Breathe. Persist. Repeat.

  April 23, 2021

George Floyd’s life mattered.

After less than a day of jury deliberations, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last May. For Floyd’s family, their surprise and relief at the verdict was expressed poignantly in his brother Philonise’s words, “Today we are able to breathe again.”  Many across the nation glued to televisions and Twitter feeds took a collective breath as we realized that our justice system had finally validated that this Black man’s life mattered — and that a system that allowed a White police officer to kill a Black man by kneeling casually on his neck for 9:29 minutes was indefensible and criminal.  Yet however uplifting and validating the verdict, it is worth remembering that many other victims have not yet and may not see justice served. 

Just moments before the verdict was announced, police in Columbus, Ohio fatally shot a 16-year-old Black girl, Ma’Khiah Bryant. It is also not lost on us that just last week, less than 10 miles from where Chauvin stood trial,  Daunte Wright was shot and killed by police during a routine traffic stop. These lost lives are more tragic reminders of the power disequilibrium that systemic racism produces across our nation. Indeed, many police practices reinforce the narrative that Black and Brown lives are threats to society that must be remanded, contained, or even brutalized. This dehumanization wrought by white supremacy in the US places BIPOC at the bottom of a racial hierarchy, where systemic violence perpetuates human rights violations upon communities of color. From mass incarceration to the militarization of police forces that disproportionately target Black and Brown people, these communities have been left at the mercy of the state, and their fury becomes their voice.

The civil resistance in America today is the result of hundreds of years of pain, anger, and fear – and it is our duty to ensure that the Chauvin verdict is a step toward healing the communal trauma of centuries of institutional oppression. The powerful, Black-led movement that organized the largest and most persistent demonstrations in US history is a reminder of how positive social change in this country happens.  We must push our lawmakers to uphold this outcome through a wholesale redesign of our criminal justice system and accountability mechanisms.

Much work and healing remain as we continue to organize and advocate for equitable justice and accountability. We can already see the ramping up of a dangerous counter-narrative from those who portray the verdict as “mob justice” – suggesting that jurors were persuaded not by testimony and evidence but by fear of the potential consequences of a not–guilty verdict – and discussion of passing laws that could target protestors. This is where organizations focused on peacebuilding and democratic reform must demonstrate resolve, vigilance, and leadership. We must amplify messages of social transformation, accountable justice, and healing through a collaborative approach that unifies our voices and networks to truly effect changes in the system that center human life and dignity.

It can seem overwhelming to know where to begin to constructively change an oppressive, abusive system. As peacebuilders, we at PartnersGlobal know that rebuilding trust is one of the cornerstones to any long-term criminal justice reform. Our organization is committed to advocating for change by first acknowledging the collective and personal trauma that our staff is experiencing and allowing ourselves as a team the time to grieve. We also acknowledge that this trauma is felt differently by our Black and Brown colleagues who experience levels of violence and historical marginalization very differently than those with lighter skin. While we know our individual experiences with injustice vary, we believe strongly that we each have a role to play in ensuring that reforms and social transformation will be legitimate, inclusive, and lasting. The Chauvin trial resulted in a guilty verdict because average citizens of all ages, colors, and races took risks to film, speak, organize, and shout about a repugnant murder by law enforcement of a citizen on a calm street in Minneapolis on a typical summer afternoon – and because a jury of peers did its civic duty to hear evidence from all sides and render a just decision that upheld the laws of the state and the principles of our country.

PartnersGlobal will make every effort to uplift and assist our peer organizations working on the front lines of racial injustice and social reform in the United States, offering support to these groups to stay resilient in this long struggle. We recognize that expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and others working to end the dehumanization of people of color is not enough. Yet it represents a critical start for collaborative advocacy and restorative justice. As we call for police to end the use of illegal force and brutality—beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot control agents —we know that the verdict doesn’t equate to the greater justice we need without systemic change. And we recognize that it will take many different groups and constituencies – activists, community leaders, policymakers, and police themselves – to achieve these kinds of structural reforms.  

We encourage our extended Partners family to join us in supporting the struggle for Black lives whether by donating money, attending protests, amplifying Black voices online, or being willing to have difficult conversations about race and racism in the US.

