Nigeria Justice for All Programme - Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

National Police Force (NPF) and Voluntary Informal Policing Structures (VPS) Interventions

  • Developing interventions with partners increased the value of reform initiatives, which, led to their replication and built a critical mass of support. This resulted in the formal adoption of interventions, and to a potentially sustainable platform for policing reform.
  • The use of NPF officers and intervention delivery and training teams proved very effective in selling the interventions to state and federal commands.
  • The use of both Nigerian and international consultants to work with the NPF, VPS and oversight bodies was very successful. This brought about a rich mix of ideas and led to the development of context specific interventions.
  • The commitment to fund successive programmes with the NPF, helped consultants to identify very senior level officers whom had directly benefited from the interventions of previous programmes. These senior officers became champions of CBP and specific interventions that were used to drive and maintain the reform momentum.
  • The NPF is characterised by a high level of staff turnover. Each time an Inspector General of Police (IGP) retires his whole top team of Deputy Inspector Generals of Police (DIG) normally retire with him. This makes continuity and corporate memory very difficult. There is often significant apathy and little ownership by the new IGP to the priorities and initiatives of their predecessor. To help mitigate the effect of frequent changes at senior levels within police HQ the appointment of a Nigerian consultant who was co-located at NPF HQ was essential. The consultant built necessary relationships and trust with the NPF and IGP, eventually becoming his policing adviser and developing a role advising DIGs and some AIGs.
  • The integration of federal and state interventions provided a bottom up and top down synergy that helps to provide a strong platform for replication. This helped to foster the formal adoption of interventions within the NPF.
  • The delivery of the NPF Executive Development and Leadership Programme (ELDP) highlighted the need to develop an NPF Training Strategy that is linked to a competency based human resource system within the NPF.
  • The NPF/VPS joint training, community policing workshops and regular forums has proved a huge success in dissolving the barrier of suspicion and distrust between the two organisations. 
  • There are fewer conflicts when the demand and supply sides are in harmony. The linkage between the Community Accountability Forums (CAF) and NPF/VPS Coordination meetings, (where the CAF serves as a kind of mouthpiece for the needs of the demand side) meant that the NPF were able to identify particular areas of focus for their interventions, culminating in improved service delivery based on the needs of the community.
  • Sharing community problems at a ‘public’ forum and finding solutions for them as a community helps to embed the idea of peaceful conduct of all affairs and minimizes misunderstanding.
  • Advocacy and courtesy visits to the local government authorities (LGA) are necessary to seek local support. For example, in some areas this secured small logistical payments and provision of other working materials such as motorcycles, torches, uniforms, etc. to allow some VPS groups to carry out their duties more effectively.

Oversight bodies

  • Greater emphasis needs to be placed on sensitisation and communication strategies (example a radio phone-in to a workshop) for a wider reach to communities
  • There is a need to involve the leaders/decision-makers through follow-up workshop held outside their work environment and regular briefings to illicit political buy-in.
  • At the scoping/planning stage a “sense of commitment” by the agencies involved needs to be probed, re-enforced and assessed and an understanding reached and commented upon in the plan.

Adoption and Sustainability

The central key to further and sustainable reform across the NPF is their commitment to formally adopt and implement the IGP’s Police Reform and Restructuring Plan across Nigeria, which contain all of the interventions developed. The first substantial step toward achieving this goal was the countrywide issue of a NPF Force Order directing all officers to actively participate in the delivery of these defined Community Based Policing interventions and partnerships. The New Force Order printed in April 2016 is documentary proof of the formal adoption of J4A’s supported interventions, however implementation did not take place by the end of J4A.

The number and robustness of the many community and the various partnerships that have been established provides one the greatest drivers for change in the NPF.  One cannot under estimate the long-term effect of these partnerships, i.e. Community Safety Partnerships (CSP), CAF, VPS & Mirabel Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) and other CSOs to bring about the ‘community based policing’ model at the core of this policing reform. 

Since Year Four of the J4A Programme there has been tapering support for CSP & CAF Partnerships as a means to encourage and establish their independence from J4A for meeting logistics costs and have the relevant communities take on responsibility for sustainability in their own areas.

The link between the police, the VPS and the community is a critical accountability mechanism and leads to increased confidence in the NPF and VPS.  For the adoption of modern policing to succeed it is also necessary to secure the adoption and replication of VPS Community Accountability Forums (CAFs) and the establishment of VPS/NPF Coordination groups in divisions across the country. This has been achieved.  The first signs of VPS adoption by local [LGA] or State Governments are visible, particularly in Enugu, Niger and Kano States. 

Advocacy for continued expansion and adoption of the VPS and CAFs in the other J4A focal states is ongoing. Training materials and partnerships resource tools are available both electronically and in hard copy.

Oversight bodies

The Steering Committee, Quarterly and Bilateral Meetings have been adopted by various agencies. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has adopted the coordination of the steering committee and quarterly meetings. The Commission has also taken to ensuring that the meetings take place periodically so as to ensure the police external accountability bodies are more coordinated and effective. The NPF have also adopted the bilateral and quarterly meetings via a letter requesting that the bilateral and quarterly meetings be replicated across the southeast of Nigeria. This would entail building the capacity of smaller NGOs to facilitate and ensure that the meetings continue outside J4A.


This case study closes by highlighting what is considered the five most strategic lessons and their implications for other programmatic work.

1. J4A highlighted something of a tale of two cities – namely Freetown and Abuja. In Freetown as part of the then Justice Sector Development Programme – JSDP – a governmental steering committee with donors and beneficiaries was established, monitored the progress of the JSDP, and addressed problems at the highest levels to ensure blockages were removed and objectives met. The Vice President chaired the steering group. In Abuja the UK provided technical assistance to a public sector development programme called SERVICOM. It had in place a governmental steering group with beneficiaries which monitored progress and problem solved to remove blockages and achieve objectives. The President chaired the steering group. The law in Nigeria provides for the establishment of the Police Council which has the responsibility of ensuring an effective policing service and together with central government and State Governors to monitor progress and jointly problem solve to remove any blockages. This council never met during the lifetime of J4A! The central learning point is that unless donors are able to bring about the level of Presidential oversight and commitment at the start of, and throughout the duration, of a programme the chances of achieving sustainable policing reform is low.

2. Such are the systemic and structural barriers to successful and sustainable policing reform that it requires a generational commitment.

3. There are greater chances of developing sustainability through the establishment of integrated clusters of interventions that are both synergistic and self- reinforcing. An example in the case of J4A policing reform is the cluster linking a geographical Community Safety Partnership, Community Accountability Forum, NPF Family Support Unit, NPF Divisional Intelligence Unit, Neighbourhood Policing Units and a Sexual Assault Referral Centre.

4. There is a need to carefully craft Capacity, Accountability and Responsiveness (C.A.R.) and Problem Driven Iterative and Adaptive (P.D.I.A.) approaches together in a synergistic way to ensure sustainability. They should not be considered as mutually exclusive but part of an integrated approach.

5. Having a strong, clear, detailed and coherent theory of change, that was revised as lessons were learned, provided a clear strategic direction and a framework against which decisions could be taken.