About 320 local chiefs and traditional record keepers have been trained by the British Council's Managing Conflict in North-east Nigeria (MCN) office in Borno State on the use of traditional justice system (TJS) in dispute resolution.
The chiefs, who have been certificated by the British Council, are to henceforth sit and preside over local disputes at the community level as part of their contribution to peace building.
It is believed that it was due to the collapse of the TJS and the gross incapacitation of the conventional security organogram of Nigeria that brought about conflicts like Boko Haram and related communal clashes.
The revival and strengthening of the traditional justice system is a core programme of the MCN aimed at using the local chiefs and community leaders to carry out complementary judicial role in their localities.
MCN is a being funded by the European Union (EU) as part of its efforts at promoting peace in the North-east region of Nigeria.
MCN national programme manager, Muhammed Tabiu, said the idea of the programme was to "enhance the capacity of the traditional rulers in traditional justice system known as Sulhu as well as mentoring programme."
About 160 traditional chiefs who were selected from two emirates of the state (Borno and Biu) were trained over a period of four months.
Presenting the newly trained local chiefs, comprising district heads, ward heads and village heads, at a brief ceremony held in the palace of the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Elkanemi, the MCN officials said the trainees have been certified to have acquired enough knowledge to enable them resolve communal disputes amongst their subjects.
Mr Tabiu, a professor of Law from Bayero University Kano, and his colleague Naiya Sanda, another legal don from the same university, explained that it was for the neglect of the traditional justice system as an effective tool for dispute resolution at the community level that societies find themselves in bigger conflicts like Boko Haram and herdsmen/farmers clashes.
The university dons explained to an assemblage of Borno monarchs, including the Shehus of Dikwa, Bama and the Emir of Gwoza that "the British council has the mandate of the European Union to implement the programme which partners with government of Borno State, community leaders in order to strengthen the institution that we have at the community level which resolves conflict.
"The logic of this programme is if our strengthened institutions at the community level can be able to restore law and order to bring about justice and resolve dispute in non-violent way, we will prevent this violent at the community level from escalating across the state and the country in general," Mr Tabiu said.
He said it was the absence of the traditional justice system which has the capacity of nipping conflicts in the bud that led to bigger crisis like Boko Haram.
"The training started in November 2017 with 40 traditional rulers each from Biu and Borno emirate councils and the training exercise extended up to February 2018.
"Within this period, a total of 160 traditional rulers were trained on mediation, conflict management, Nigerian justice system and family law," said the MCN national coordinator.
Mr Tabiu said unlike how the former traditional justice system was being executed without records, the trained chiefs would henceforth have a record keeping system in their 'courts' for the purpose of reference.
"While this training is on, each of the trained traditional ruler had their scribes trained on how to fill a specially designed Record Keeping System (RKS) manual for recording cases mediated and resolved by their traditional rulers.
"At the end of this training exercise, a total of 320 traditional rulers and 320 scribes from Biu and Borno emirates benefitted from the capacity building on conflict management and RKS," said Mr Tabiu.
Mr Sanda said 40 women, mostly spouses of some of the traditional chiefs, were also incorporated in the training so that they too can sometimes handle cases involving the women, which must not necessarily come before their husbands.
Earlier, the Team Leader of MCN, Zara Goni, said the British Council's MCN programme was established to actively raise the morale and quality of life of every citizen in the North-east; that organizing such training for the traditional leaders was aimed at "reviving the neglected justice system that works for the people."
An apparently elated Shehu of Borno commended the MCN and British council for bringing such a laudable initiative to his people. He reminded the gathering that the Kanem Borno empire reigned for 1200 uninterrupted years because they ran a society governed by rules including established traditional justice system.