We honor the memories and legacies of those killed by police. To read their stories, visit:

  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.

Nkemdilim Ilo
Chief Executive Officer
Public Private Development Centre

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.

As partners on the Promoting Civil Society Participation in Anti-Corruption Efforts in Nigeria (Access Nigeria), PPDC and PartnersGlobal have educated citizens on the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and increased collaboration between citizens and government around open contracting and freedom of information.

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?

“Because of our democracy, organized civil society groups are perceived as equal to government. The Open Government Partnership is a dividend of democracy.”

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.

“Our strategy is to stimulate change in how government operates by recognizing positive things government is doing to open up its processes and information.”

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.

“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.”

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.

by Solange Bandiaky-Badji   October 5, 2020

As many countries move toward reopening as COVID-19 cases fall, and in some places re-confinement as cases increase, law enforcement agencies will continue to play a key role in supporting the implementation of public health measures to contain the virus. For governments’ COVID-19 measures to be effectively implemented, governments should promote approaches that strengthen trust between security forces and citizens through increased and collaborative problem-solving. These efforts can not only improve countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic but serve as a foundation on which to build resilience to future crises. Our experience at PartnersGlobal shows us that these relationships can be strengthened even in the midst of a crisis.

Community policing (police de proximité in French), which many African countries have introduced over the last decade as part of security sector reform, is an approach that focuses on building ties between police and community members. Community policing not only strengthens trust and improves communication with citizens but can help security forces work more effectively. It can also build resilience to enhance responses to cross-cutting challenges, such as a pandemic.

In Guinea, participants in our Partners for Security in Guinea project, a U.S. Department of State-funded community policing project implemented over the past five years, are building on the police-community relationships they have established to respond to the current health crisis. Their collective and inclusive initiatives to prevent the spread of COVID-19 includ

  • The creation of COVID-19 response teams made up of district chiefs, police commissioners, health officers, and others who conduct awareness campaigns and implement prevention measures;
  • Multi-stakeholder partnerships among civil society, local leaders, women, and youth, which develop community-based action plans to prevent gender-based violence and the spread of COVID-19;
  • Local crime prevention councils that support community sensitization activities around COVID-19; and
  • Police officers trained to working in health emergencies and on preventing domestic violence.

These collaborative efforts of our partners in Guinea provide a blueprint for other countries to develop more effective approaches to peace and security. By strengthening trust between police and citizens, governments are better able to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and can build resilience to face future challenges such as disasters, pandemics, and climate change.

When we get past this current crisis, the success of COVID-19 responses and recovery plans will be measured not just by health and economic recovery but by how citizens—including women, youth, and the most vulnerable—have been involved and how their human rights have been respected.

For more information on proven strategies for building trust and cooperation between citizens and security forces, look at our brief “COVID-19 and Community Policing: Strengthening citizen trust with security forces in Guinea” and join us Oct. 7 at 10:30 AM EST for our webinar “COVID-19 and The Security Sector: Civil Society Experience in Building Trust Between Security Forces and Citizens in West Africa.”

RSVP here for English:

RSVP here for French:
*The webinar will be available in English and French

About the Author: Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Ph.D., is Senior Director of Africa and Women, Peace and Security at PartnersGlobal

  May 26, 2020

Mariame Sow is just 19 years old, but she’s been advocating for the rights of women and girls in Guinea for nearly half her life. As part of the Young Women Leaders Club of Guinea, she and fellow activists serve as a lifeline for women and girls facing violence, abuse or forced marriage, all of which are illegal in the country.

Mariame Sow, 19, is an advocate for the rights and protection of women and girls.

Until recently, though, Mariame says her efforts to protect women and girls often unfortunately fell short, not for lack of commitment, but because she didn’t have the backing of police.

“We were poorly received, and we were being abused ourselves! We’ve often been slapped and were rejected,” she explains.

Today, women and girls in Conakry, where Mariame lives, and across the country have a powerful ally in law enforcement. Mariame says she sees local police as an invaluable partner to her mission.

