Increasing Access to Justice for Pretrial Detainees in Nigeria
by Maliza Bonane of PartnersGlobal and Hadiza Usman of Partners West Africa Nigeria (aka Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative)
In Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), more than 80% of the prison population is currently awaiting trial. Many detainees are held in overcrowded pre-trial custodial facilities for extended periods of time, with little to no provisions or access to legal counsel. This issue is not unique to the FCT. Custodial center overcrowding is an issue throughout the country. In 2004, a Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) was developed by the Open Society Justice Initiative in collaboration with the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) and the National Police Force (NPF) and piloted in several states across the country. This program placed young lawyers in police stations as part of their compulsory national service and tasked them with providing legal services to pretrial detainees in order to reduce detention rates. However, the FCT was not part of this program and those stuck in pre-trial detention found themselves in a situation with seemingly no solution.
Partnership and Persistence
Things changed in 2021, when the Reforming Pre-Trial Detention in Nigeria (RPDN) project began implementing the PDSS for the first time in the FCT. The RPDN is a project of PartnersGlobal and is carried out in partnership with Partners West Africa – Nigeria (PWAN), Network of University Legal Aid Institutions Nigeria (NULAI), and New-Rule LLC. The goal of the program is to uphold the principles of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) – a law that guarantees detainees speedy trials, humane treatment, and other human rights. As such, partners work to institutionalize a system of detainee registration, representation, and processing that demonstrates rule of law, respect for human rights, and duty of care for victims, the accused, and their families in the Federal Capital Territory.
RPDN project partner PWAN worked in collaboration with LACON, NPF and the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCoS) to integrate resident pro bono lawyers in 10 different police stations in the FTC – Nyanya, Karmo, Gwagwalada, Garki, Utako, Wuse, Gwarimpa, Jikwoyi, Mabuchi, and Kubwa. The lawyers are responsible for verifying and reinforcing the ACJA detention time limits and conditions. They also assist the first interview of the detainee with the police officer or file bail applications on behalf of detainees.
Impact of PDSS in the FTC
The free legal services provided as part of the PDSS are making a significant difference in preventing unlawful detentions and enacting releases before detainees are transferred to the custodial centers. Since the project started in April 2021, a total of 488 detainees had their first interview with PDSS lawyers, 339 were released on bail, and 75 were released outside of the bail process. In the latter case, the lawyers used conflict resolution skills to engage in dialogue with the police and explain the principles of ACJA, which lead to the releases before suspects formally enter the system. The availability of free legal services at the primary stage allowed the service to be at the disposable of any detainee who wishes to use it.
Furthermore, police officers increasingly refer cases to the lawyers and grant them access to initial interviews with detainees. According to, a Divisional Police Officer currently based in Garki Police station, the presence of the lawyer has reduced the number of detainees that stay above 48 hours in the police station.
“The scheme has positively aided me in my duties of checking the cell daily since I receive feedback as to the condition of the cell from the duty solicitor [lawyer] and my presence has boosted the public confidence in the police station and has reduced litigation against the police from the general public.”
The Seeds of Change
Justice actors in the FCT have taken notice of the impacts of the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme under the RPDN project and are eager to sustain them. Going forward, the Administrative Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), an interagency government body that oversees the implementation of the ACJA in the FCT, recently made a commitment to deploy lawyers at ten additional police stations under the direction of RPDN project partner PWAN. The ACJMC is also considering setting up telephone call centers of pro bono lawyers that respond to requests for detainees outside of the PDSS stations. Additionally, the police made a commitment to continue its collaboration with the National Youth Service Corp to receive lawyers beyond the RPDN program to ensure lawyers are assigned to police stations for continuous legal services.
Beyond reducing the number of detainees in custodial centers, RPDN’s PDSS activity fortifies the sustainability of our pre-trial services goal. Building on this past experience, PartnersGlobal is looking forward to implementing the activity for another year to ensure rule of law and respect for human rights to more victims, accused, and their families in the FCT.
