• The Honourable Attorneys General and Commissioners for Justice Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.
  • Representatives of their Royal Highnesses the Shehu of Borno, the Emir of Damaturu and the Emir of Gujba.
  • Head of UNDP Sub-office for North East Nigeria.
  • Representatives of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with humanitarian mandates.
  • Representatives of UN Systems, Development Partners and civil society organisations
  • Members of the Press.
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the National Human Rights Commission, I welcome you to this Entry Dialogue and Stakeholders Consultation on Reconciliation, Reintegration and Transitional Justice in the North East with particular reference to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. This is an inaugural event in our new partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on Promoting Reconciliation, Reintegration and Transitional Justice in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. The Commission is grateful to the European Union and UNDP for supporting this project and for recognising us as a natural partner to deliver on the objectives of this project.

The decade long Boko Haram insurgency has seen some of the worst forms of human rights violations in the history of Nigeria. For the people in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, this conflict has brought untold physical, emotional and psychological losses on the victims and their families. UNDP in a recent report estimates that there have been around 350,000 direct and indirect deaths linked to the insurgency. Added to this is the over 2 million displaced people in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. The set back to the economic and social development of the North Eastern states and Nigeria can never be over-quantified in terms of financial and human resources.

The Commission appreciates the sacrifices of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the commitments of the Governments and citizens of the North Eastern states towards reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration of affected communities.

Distinguished guests, ending the insurgency will require both military and non-military approaches. Indeed, the path to reconciliation, reintegration and reconstruction will only be sustained in an atmosphere of peace, and community process of transitional, restitutive and restorative justice. In this regard, it is the view of the Commission that the efforts of both the federal and state governments at deradicalizing Boko Haram insurgents and reintegrating them to communities should be followed with a process of non-formal transitional and restitutive justice anchored on human rights and social inclusion.

It is based on the above that the conceptual foundation of the transitional justice project is founded. The project is built to achieve three fundamental outcomes. These are:

  1. Capacity Building for Peace and Reconciliation:
    1. Capacity Building on Community Approaches to Reconciliation.
    2. Capacity Building on Transitional and Restorative Justice.
  2. Setting up Community Frameworks for Transitional Justice:
    1. Working with Traditional Institutions and community stakeholders for non-judicial and non-formal transition justice anchored on human rights and inclusion.
    2. Working with the State Governments to establish legal, institutional and policy frameworks to support a permanent process of reconciliation, peace building and transitional justice in local communities.
  3. Community Participatory Restorative Justice:
    1. Provide platforms for community healing, truth telling and forgiveness.
    2. Support community social projects to promote reconciliation, restitutions and reintegration.

In pursuit of the above outcomes, the Commission is today, seeking the partnership of the State Governments, civil society and traditional authorities to mobilise communities towards reconciliation and building capacity and partnerships for transitional and restorative justice. This pilot project will be implemented in seven communities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

This project is community based and its success will be achieved with the full cooperation and partnerships of traditional and community leaders. It is then with a deep sense of gratitude that I welcome their Royal Highnesses who are ably represented here today. Yesterday evening, I was privileged to have paid homage to His Royal Majesty, the Shehu of Borno who has assured us of the partnership and cooperation of his kingdom. We will also be reaching out to other traditional authorities across the region.

I also welcome the community facilitators who have been carefully selected for this project and will be working with stakeholders in the seven communities. The Commission is grateful for your acceptance to perform this very important task.

Ladies and gentlemen, even though this project will promote non-judicial transitional justice processes, we will be seeking the support of the Borno, Adamawa and Yobe state governments to promote legal and policy mechanisms to institutionalise informal approaches to transitional justice. I therefore welcome the support of the three Attorneys General who are here today. We recognise the emerging best practices in Yobe states towards mediation and reconciliation and the efforts of the Borno and Adamawa state governments towards reintegration and reconciliation of host communities with deradicalized and returning insurgents.

Let me end by agreeing that the path to reconciliation and forgiveness is long and rough. We will be dealing with decade long wounds, grievances and the lust for revenge. We remain convinced that reconciliation is far cheaper to both the victim and the society than judicial process. Truth telling and forgiveness if pursued with social justice has far more psychological and emotional gains than prosecutorial success which leaves victims exhausted and empty. This project is inspired by the success of similar initiatives in Rwanda, Colombia, South Africa, Peru, Sudan and other places where reconciliation and transitional justice have been effective tools to building post conflict societies.

The Commission welcomes your partnership and looks forward to working with you on this project.

Thank you for your attention.