“When we received the training from local police, we were able to make ourselves known to the Office of Protection of Gender, Children and Morals and become a partner for them…These new community policing units are essential for us! They are always available to us whenever we need them.”

In a recent case, a teenage girl contacted Mariame’s group to escape an upcoming arranged marriage to an older man. The girl wanted to remain in school, but her father was adamant she be married. The family refused to heed the warning of the Young Women Leaders Club of Guinea, until the group turned to the local police for backing. The father acceded, allowing his daughter to finish school and postpone the marriage.

Meeting a security need

Mariame’s experience in not unique. Over the past five years, in six regions of Guinea, police have increasingly moved from being distrusted by citizens to being seen as reliable allies of marginalized groups, youth, and the general population.

Behind this transformation is a national approach to improve police effectiveness and build citizen-police trust through more officer training, community-based policing, and positive community-police interactions. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection, these efforts are part of the Partners for Security in Guinea program.

Police officers at a community event.

While government investment in the security sector writ large has climbed in recent years, little investment has gone to reforming police and developing a credible and capable police service. Ineffective policing coupled with rampant police corruption led to distrust of police among citizens.

The five-year Partners for Security in Guinea project is working to turn this tide by improving relationships between police and communities so they can work together to address security challenges.

Operating in Conakry and the regions of Kindia, Mamou, Labe, Kankan and Siguiri, the program supports the establishment of community-oriented policing through a two-pronged approach:

  1. Strengthening institutional capacity of the Guinea National Police and its leadership through training and institutional support; and
  2. Building community trust in police and increasing their awareness of the police and the community’s security rights and responsibilities.

Now in its final year, the Partners for Security in Guinea project has trained more than 1,600 police officers in community policing, administration and coordination of police services. It has supported the National Police in substantial reforms to make services more streamlined and accessible and facilitated ongoing community-police interaction and structures such as crime prevention councils. The program’s Community Safety Fund is supporting innovative local crime prevention initiatives across the country.

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. It is implemented by a consortium led by PartnersGlobal and including COGINTACECIDE and Partners West Africa Senegal.

Community outreach leads to trust in police

Building citizens’ trust in police doesn’t happen overnight nor does it happen from a distance.

To earn people’s confidence, the Guinea National Police has focused on sustained engagement at the community level in schools, community meetings, with women’s and youth groups, and with local leaders. Through its school outreach initiative, police forces visited 27 schools and met with nearly 11,000 students.

At all of these sessions, officers get to know citizens, conversing about people’s security concerns or engaging in soccer matches, and spend time educating citizens on their rights, how to report a crime, and what they can expect in return form police. Police have even appeared on local TV and radio shows with these messages.

The government has also decentralized security, prioritizing local police units embedded in communities and giving local officers the skills and tools to support citizens.  Anti-corruption training is an essential topic in training.

On the community side, local leaders have stepped up as well, recognizing the important role citizens play in keeping communities safe. Every community where the project works now has a Crime Prevention and Community Security Committee, which works hand in hand with community police and helps facilitate police-community cooperation.

All these efforts have added up to a noticeable improvement in community security. Dondon Dansoko, Central Commissioner of the Municipality of Dixinn in the capital region of Conakry, says he’s seen a substantial change in how the citizens perceive and interact with the police. He recounts:

“There had been a real crisis of confidence since 2010. But the approach of creating a local police force was the solution to reconnect with the population. Before, it was the police that went to the population: today, it is the population that goes to the police…. On the police side, there is a marked improvement in the way the work is done.”

Kadiatou Diallo, Secretary General of Dixinn, adds, “We have succeeded in making the public understand that the police are not an adversary, nor an enemy, but a security partner.”

A long-term priority

At the national level, Partners for Security in Guinea is improving trust and cooperation of another kind—among government agencies.

Marie Gomez, Deputy Director of the national Office of the Protection of Gender, Children and Morals says her office can now work more effectively with other police units and officials to report crime and better protect vulnerable populations. She explains:

“When we have a criminal offense, we are required to arrest the presumed perpetrator…More often than not, when we send the summons, the person does not want to come. As soon as we see this, we then go to the local elected officials and neighborhood leaders. And since they too have received training, they bring the person arrested to us.”

