Abuja — The European Union (EU) has launched a four-year programme in support of justice sector reforms and anti-corruption war in Nigeria.
This was disclosed on Tuesday by the EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), Mr.Kurt Cornelis, at the official launch of the programme in Abuja.
Cornelis announced that the EU has budgeted €23.3 million (N10 billion) to fund a four-year Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme in Nigeria.
He noted that EU support is coming against the backdrop of the judicial reforms being carried out by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the National Judicial Council (NJC) that set up "Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO)" on September 26, 2017.
He was speaking about the committee, which was mandated to ensure that the judiciary dispenses justice promptly on corruption cases in compliance with the letters and spirit of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Cornelis further disclosed that the British Council office in Nigeria will implement the programme, and affirmed EU's commitment to supporting Nigeria to improve the justice sector and strengthen the fight against corruption through the financing of a Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme
He noted that RoLAC Programme, which will be funded under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), is targeted to support Nigeria's effort at reforms in the criminal justice system and the fight against corruption.
He said: "The European Union is providing €23.3m for the initiative, to be implemented at the federal level and in four states of Adamawa; Anambra; Kano; and Lagos.
"Corruption and an ineffective justice system undermine Nigeria's effort at economic and social development and fighting poverty.
According to him, "criminal justice reform and "the fight against corruption are complementary and mutually reinforcing. Corruption is both a cause and driver of poor governance and performance of the criminal justice system. At the same time, a strong Nigerian criminal justice sector, able to dispense timely and effective justice would strengthen the fight against corruption, as incentives to engage incorrupt practices are reduced.
Cornelis said the overall objective is to enhance good governance in Nigeria by contributing to the strengthening of the rule of law and curbing corruption.
"More specifically, it will target and support, the implementation of the Nigerian Criminal Justice Reform agenda to improve on the timeliness, effectiveness and transparency of the system.
"Increasing access to justice for women, children and persons with disabilities, strengthening the fight against corruption in the criminal justice sector, public procurement and the extractive industries, enhance citizens' civic and public engagement in criminal justice sector reforms and the fight against corruption," he added.
In the same vein, the RoLAC Programme Director at the British Council, Dr. Bob Arnot, said the approach is "not to bring predetermined solutions but to work in collaboration with Nigerian state and non-state actors to develop and implement sustainable initiatives that will build upon and consolidate the successes of the EU's previous support to Nigeria in the justice and anti-corruption sector under the 10th EDF.
"The British Council's long experience in Nigeria in the sectors will also be brought to bare to ensure the successful completion of all interventions".
Launching the programme, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, commended both the EU and the British Council for rolling out the programme aimed at strengthening the nation's judicial reformation strategies.
"We at the federal ministry of Justice applaud your immense contributions and efforts. We reaffirm our commitment to you on this laudable programme. I am happy that it has been branded Nigerian programme", he said.
Malami who was represented by the Director of International Comparative Law Department in the Ministry, Mrs. Stella Anukam , however, called for total commitment on the part of all stakeholders towards the implementation of the programme and expressed hope that the four component of the programme with a total of 19 outputs would be fully achieved at the end of four years.
He presented the work plan for the RoLAC Programme to both EU and British Council officials.
Also speaking, Justice Jude Okeke, who represented the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court at the event said the Court which has been in the forefront in the fight against corruption and support for the administration of criminal justice will always ensure that justice within the jurisdiction of the court is dispensed on time.