Esah Holy ANAGHO is a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations and Conflict Resolution at the University of Buea – Cameroon. Her research is entitled, “Conflict Resolution, Peacebuilding and Counter-terrorism: The Roles of women in the North West, South West and Far North Regions of Cameroon.”
For almost a decade, Cameroon has experienced multiple conflicts that have gravely affected women and girls. The Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s Far North region and the separatist armed conflict in the North-West and South-West regions (the two English speaking or Anglophone regions of the country) have endangered the affected populations generally, but have been especially grievous for women and girls. Anagho’s innovative research will assess:
What are the roles of women in the Cameroon Anglophone Conflict?
In what ways has the Cameroon Anglophone conflict affected women and girls?
To what extent have women been able to contribute to the peace processes of the Cameroon Anglophone conflict?
Captain Mame Rokhaya LÔ is the Head of the Gender Desk within the Senegalese National Gendarmerie.
Captain Lo’s research is called, “Gender, Recruitment Strategies, and Management of Human Resources in the Senegalese National Gendarmerie.” With this research, she aims is to highlight gaps in current policy and practice, make policy recommendations, and engage decision-makers with the security sector for transformative change.
Five Years of the Partners for Security in Guinea project
Through its five years (2015-2020) the Partners for Security in Guinea project worked to build trust between police and citizens and reform Guinea’s security sector through community policing. It took collaboration among the Guinean government, law enforcement, community leaders, and everyday citizens and a committment from all to sharping a security sector that was more inclusive and effective as well as rights-respecting.
Take a look through the stories, videos and materials that capture some of the project’s successes, innovations, and best practices and hear from those most involved in the project about their experiences in shaping a more secure Guinea.
Read about the project’s best practices and impact
Guide to Best Practices on community policing in Guinea The Guide shares the innovative initiatives, tools, and best practices that contributed to the project’s success and that can inform community policing initiatives and security sector reform in other countriesRead More
In Guinea, citizens become “actors in their own security”Read about this national approach to improve police effectiveness and build citizen-police trust through officer training, community-based policing, and positive community-police interactions.
In honor of General Cissé , PartnersGlobal, Partners West Africa Nigeria and Partners West Africa Senegal are awarding research fellowships to two young African women researchers and practitioners working in the civil society and security sectors. Each fellow will receive a grant equivalent of 1,500,000 CFA (West African franc) to fund innovative research around the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa with a central focus on women, peace and security.
With these fellowships, the Partners Network aims to cultivate the next generation of leaders in women, peace and security and make progress toward realizing UNSCR 1325.
Eligibility and Selection Criteria
Only future or ongoing research projects are eligible for the Fellowship.
The selection criteria applied for the project appraisal are:
Applicant’s capacity to carry out quality research (level of education, professional experience, published work, academic support);
Relevance and originality of the issue in relation to current security and gender issues;
Link to the themes selected for the Fellowship, as specified in Article 3;
Methodology and structuring of the work;
Analytical development of the project narrative and the planned fieldwork;
Interest of the results and the practical impact of contributions.
Submit the complete application file electronically by March 15, 2021 to [email protected]
The application must contain the following files:
1 Resume/CV (contact details including home address and possibly institutional address, training, career path and professional project, photograph);
1 transcript of the Master’s degree and/or the doctoral research proposal approved by the committee members/ or a transcript of the doctoral/PhD diploma;
1 Letter of recommendation;
1 Copy of a research work already carried out (thesis chapter, scientific article, etc.);
1 research proposal for the General Lamine Cissé Fellowship (10 pages) including the following sections, in .doc or .docx format:
Aim/goal of the research;
In the appendix of the research project:
Estimated research budget.
Incomplete applications or those arriving after the Closing Date will not be considered.See the flyer below for more details.