Marie Gomez, Deputy Director of the national Office of the Protection of Gender, Children and Morals, says she is now better able to work with police to protect women and children.

Though Partners for Security in Guinea is coming to an end soon, the Minister of Security and Civil Protection Albert Damantang Camara says police reform and community-police trust will remain a priority, especially given the achievements so far. He says:

“This program allows Guineans to get closer to their police, which had not happened in a long time. It allows young people and women to express themselves and their concerns easily with police officers. It allows referring police officers to speak to students. In a nutshell, this project allows Guineans to become actors of their own security.”

Interviews by Isabelle Gayrard Auzet.

  May 25, 2020

This interview is part of a longer article. Read the full post “Justice in the time of COVID-19: Innovations to preserve rule of law, rights & safety in Nigeria” here

Q: How prepared was the Nigeria Police Force to handle the COVID-19 pandemic?

Oluwakemi Okenyodo, Executive Director at Partners West Africa Nigeria

A: Since the lockdown issued by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigeria Police Force has found itself at the forefront of ensuring compliance with the lockdown directives by members of the public.  The Nigeria Police Force, like most of the government agencies in Nigeria, were not prepared for the situation in which the country finds itself. There has been no special training for the police officers apart from their routine training, which many of us in civil society have argued is outdated.

The police ought to be trained on how to be first responders and interact more with the citizens in a way that raises awareness about the pandemic and encourages people to obey the lockdown directive for their safety. What is lacking is a police force that exercises restraint in using the force they are accustomed to using and one that puts on a human face in discharging their authority. The majority of the police rank and file officers who interact with citizens on a daily basis are the least educated and therefore more prone to use force to ensure obedience or to extort bribes from citizens. They lack the social skills to engage peacefully with the public and have difficulty in balancing the rights of citizens against their duties.

Q: Why have we seen so much violence from the police during this period? What does this mean for Nigeria’s adoption and implementation of community policing?

A: Excessive use of force by the police on citizens continues to be a challenge despite various attempts by the government, including the Nigerian Police Force itself, and civil society, to address this issue. The police organization has to double its efforts to ensure its officers are trained and reoriented to be service inclined.

The police need to see citizens, who are the taxpayers, as their bosses and understand that they are answerable to citizens. Accountability of the police to members of the public and other stakeholders needs to be strengthened through multiple strategies. For example, the National Human Rights Commission, Police Service Commission, and the Complaints Response Units need to be proactive and dynamic.

There is a lot of public mistrust of the police and this is heightened in light of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result police misconduct. Sadly, Nigerians, out of necessity, have taken matters into their own hands, as has been seen in Lagos, where citizens on the mainland formed vigilante groups to protect themselves from criminal gangs such as “the one million boys.”

With proper guidance on community policing, Nigerian citizens will serve as a supportive mechanism to the Nigerian police force. The police need to be proactive and discerning in discharging their duties so as to gain public trust and respect. Without building upon public trust, community policing is sure to fail as, community support is essential to the police maintaining law, peace, and order.

Q: What is the Nigerian Police Force doing to ensure the safety of officers as they interact with citizens?

A: Apart from the orientation about the preventive measures that need to be taken in order to keep safe against the COVID-19 virus, I do not think there is any coordinated organizational response of providing personal protective equipment kits for police officers on the frontline.

When the lockdown order was issued by the President, the Inspector-General of Police issued a directive, that indiscriminate arrests and detention should not be made by the police. Recently Partners West Africa Nigeria issued a statement calling on the federal and state governments to provide personal protective equipment and essential infrastructure to the police. The statement can be found on our website. Many police stations lack the basics, such as running water or soap, let alone masks, hand sanitizers, and other equipment to operate safely.

Q: What role is the police going play in responding to COVID-19 now that lockdown restrictions in Abuja have been eased?

A: They will continue to play this dual role of enforcing government guidelines requiring face masks and social distancing alongside their primary responsibility of maintaining law and order.  The society still faces its normal challenges, criminality still exists. Gender-based violence, such as domestic violence, has peaked during the lockdown period because victims were confined in the same space as their abusers.

