The Director-General, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Prof. Oshita Oshita, has called for the use of Restorative Justice (RJ) in the country, saying it is a sure way to go if the Nigerian state must be accountable and render peace with justice for perpetrators as well as victims of crime.
Oshita made this call, while delivering his address at the opening ceremony of the 5th International Africa Peace and Conflict Resolution Conference, organized by the Institute in collaboration with the Centre for African Peace and Conflict Resolution (CAPCR) and the California State University, Sacramento, USA, at the Rotunda Conference Hall, Tafawa Balewa House, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja, on the theme, “Restorative and Community Justice: Challenges, Lessons and Prospects”.
According to him, the component of restorative justice in community healing is unavoidable, especially in a situation today, where perpetrators of violence in many Nigerian communities, are released to face their own victims in the same communities.
His words: “Nigeria cannot afford to ignore the utility of restorative justice in contemporary conflict resolution and restoration, particularly in dealing with memories of the past. This is part of what ICPR and its partner, CAPCR, have captured in the broad national infrastructure for peace, which we want to mirror in this conference”.
Continuing, Prof. Oshita said: “The vast majority of contemporary violent conflicts have been resolved through culture-relevant negotiated settlement, using relevant insider mediators or professional facilitators”.
The DG, who maintained that restorative justice is an essential part of peace building that is not known to many people, regretted that although peace building is a very broad aspect of social engineering, community resilience and reconstruction, practitioners are often times unable to explain it in details.
To him, restorative justice, as an important part of the peace building process, focuses more on healing, building and rebuilding of communities for both offenders and victims in the short, medium and long terms, and that Nigeria must design a context relevant model of restorative justice for the state and society to be accountable and render peace with justice for perpetrators as well as victims of crime.
Similarly speaking, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, one time Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, who chaired the occasion, corroborated the position of the DG, saying that restorative justice is a very important and critical tool for conflict resolution and peace building.
He said: “If you look at statistics, more that 50 per cent of conflicts and civil wars reoccur. So, what the international communities and all of us should do is to establish peace that endures. In other words, once peace is established in conflict situations, the parties do not return to wars and conflicts. That is why peace building is very important and restorative justice is a very key element of a peace building that endures.
“When we are addressing the issue of restorative justice as an idea, we have to also look for the implementation of the idea. In Nigeria, we have had policy decisions that address threat to reality of conflicts resolution but they are often left unimplemented. If you look at many of the challenges we are facing today, it is not the shortage of ideas but the shortage of implementation of recommendations and ideas”.
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Ambassador Sola Enikanolaiye, commended ICPR for putting up such a conference, saying since the establishment of the Institute, it has been in the forefront of promoting peace and conflict resolution in Nigeria and Africa.
While saying that the conference will help to examine the status and efficacy of restorative justice and community-based systems of social accountability and response to criminal or violent conflicts in Africa, Enikanolaiye maintained that the forum will also be able to provide a consistent platform, link exponential leadership and academic discourse in order to constructively influence policy decisions and direction, with the view of enhancing good governance in the African continent.
Other dignitaries present at the event were the Chair, Division of Criminal Justice and Director, CAPCR, California State University, Sacramento, USA, Prof. Ernest Uwazie; Dr. Willie Eselebor of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), University of Ibadan, Nigeria; and the Coordinator, African Ladies Peace Initiative, Mrs. Beatrice Bassey, among others.
The Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Assoc. Prof. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma was represented at the event by NICO’s Acting Director, Research and Documentation, Mr. Mike Ekoko.