January 5, 2021
Government transparency and accountability is key to healthy democracy, but building the systems and culture to support this is a long and challenging task. In Nigeria, the Public Private Development Centre (PPDC) has successfully advanced government reforms to increase transparency and elevated the voices of civil society in demanding accountability from their officials.
PPDC was recently awarded the prestigious ONE Africa Award, which celebrates African efforts aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The award recognizes Africa-driven and Africa-led advocacy efforts that have demonstrated success at the community, national or regional level.
The project consortium, which also includes BudgIT, the Cleen Foundation, Partners West Africa Nigeria and New-Rule, are visualizing data to help citizens better understand government budgets; building open budgeting portals; tracking budget expenditures through civic tech tools; advancing whistleblower legislation; partnering with local government to diagnose and address institutional vulnerabilities to corruption; and supporting state governments to implement legislation that addresses corruption in Nigeria’s justice system.
PartnersGlobal’s Director for Africa and Accountable Governance Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo interviewed Nkem Ilo, CEO of PPDC, to hear her perspective on Nigeria’s gains in transparency and accountability and the challenges that remain.
How have tech tools improved government accountability and transparency in public procurements in Nigeria?
If we think of firewalls as cabinets or buildings, tech tools have removed these firewalls and created opportunities for citizens to access government-held information and data, provide inputs into planning, and advocate for reform.
Tech tools have improved governance and transparency in Nigeria in a number of ways. Firstly, prior to tech tools entering the space, citizens could not readily obtain publicly held data, let alone analyze such data. Nigeria has now signed the Open Government Partnership. The open government movement in Nigeria has motivated government to build its own tech tools A good example is the Open Treasury Portal and the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal. Another example is the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning and its presentation of the budget in a way that is understandable to different stakeholders.
On the supply side, civic tech tools used around open budgeting and open contracting have created a feedback loop so that citizens can share their views with government about the budget. This has improved the practice of governance.
Secondly, civic tech tools have enabled civil society to analyze large and complex data sets. Civil society is now able to identify trends in data and understand the “what and why” of the data.
In the present context, where COVID-19 has required government to respond with stimulus and procurement to address health needs, civil society is now able to use the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal to track and monitor the use of COVID-related government funds. This has generated much-needed conversation in the political sphere. People are beginning to raise questions about the past fiscal investments in the health care system. Why is Nigeria’s health system ill-equipped for a crisis like COVID?
What are the “democracy dividends” for Nigeria?
Before democracy was ushered in, citizens were simply not able to question government. There was no onus on government to respond to citizens’ concerns or their requests for information. Participatory governance simply did not exist.
Because of our democracy, organized civil society groups are perceived as equal to government. The Open Government Partnership is a dividend of democracy. The process of becoming an OGP country requires co-creation, collaboration, and joint problem solving—very simply put, government is required to listen to a broad range of stakeholders to solve policy issues. That is the definition of democracy!
Because of democracy, the idea that citizens and civil society can request information is seen as a norm and these are enshrined in legal frameworks that exist to promote transparency and accountability, including the Public Procurement Act and various fiscal transparency laws. These developments have definitely generated democracy dividends because citizens have access to data, which they can use to push for reform on issues they care about.
What are some of the challenges facing Nigeria’s democracy?
Nigeria’s democracy is fraught with challenges. On one hand, the country signed on to the OGP, a multi-stakeholder initiative, and on the hand, other parts of the government are clamping down on activists that led the #ENDSARS movement. There are various truths, untruths, and counter-truths that surround the government’s involvement in the Lekki Bridge massacre.
Similarly, our democracy is significantly stifled by corruption. Government spending is not free from corruption. Very few corruption cases are prosecuted to the full extent of the law and in a way that disincentivizes corruption. At present, the Finance Bill is being discussed. The bill is designed to promote fiscal transparency, but provisions in the bill have raised concerns that it may also weaken the checks and balances that the Public Procurement Act put in place.