About Partners West Africa Nigeria

The Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative is also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN). We are a non-governmental organization dedicated to enhancing citizens’ participation and improving security governance in Nigeria and West Africa broadly, which we achieve through our Rule of Law and Citizens Security Program Areas.

The organization does this through research, collaborative advocacy, capacity building, dissemination of information and integrating the implementation of government policies such as United Nations Resolution 1325, Women Peace and Security Second Generation National Action Plan (NAP 2), Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism National Action Plan (P/CVE NAP), Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law (ACJA/L), UN Resolution 2250 amongst others which are complementary to our strategic objectives.

We are a member of the Partners Network which is a network of 22 like-minded national organizations around the world, united by common approaches including participatory decision making, collaborative advocacy, consensus building and social entrepreneurship for democratic governance.

  May 25, 2020

NULAI Program Director Odi Lagi
This interview is part of a longer article. Read the full post “Justice in the time of COVID-19: Innovations to preserve rule of law, rights & safety in Nigeria” here

Q: How do the mobile courts work?

A: The mobile courts only prosecute offenders of the Quarantine Act and are manned by up to two Magistrates. The accused are brought by the police to the court, not sent to jail/lock up. The courts themselves are dismantled daily, and do not sit in a particular location, but are permitted to move within their jurisdiction. Magistrates only issue non-custodial sentences such as fines ranging from 1,000- 3,000 Naira; community service such as sweeping roads and picking up litter, impounding of cars and motorcycles, even detention under trees located close to the courts. Court proceedings are attended by police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, the Federal Road Safety Corps, and Abuja Environmental Protection Board. All of these agencies are members of Nigeria’s COVID 19 Task Force.

Q: How does NULAI’s partnership with the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja work? What was the motivation behind this partnership?

A: NULAI formed this partnership in an attempt to prevent additional remands to the Nigeria Correctional Service, which would only increase pretrial detention in Keffi and Kuje Custodial Centers where the Reforming Pre-Trial Detention in Nigeria project is being implemented. The partnership provides legal representation in Abuja, at the mobile courts through a team of volunteer lawyers sourced from the Nigerian Bar Association, while NULAI monitors court proceedings.

The lawyers are assigned to the 13 mobile courts across Abuja and the surrounding suburbs. In some courts, presiding Magistrates have requested the pro bono lawyers to defend all accusers, while other Magistrates permitted legal representation to those who expressly stated they required these services. All defendants are asked if they would like to represent themselves. At the beginning of May, a total of 2,986 people had been prosecuted by mobile courts in Abuja.

Q: The Nigeria Corrections Service Act was enacted last year to establish non-custodial sentencing, among other things. How has this type of sentencing worked practically in the COVID-19 context? What has the response by the Nigeria Correctional Service been to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the corrections system?

A: Nigeria Correctional Service is mandated by law to supervise non-custodial sentencing. However, in the case of the mobile courts the task force team supervises these sentences. This measure was put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the correctional system. However, it is not clear how well this will work because, for instance, defendants required to sweep the roads as part of their sentencing are not provided soap or water to wash their hands before they use brooms to sweep streets. They all use the same broom! It is conceivable, the lack of proper hygiene will likely cause additional COVID-19 cases.

To date there has been no case of COVID-19 recorded by the Nigeria Correctional Service; however, one should keep in mind that there is no testing, and personal protective equipment is scarce within the correctional system. The Nigeria Correctional Service has banned external access to its facilities to reduce potential transmission of COVID.

Q: How could Nigeria better prepare for future pandemics or global crises and, in particular, prepare courts to ensure they remain functional?

A: Our courts have been closed since March, with the exception of extenuating time sensitive matters. This has further prolonged pretrial detention not just at Keffi and Kuje Custodial Center but across Nigeria’s 36 states. The coronavirus has underscored the need to integrate technology and digital processes in court proceedings. This step, in tandem with other reforms, would ease and speed up judicial processes. If the Nigeria Correctional Service  Information Management System were deployed across all correctional and custodial centers, if the judiciary, Directorate of Public Prosecution, and police had effective information management systems, then it is likely pretrial detainees would have been able to have their cases heard. Going forward, the courts should pursue non-custodial alternatives vigorously. This will help check or reduce pretrial detention, which would only help the Correctional Service to better manage future spread of disease throughout the correctional system.


