The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have urged the Federal Government to introduce transitional justice into Nigeria’s legal framework to address issues of human rights abuses.
The stakeholders spoke at a forum in Abuja on Community of Practice on Transitional Justice in Nigeria.
Ms Juliet Ibekaku, senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on justice reform, said that transitional justice consisted of judicial and non-judicial measures implemented in order to redress issues of human rights abuses.
She said that such measures included criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programmes and various kinds of institutional reforms, which were initiated at points of political transition from violence and repression.
“We need to start looking at how to implement the transitional justice initiative; having done so much research on it, we need to go down to the communities to start initiating this process.
“This is because a policy framework cannot really mean anything to anybody until it becomes a living action in the lives of those who really need to feel that the government of Nigeria is providing access to justice for them.
“It is all about access, how do we provide justice, how do we create a platform for communities to access justice? We know countries where transitional justice have become part and parcel of their legal system.
“We have not done so much in Nigeria in putting transitional justice into our legal framework yet we know that we need it, especially to help communities where there are so much crisis going on,’’ the presidential aide said.
Ibekaku said that there were so many communities in crisis in Nigeria that required justice, adding “if we introduce it into our legal framework we then can identify the needs of various communities.’’
She urged CSOs and stakeholders to get the Federal Ministry of Justice and all the justice system in the country to buy into the initiative.
“We need it to become a living framework for Nigeria to allow access to justice and improve the lives of the vulnerable people in the conflict areas.’’
Also, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, the NBA president, said that in the last two years the association constituted a task force to beam its searchlight on the conflict areas of the nation in the North-East and the Niger Delta.
Mahmoud said that the NBA realised that the issue of transitional justice was among the key needs of those communities, adding that without a legal framework it was difficult to address the issues.
He said that in the North-East, the justice system had been badly affected by crisis so the need to pursue justice and reparation for the victims of the crisis was dire.
The NBA president urged stakeholders in the justice sector to step up and help the vulnerable persons and communities in the nation to seek justice.
Ms Idayat Hassan, director of Centre for Democracy and Development, said that the there was a need for Nigeria to have a framework that would identify the needs of various communities and address them.
Hassan said that transitional justice when put in place would deal with two prisms.
According to her, on the one hand it will help in dealing with the perpetrators of violence and on the other hand it would help the survivors and victims get justice and reparation.
She said that there was also need to institute a forgiveness plan and how to cope with the aftermath of the crisis.
The official said this would help to build societal stability informed by a society’s desire to rebuild social trust, repair a fractured justice system, and build a democratic system of governance.