By Innocent Anaba
Mr Uchenna Emelonye,is International Development Law Organisation, IDLO, Manager, Governance, Institutional and Justice Reform Programmes.IDLO is an international inter-governmental organisation with the mandate to pursue the establishment of rule of law as an essential pre-condition for economic and social development and the achievement of human security. Emelonye’s mandate include overseeing IDLO’s rule of law and good governance initiatives in developing countries, countries in economic transition and in those emerging from armed conflict.
In this interview, he spoke on the programmes of the organisation in Nigeria.
What is the International Development Law Organisation?
IDLO is an intergovernmental organisation that promotes legal, regulatory and institutional reform to advance economic and social development in transitional and developing countries. Founded in 1983 and one of the leaders in rule of law assistance, IDLO is based in Rome and has 22 countries as Member Parties with 10 other countries in the process of becoming Members.
What programme is IDLO implementing in Nigeria?
With financial support from the government of Netherlands, IDLO is implementing a multi-year peace building and conflict resolution program in Nigeria. This initiative is in response to the solidarity call by the President of the Nigeria for international support and technical assistance in mitigating incessant conflicts in Nigeria. The pilot project is focused on the Plateau State conflict.
What is the background of this programme in Nigeria?
Nigeria is one of the largest countries in the world with an evenly split population of Christians and Muslims. In the last decade, there has been an explosion of violent conflicts.
In Plateau State alone, between 1990 and 2010, more than 5,000 lives may have been lost, about 10,000 people displaced and property worth millions of Naira destroyed in conflicts. The most recent crises that erupted in Jos in January and March 2010 and sporadic incidents between April and August 2010 may have claimed over 1000 lives comprised predominantly of women and children.
These latest and other incessant crises with the attendant human and material loss have placed on the agenda of international development practitioners the dangerous slippery slope of conflicts in Nigeria. Amplifying this global alert was the call for international assistance by President Jonathan Goodluck during his first official visit to the United States as the Acting President.
What is the philosophy behind IDLO intervention in Nigeria?
IDLO’s intervention will not be prescriptive but rather will generate and instigate participatory home grown and community owned solutions to the conflict in Nigeria and, in this pilot phase, in the Plateau State. IDLO operates only in full collaboration with national authorities; its role is enabling rather than directive; and its activities are consistent with national ownership of development strategies. IDLO understands clearly that legal change occurs at multiple levels in society and to address these different levels, it provides technical assistance to state institutions as well as to civil society.
What exactly will IDLO do in Nigeria?
To facilitate a crisp understanding of the background to the conflict in Plateau State, IDLO is conducting a synthesis of the reports of seven separate Judicial Commissions of Inquiry set up by both the Federal and State governments to investigate conflicts in Plateau State between 1990 and 2010. The synthesis will enable IDLO to harmonize the outputs of these inquiries into one advocacy and policy piece. This document will serve as a basis for a holistic understanding of the complexities of the conflicts and as a programmatic platform for appropriate IDLO intervention.
Following the publication of this synthesis, IDLO will convoke several national and international peace dialogue and analysis sessions between the leadership of the different religious and ethnic communities in Plateau State. The first in the series is a ‘Peace Dialogue Session’ planned in Rome Italy in December, which will be attended by a gender and youth disaggregated representatives from the Christian, Muslim and ethnic communities in Plateau State.
Apart from the national and international dialogue sessions, are there other interventions planned by IDLO?
IDLO will also convene several community based/grassroots ‘healing and forgiveness’ sessions that will facilitate the transition from personal process of forgiveness towards group processes of reconciliation. The premise behind this component is that if psychological wounds of victims are not healed, they are more likely to become perpetrators of crime down the road. As such, IDLO will support people in their healing process by enabling them to work through their difficult emotions and rebuild trust and confidence through grass root initiatives aimed at healing and gaining peace of mind. As an intergovernmental organisation focused on law, what is IDLO law based approach to this programme?
A preliminary examination and critical investigation of conflicts in Nigeria reveals a high probability that the root causes of these conflicts and the frequency of their occurrence are not unrelated to fundamental legal issues bordering on indigenship and citizenship. The 1999 Constitution recognizes freedom of religion and confers on every citizen the right to live in any part of the country; however, the Constitution is mute on the issue of indigeneship, which seems to be addressed by State laws. Pursuant to certain State laws, a person becomes an indigene of a State if any of his/her parents/grandparents are from that State.
In practical terms, anybody whose parents are not from a certain State cannot acquire the indigeneship of the State, irrespective of being born in the State and regardless of the duration of his/her residence in the State. Since benefits accruable to an indigene and non indigene of a State differ substantially, for instance in terms of tuition fees in State universities, customary land ownership, appointment to a federal position etc, the indigene and settler tension has become a breeding ground for crises in Nigeria. IDLO will convene legal experts from Nigeria to research on the legal gaps surrounding indigeneship and citizenship questions in the country. These legal experts are expected to generate answers to questions such as: Who is a settler? Who is an indigene? Which Nigerian is a settler and which Nigerian is an indigene? When does a settler become an indigene?
Do you have national civil society stakeholders involved in this programme?
This program is developed in collaboration with civil society stakeholders in Nigeria including IDLO Nigeria alumni association comprised of a total of 169 Nigerians that have benefited from IDLO’s global capacity building initiatives. Others are the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre; the Open Society Justice Initiative; the Constitutional Rights Project; the League for Human Rights; and the National Peace Foundation. This program will also be implemented in liaison with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution and the Plateau State Government.
Since IDLO is an intergovernmental organisation, is Nigeria one of the 22 member parties of IDLO?
Nigeria is not yet a member party of IDLO although its membership is long overdue. Nigeria becoming a member of IDLO will be an eloquent political statement on its commitment to the promotion and preservation of the rule of law. Membership will increase Nigeria’s opportunities to procure multilateral and bilateral technical and financial assistance towards strengthening its governance, legal, regulatory and judicial institutions in accordance with national priorities.
Beyond strengthening its legal and judicial systems, what else can Nigeria benefit from membership of IDLO?
Membership of IDLO provides opportunities to facilitate economic and social development goals. Because IDLO wields no political agenda and has deep expertise in most legal systems and emerging global issues, people and interest groups of differing ideologies trust IDLO. It has direct access to government leaders, institutions and multilateral organizations. The benefits for Nigeria are therefore numerous and can seep down to almost every aspect of our national life.
Which countries are now members of IDLO?
Since its establishment in 1983, 22 Parties have signed the IDLO’s Establishment Agreement and 10 other countries are in the process of becoming member Parties. The current member states are Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, the People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Norway, OFID (OPEC Fund for International Development), Paraguay, the Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Sudan, the Netherlands, Tunisia, and the United States. Those in the process of becoming member Parties are Afghanistan, Central African Republic, El Salvador, Georgia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, and Turkey. Looking at this list, you will agree with me that Nigeria is a sore miss.
What is the procedure for becoming a member of IDLO?
The procedure is governed by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: it is not a complicated matter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could contact IDLO’s Headquarters through the Nigeria Embassy in Rome and they will be assisted on the membership process.