The Network of University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) Nigeria was established on 16th October 2003. It is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission Nigeria as NULAI Nigeria (Limited by Guarantee – RC650698), a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political organization committed to promoting clinical legal education, legal education reform, legal aid and access to justice.

  May 26, 2020

To protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19, public health experts tell us to keep a safe distance from others and to shelter in place at home. But for millions of prisoners around the globe, held in crowded facilities and with little autonomy over their environments, these precautions are all but impossible, leaving them susceptible to infection.

PartnersGlobal’s Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and Accountable Governance Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo

Meanwhile, thousands of others waiting for trial or newly entering the justice system may find themselves increasingly vulnerable to violations of their rights during this time as governments turn to new security measures to enforce public safety, such as rounding up violators of lock down/quarantine orders, and addressing backlogs in court proceedings pile up.

While COVID-19 forces us to reimagine all aspects of our lives and governments to adapt economies, governance, and public services, we should not overlook its impact on the justice system. How is this crisis affecting access to and the administration of justice? How has the state’s provision of security and maintenance of law and order changed?

The U.S, for example, is witnessing an explosion of COVID-19 cases in prisons. As of May 13, the US recorded a total of 25,239 prisoners positive for the coronavirus. Against this sobering reality, states are taking steps to reduce jail and prison populations. Executive orders and other measures have been put in place to release chronically ill and elderly inmates; review cases with low bail amounts; and expedite the release of non-violent offenders and individuals due for release within a 30-day to 4-month period.

U.S. courts are having to innovate and adapt as well to ensure cases proceed swiftly through the criminal justice system. Courts in Texas, for instance, have begun virtual case proceedings. In Seattle, judges have reduced the number of cases that require physical appearances. The U.S. has also seen innovation among its police including the use of drones to enforce social distance guidelines. Some police departments have established online platforms to allow citizens to report non-urgent matters.

Similar innovations are underway in Africa. In Nigeria, where PartnersGlobal implements the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project, our project partner the Network for University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) is working with the Nigerian Bar Association to provide legal aid to defendants in mobile courts established by the government to prosecute offenders of the Quarantine Act.

Meanwhile, the Government of Nigeria has released elderly, at-risk inmates across the country including from Kuje and Keffi Custodial Centers, where the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project provides legal aid to pretrial detainees. For its part, the Ministry of Justice is exploring the possibility of virtual court proceedings and has minimized the number of people allowed in court rooms. To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been recorded within Nigeria Correctional Service.

To find more about these adaptations and innovations, PartnersGlobal’s Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and Accountable Governance Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo interviewed Nigerian colleagues working on the frontlines of some of these changes to ensure that, despite the pandemic, access to justice and rule of law are preserved.

Click below to read the two Q&As.

About the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project

Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Law and Narcotics, the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project targets the Federal Capital Territory/Abuja. The project’s goal is 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.

To accomplish this, the project will replicate successes from its predecessor the Reforming Pre-Trial Detention in Kuje Prison project by expanding interventions into Keffi Custodial Center and providing technical assistance to a range of criminal justice institutions including courts, prosecuting agencies, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Nigeria Correctional Service.

It is implemented by PartnersGlobal and our consortium including New-RulePartners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), and the Network of University Legal Aid Institutions in Nigeria (NULAI).

The project will improve the functioning of the information management system utilized by the Nigeria Correctional Service, introduce technology into court proceedings, provide institutional support to improve interagency coordination and address inefficiencies in case management, and works to improve remand warrant procedure. It also provides legal aid at select police stations, strengthens clinical legal education through training and exchange visits, and pairs law students with pro bono lawyers to provide legal representation at Keffi and Kuje Custodial Centers.

by Mishellt Melgarejo   November 25, 2019

Protests in Santiago, Oct. 22, 2019. Photo by Carlos Figueroa for Wikimedia Chile,

The escalation of protests and the military deployment to stop social demonstrations in Chile has made international headlines in recent weeks — not only because protest has not broken out in the country since democratic transition in 1990, but because these protests coincide with a wave of protests, political crises and social manifestations taking place across Latin America.

