigeria to address the significant terrorist threat facing the Northeast by working with Nigeria to develop an Action Plan on the Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism in Northeast Nigeria which will support implementation of the Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism. The EU looks forward to partnering with Nigeria on its implementation during the next phase of the project.”
At the final Steering Committee meeting, Ms. Catherine Udida, from the Office of the National Security Advisor, stated “Over the last two years, Nigeria has made important progress in its fight against terrorism. We continue to be grateful for the partnership with the EU and UNODC in addressing this challenge and in particular for the support provided to the Nigerian Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism” which serves as an important framework for Nigerian efforts to counter terrorism.
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 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, Department of State Services, 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 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 started.