These types of developments leave citizens wondering about the extent to which democracy has generated dividends. It is clear the government has made notable investments in transparency and, as a result, a wide range of data is available to citizens and civil society. What is missing is accountability. There is a lack of systemic or institutional incentives to change the behavior of public officials so that they truly are accountable. This is where the focus needs to be, otherwise the benefits of democracy will continue to be uneven.
What has made the Freedom of Information Index and Open Government Partnership Index successful in encouraging open government in Nigeria?
Nigeria as a country takes pride in its competitive spirit. We like to be seen as doing better than our counterparts. PPDC’s Open Government Partnership Index and the Freedom of Information Index (administered by a civil society collective) are a direct result of the investment made by the Access Nigeria project, which we implemented jointly with PartnersGlobal.
These indexes have contributed to changing the narrative around the issue of corruption and, in particular, open contracting. Our strategy is to stimulate change in how government operates by recognizing positive things government is doing to open up its processes and information.
Since the launch of the Freedom of Information Index in 2014, we have seen healthy competition emerge between government institutions who actively seek to improve their ranking yearly. For instance, after each year’s ranking, we regularly receive calls from public institutions seeking training and guidance on how to improve their compliance with mandatory disclosure provisions in Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Because of technology and the access that the Freedom of Information Act has provided, we are able to point to data to support public institutions to improve their rankings. Similarly, the OGP Index has contributed to an increase in states signing the OGP and opening state governments.
What are Nigeria’s top challenges regarding freedom of information? What does that mean for the country’s democratic development?
The top access to information challenge Nigeria faces is lagging government accountability. Even though the Freedom of Information Act has been passed and is being implemented, civil society is still facing challenges in obtaining information. Government is slow to respond to requests by citizens or civil society organizations. This is especially true of public institutions in the security sector.
It is possible to interpret the lack of full FOIA compliance by government as a strategy to close or restrict civic space. Government is closing civic space in other ways as well. An example of this is the controversy surrounding the recently passed Corporate Allied Matters Act and also the alleged withdrawal of a civil society organization’s registration for its participation in the #EndSARS campaign.
At the state level, there still exists confusion as to whether state governments are required to comply with the Federal FOIA. Some states have passed their own FOIA, and in some instances, state public officials are aware these laws exist, while others are not. This presents a challenge for compliance and the implementation of OGP at the state level.
Under OGP, states should be required to comply with existing freedom of information laws (especially where such states are yet to pass their own laws) because access to information is central to opening up government. Total compliance with FOIA requires will on the part of government. There is more will among civil society to push for government to be more responsive to FOIA requests than there is will within government to be accountable and respond to citizens’ and civil society’s requests for information.
How has winning the ONE Award impacted PPDC?
The ONE Award has given us so much visibility and recognition. This has been very welcomed because an opportunity exists for us to scale what we are doing and advance our central focus of increasing citizen participation around contracting and public procurement and, as an outcome, improve service delivery through citizens’ empowerment.
November 10, 2020
We are pleased to share with you an opportunity for local civil society organizations interested in participating in a capacity building process to strengthen their resiliency in the face of potential impacts of growing restrictions on civic space. The Resiliency+ Process, developed out of the need for a new organizational model to combat the rise of changing civic spaces around the world, will take selected organizations through a structured process to increase their organizational resilience over a period of 12 months. This opportunity is part of a larger initiative under the USAID-funded Enabling and Protecting Civic Spaces (EPCS) – Illuminating New Solutions and Programmatic Innovations for Resilient Spaces or INSPIRES activity.
Organizations based in Ecuador, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Serbia will be eligible to apply. At a minimum, organizations must be a locally registered civil society organization, have at least four years of experience, and be committed to the 12-month process. Please see the attached documents for more details.