What prompted these protests and what does it mean for a country previously considered one of the most peaceful in South America? How will this relatively young democracy fare? If we look at the drivers behind this protest, we can begin to understand what this historic uprising might mean and how organizations like PartnersGlobal and Partners Colombia can help to manage this conflict peacefully.

When citizens needs go unmet

The outbreak of the protests came as a result of the President Sebasti√°n Pi√±era’s announcement that Metro fares would rise by 30 pesos, or about 5 US cents. The fare hike, though relatively small, must be understood in a context of mounting inequality and social dissatisfaction. It was a drop in a bucket of social grievances that then spilled over into the streets. As the protesters stated: “It is not for 30 pesos, it is for 30 years.”

The grievances that motivated many Chileans to raise their voices in protest have their roots, according to experts on the subject, in economic and structural models of institutions that were created in the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Among them is the inefficiency of the pension system, which protesters claim does not provide pensions that are commensurate with the long working years they spend contributing to social security.

Likewise, many Chileans feel dissatisfied with the health system. They denounce the price increase in health plans, poor coverage, low quality of hospitals and specialists, lack of protection and long wait times for care. As Pi√±era himself summed up in 2018, “more than three quarters of citizens are not satisfied with government health management and there are well-founded reasons for this.”

Adding to the drivers of unrest, the country’s capital has witnessed the inefficiency of the Transantiago subway system, which has encountered problems since its inception in 2007.

For residents of Santiago, this translates into long waits to take transportation and travel delays, which falls far short of the service expected given the steep subway ticket fees. In a study of the subway systems in 56 countries, Diego Portales University in Santiago found that Chile had the ninth most expensive transportation based on the average income of its inhabitants.

In addition, the public demands for quality education and social mobility are not being met, although these issues have been on the public agenda since the 2006 protests known as the “penguin revolution” and the 2011 movement protests. Some Chileans say that disparities in basic and secondary education generates segregation and barriers to social mobility.

All these problems have been fueled and permeated by cases of institutional corruption, tax evasion and abuse by companies that arbitrarily set production prices.

Bridging a protest-government disconnect

With so many tensions running high and protesters on the streets numbering in the millions, what does this all mean for democracy in the country?

According to Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, this crisis is a sign of a stagnant democracy, which is evidenced by an increasingly dissatisfied citizenship convinced that official channels are ineffective in satisfying their demands.

We have seen this in Chile through the collapse of electoral participation—in 1989, participation in the presidential election was close to 90 percent; in 2017 it dropped to just 50 percent. Confidence in the government has dropped dramatically from 32 percent in 2005 to 13 percent in 2015. More and more citizens are untying their allegiances and futures to the big political parties. In 2005, 48 percent of people chose not to identify with any political party, compared to 81 percent in 2015.

When institutional channels are not serving citizen needs and responding to problems, citizens go out to the streets to raise their voices in protest. As Seva Gunitsky, a political scientist at the University of Toronto puts it, this pattern is more likely to occur in countries where citizens have enough freedom and power to demand a change but not enough to obtain. These countries are usually the most susceptible to riots and protests.

In addition, social networks have become a catalyst for social disagreements, which makes it easier for individuals and groups to find supporters for social causes, thus making protests more likely to start and increase in size. Although despite the growing numbers, social movement that gain their momentum online are often more difficult to unite and keep together and often lack a plan for what comes next when the protests end.

So, although social manifestations are currently on the rise, not just in Chile but around the world, the protests are becoming less successful. According to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, just 20 years ago, 70 percent of the protests that demanded a systemic political change obtained it, however, after the mid-2000s, protestors’ success rate had plummeted to only 30 percent.

Similar to in Chile, several social grievances have emerged in Colombia. On Thursday, Nov. 21, a national mobilization called “National Unemployment Against Paquetazo de Duque” brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets to voice their demands for reform on labor, pensions, financial holding, privatizations, corruption, national tariffs, taxes, minimum wage, compliance with agreements and defense of social protest. A government issued curfew followed the day of protests, and unrest continues as citizens and the government look to determine what’s next.

