A civil justice transformation lab to inspire people-centred reforms in Ogun State, Nigeria

Ogun State can be considered the satellite state to Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria. Investors come to Ogun State in droves to build factories, establish companies, and house their staff. As a result, land has become a major source of income as well as conflict. The land disputes experienced by the people of Ogun State have overwhelmed the justice sector in recent years. HiiL is working to assess and apply people-centred approaches that will help resolve these land disputes and address people’s justice needs.

Part of the response to these challenges includes three civil justice transformation stakeholder dialogues in Ogun state. Representatives from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Nigerian government met for the first dialogue on 18-19 January 2021. The discussion also welcomed Justice experts from the private sector as well as practitioners from civil society organisations and innovators.

“We sought to identify and prioritise justice needs necessary for shifting the needle towards people-centred civil justice transformation in Ogun,” said Ijeoma Nwafor, HiiL’s Justice Transformation Country Representative in Nigeria. 

The virtual event served as an opportunity to assess possible Gamechangers – the services or tools that could contribute to improving the daily lives of people. With facilitation sessions that included both breakout sessions and larger plenary discussions, the two-day engagement “flowed like a river reaching the sea,” as one participant commented. Critical stakeholders from the larger Ogun State justice sector assembled to brainstorm solutions, exchange experiences, and offer hope during a knowledge sharing process that has become the hallmark of the HiiL approach.

The rich content stemming from analysis, experiences shared, and recommended solutions did not deter the exchange which was originally planned as a physical event but later adjusted to a virtual format to account for the spike in COVID-19 infections across Nigeria.

Capitalising further on the Justice Needs and Satisfaction (JNS) Survey of Nigeria conducted by HiiL in 2018, the dialogue examined how some justice needs play out in Ogun state. By the second day, the event offered a clear vision of where the people of Ogun state would feel the most impact relevant to their civil justice needs. At the end of the process, land disputes, family, and neighbourhood disputes emerged as the top three pressing issues. Some stakeholders even hypothesised that family and neighbourhood disputes are usually bordering on land issues, as well.

Data, innovation, and transformation lie at the core of HiiL’s approach to people-centred justice. These three values featured prominently during the Civil Justice Transformation Stakeholder Dialogue. Combined with the JNS survey, the information collected will feed into the 2nd Stakeholder Dialogue and be incorporated into the rest of the process. This ensures that HiiL and partners maintain an evidence-based approach in Ogun as the state strives to eliminate the fraud, family, and neighbourhood disputes arising from land matters.

“When elders gather in Nigerian culture, it is assumed that they meet for the greater good of the community,” said Ijeoma. “When justice-sector stakeholders gather, even for a virtual dialogue, as part of our civil justice transformation lab in Ogun state, it also serves the greater good of the people of Ogun state.”

The next civil justice transformation stakeholder dialogues will take place February 22-24, and March 22-24, 2021, respectively. 

Further Reading