If you’re interested in participating in this opportunity, please fill out this Google Form Application by 11:59 pm EST on the following dates:
Police Officer Ramata Mamadou Diallo grew up surrounded by insecurity, domestic violence, theft, and the marginalization of women. She understood early on that women and children suffered the most in this environment.
It is for this reason that when she got an opportunity to take a test to join the public servant corps in 2005, she requested to be assigned to the Ministry of Security and Civilian Protection. She wanted to protect and be of service to children and women who were victims of violence and contribute to peace and stability for families in her community. Three years later, in 2008, Officer Diallo formally joined the Guinea National Police.
Shortly after joining the police, Officer Diallo began advocating for greater integration of the gender dimensions in all police work, including in recruitment and training efforts. She favors using ongoing media messaging to sensitize women and youth on the role of police in securing their communities. Increasing women’s enrollment in the police is a goal of hers.
“Women’s participation in the security sector is a net positive because their service leads to trust, allows dialogue, and strengthens community policing,” says Officer Diallo.
“In all of the services where women police officers are in charge, women victims are well received, which has increased the likelihood that women victims will seek redress and protection,” she adds
Through her many training sessions in and out of Guinea, Officer Diallo has gotten a better understanding of the challenges women face, but these sessions have also strengthened her belief that progress is possible. She does caution, however, that a “greater solidarity among women is needed to succeed.”
In 2012, Officer Diallo was appointed to lead the Labé regional office of the Office of Protection of Gender, Children and Morals (known by its French acronym OPROGEM). This position, she said, allows her to realize her dream of serving and protecting women and children.
She has had many successes, but none seems to measure up to her 2015 rescue of an underage girl, straight from the hands of her kidnappers. The girl, a minor, had attempted to call her parents from a cell phone. Officer Diallo and her team used the mobile phone number to locate the victim and free her.
As part of the Partners for Security in Guinea project, Officer Diallo led multiple dialogue sessions between police, women, and youth. She visited several schools through the Police in School initiative that seeks to bridge the gap between teenagers and the police through civic education. She also contributed to the establishment of local security and violence prevention forums and trained local leaders on conflict resolution and crime prevention.
Prior to eventually retiring from Guinea’s National Police, Officer Diallo looks forward to serving at the national and international levels. She hopes her native Guinea will continue to honor a 30 percent gender recruitment quota and promote women officers to meaningful posts that will inspire the next generation of women police officers.
October 15, 2020
Police Captain Jeanne Sagno has been with the Guinea National Police since 2008. She joined the police because she believes it serves an important role for public good—protecting people and their property, guaranteeing the security of state institutions, maintaining and restoring public order, and fighting criminality and gender-based violence.
In her more than decade-long service, two events have left an indelible mark on her: the rape of a 12-year-old girl who died from abortion complications and the case of a woman now permanently disabled from her husband’s domestic abuse. These events cemented her belief that women must be represented in the security sector in great numbers for community policing (police de proximité) to succeed. She says that because women constitute one of society’s vulnerable groups and are also victims of multiple forms of violence, they are best placed to provide actionable recommendations on how to guarantee the safety of women and their children.
As the Head of the Office of Protection of the Gender, Children and Morals (OPROGEM) Brigade at the Kaloum Police Commissariat in Conakry, Captain Sagno is doing her part. Through the Partners for Security in Guinea project, Sagno has partnered with civil society to inform women and youth of their legal rights and on how they can report violence against them to competent authorities, including the police. Her campaigning has led to higher number of reports filed as victims feel more empowered to go to the police.
Captain Sagno also serves as a Community Outreach Officer (or Policière Référente in French), a role that has taken her to many high school and university classrooms to educate students about the police. Her motto: Educate rather than punish.
She has also trained colleagues in the judicial police on conducting police searches or stops, handcuffing, and transporting suspects in ways that respect their human rights. Her training sessions have also included how to respectfully handle minors and peacefully manage protestors.
Captain Sagno looks forward to many more fruitful years serving her community, particularly women.