If citizens do not see a place in political institutions to meet their needs, and protests, despite their growing numbers, are less effective at delivering change, then where do we go? Are we deadlocked into cycles of protest and repression? What process or institution can best respond to the needs of citizens?

We believe that although these protests constitute a challenge for democracy, it is in this context that organizations such as Partners Colombia, and in general the offices of the Partners Network in the world, become more important as facilitators and promoters of dialogue between different sectors. And where this conflict arises, as it inevitably will around the globe, we commit to continue working for dialogue, democracy and peace.

Mishellt Melgarejo is a Project Officer for Partners Colombia

by Athir Hatem   December 18, 2019

Years after toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, corruption remains one of the top concerns of Iraqi citizens. It has, thus, become a tradition for Iraqi governments to champion a resolve for ridding the country of this endemic. The previous and current governments are no exception. They recently announced their intention to launch a crosscutting anti-corruption campaign, promising an ultimate “triumph over corruption as Iraq did with Daesh (ISIS).”

According to a report by the Middle East Research Institute: “While laudable, such efforts will prove substantially difficult and would require a national program that upsets how major aspects of Iraqi politics have been practiced since 2003.”

Corruption and sectarian violence

In 2006, a bomb attack on an important Shia shrine in Samarra unleashed a wave of sectarian violence, which killed thousands of people and lasted until 2010.

During this period of high sectarian violence, corruption in Iraq largely worsened, as measured in a deteriorating score on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and remained relatively poor throughout this period.

The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

The index measures perceived public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Perceived corruption was also high (measured in a low number on the scale) when ISIS emerged. What we can draw from this and the above correlation is that corruption often proceeds or coincides with other negative consequences, in this case violence and extremism.

Corruption and the rise of ISIS in Iraq

As seen in the chart above, ISIS emerged in a time when perceived corruption in Iraq was high, measured again by a low score on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Corruption in Iraqi army recruitment and promotions, the existence of ghost soldiers, and theft of weapons and supplies rendered the army — superior on paper — ill-armed, under-manned, and ultimately unable to halt the rise of ISIS. To stop the jihadi fighters, international troops had to return to Iraq a couple of years after a previous training mission had been concluded.

Now that ISIS is defeated, at least in military terms, acting forcefully against corruption is instrumental to achieving effective and efficient government. When there is corruption, the authority and credibility of the state and democratic institutions are at serious risk.

Acting to root out corruption is also important to maintaining security and stability in a post-ISIS Iraq. Corruption and bad governance were root causes not only underpinning the sudden collapse of security forces in Mosul and other Iraqi cities, but also underlying why citizens were so vulnerable to recruitment once ISIS declared its caliphates in the first place.

Corruption and the economy

Beyond the rise of sectarian violence and ISIS, statistics also show a correlation between Iraq’s gross domestic product and corruption. On average, when corruption lessens, as seen in a higher Corruptions Perception Index score, the gross domestic product climbs and the economy improves. In years that corruption worsens, evidenced in a lower Corruption Perception Index score, the gross domestic product falls.

Corruption has direct consequences on economic factors in the country and the health of the economy.

Protesters demand an end to rampant corruption

Given the widespread implications of corruption—a sluggish economy and hence high unemployment, an environment that fosters violence and susceptibility to ISIS—it’s no wonder that Iraqi citizens are speaking out against corruption,

On Oct. 1, 2019, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to call for an end to rampant corruption and chronic unemployment, which have since escalated into calls for a complete overhaul of the political system. Protesters have also taken aim at Iran’s influence, with Iraq’s top cleric warning foreign powers from interfering in protests.

Protests in Baghdad. Photo by Ali Dab Dab.

These demands have been met with a government crackdown resulting in hundreds of people dead and thousands injured.

But violence is certainly not the way to address these challenges or answer protesters demands. If Iraq wants to get at the root of many of its challenges without devolving into more violence or repression, it must tackle corruption head on. The costs in terms of jobs, lives and stability is too great not to.

Athir Hatem is a General Manager for Partners Iraq. Learn more here: Follow Partners Iraq on Facebook here: