FG Pledges To Support Establishment Of Restorative Justice Centres

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The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF), Lateef Fagbemi SAN, has pledged FG’s support to the establishment of Restorative Justice Centres across the country.

The HAGF made the pledge at the Federal Ministry of Justice Validation Session of Restorative Justice Documents: the Policy ,Bill, Practice Direction and Training Manual in Abuja on Thursday 27th June, 2024.

The programme organized by Federal Ministry of Justice was sponsored by United Nation Office on Drugs and crime (UNODC).

The HAGF who was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Beatrice Jedy-Agba OON, mni, explained that, “These centres will run as forms of alternative dispute resolution and will be deployed as tools for decongesting many of the less serious cases in the docket of the courts. This will invariably decrease the overcrowded correctional centres.

“It is proposed that the centres will receive referrals from the police, courts and prosecutors to settle some criminal matters amicably”.

She stated that there is the need to support government policies towards reforming the criminal justice system, through developing restorative justice mechanisms.

“The criminal justice system faces tremendous challenges, ranging from recidivism, prolonged duration for trials, overcrowded custodial centres and the failure of punishment for offences to meet with standards of justice for the victims and survivors of crime.

“These challenges are addressed through restorative justice mechanisms, with the overall objective of improving the criminal justice system”.

Jedy-Agba explained that restorative justice is an evolving approach to justice that seeks to repair harm by providing an opportunity for those harmed and the perpetrators to communicate and address needs in the aftermath of a crime.

“It gives offenders an opportunity to make amends and to try to correct some of their wrongs and hurt which they may have caused to their victims.

“It is also an innovative approach that has been known to reduce re-offending rates by making the offenders face the consequences of their action”.

She noted that while the traditional criminal justice process solely focuses on punishment for the offender, restorative justice focuses on victims and survivors who have been harmed by the conduct of the offender.

“Victims are empowered to participate more fully than in the traditional system, and the community also has an important role to play by establishing standards of conduct and helping to provide support to the parties involved.

“I hope that the validation and eventual passage of these legal and regulatory frameworks will serve as model to be adopted by the states”.

The SGF/PS informed that Nigeria has encapsulated RESTORATIVE JUSTICE in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA) and the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 (NCOS Act). Sections 314 and 319 ACJA 2015 provides for victim compensation for victims for injuries or losses incurred due to the offence and to cover medical expenses, as well as industrial sentences, such as community service, which help in the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders while addressing the needs of victims.

“Similarly, the NCOS Act provides for non-custodial service majors including community service, probation, parole and other restorative justice majors.”

Representative of Chairman House Committee on Reformatory Institutions, Hon. Ifeoluwa Ehindoro, in his goodwill message said that the National Assembly would encourage State Attorneys General to emulate the initiatives and ensure compliance in the use of restorative justice in Nigeria in the use of restorative justice majors.

Earlier, in his goodwill message, the Controller General, Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa stated that over the years there has been a very big collaboration and synergy between Nigerian Correctional Service, FMOJ, Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee, this has greatly helped the service in the realization of its mandate.

In his remarks, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun assured that the police was ready to play its part in order to join in building a more inclusive justice system, saying police will champion adoption of the restorative system.

“As we review and validate these documents, I urge us to prioritize a justice system that encourages re-integration, the police is committed to work with all stakeholders.

“The concept holds immense potential for nation legal frame work. It encompasses policy, practice direction and training manual of restorative justice.

Director, Administration of Criminal Justice and Reform Department, Mrs. Leticia Ayoola-Daniels, noted that the ultimate goal is to have a justice system that not only punishes offenders but also heals communities and restores relationships.

“The purpose is not merely a formality but a testament to our dedication to reforming our justice system to better serve our people.

“Restorative Justice represents a paradigm shift from the traditional punitive approach to one that emphasizes healing, rehabilitation, and reconciliation.

“It is relevant now more than ever as we face the challenges of recidivism, overcrowded correctional facilities, and lengthy prosecution processes”.

Ayoola-Daniels disclosed that following the successful validation of the restorative document, they will embark on a series of activities to ensure the effective implementation of the transformative approach to justice.

Ms. Muchaneta Mundopa a representative of United Nation Office on Drugs and crime (UNODC) says the documents emphasise Nigeria’s dedication to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16, which focuses on peace, justice, and strong institutions.

“UNODC believes that restorative justice can play a crucial role in achieving this goal by addressing the underlying causes of conflict and promoting a culture of dialogue and understanding within communities.

“We recognise that adopting these documents is the first step in establishing a criminal justice system that provides an opportunity to all affected parties.

“However, the true impact will be experienced through the implementation phase of restorative justice,” she added.

She said that in line with the newly revised 2030 Strategic Vision for Nigeria, UNODC is proud and remains steadfastly committed to supporting Nigeria in this transformative journey and dedicated to providing the necessary technical support and capacity building for a successful implementation.

Modupe Ogundoro
Director, Information and PR