Advocating For The Institutionilizing Of Victim Support Services
Since 2012, the ESJRT has been implementing a project to research current status of victim support services in Enugu, and identify best practices both within and outside Nigeria in order to make recommendations on how victims of crime can be encouraged to report crimes and participate in the criminal justice process. By February 2013 the committee had made recommendations, so from 2013 it will need to promote the development of cross-sector action plans to strengthen Victim services in Enugu State. It is clear, however, that in Enugu State (as in most of Nigeria) there are few support services provided by the government, and personnel in criminal justice agencies are poorly trained and equipped to deal with victims sensitively, especially the most vulnerable such as victims of rape and child defilement. Although numerous CSOs do provide a range of services to victims of crime (legal advice, counselling, shelter, rehabilitation etc) their activities are generally not coordinated and there are no systematic links with state criminal justice agencies, but rather ad-hoc links based on the relationships with individual CSOs.
There are some draft Federal Bills currently being considered by the National Assembly which contain provisions targeting victims of crime – such as the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP) and the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill (ACJ) – earlier versions of which have already been implemented by some states Some states have also introduced or are currently exploring support for victims – such as Jigawa’s consideration of introducing a Victims’ Trust Fund.
Already some potential areas for reform are emerging, such as the Honourable Attorney General’s interest in establishing a Victim Support Centre in Enugu State, and the need to promote better coordination between CSOs offering services to victims, for example through joint communication and awareness campaigns to citizens on services provided by various providers. This latter initiative could be linked to the current ESJRT project to develop a public awareness campaign on criminal justice rights and responsibilities, which is intended to include information specifically targeted at victims.
Priority reform initiatives:
i. Promote co-ordination amongst CSOs and other demand-side organisations providing services to victims of crime, to ensure that members of the public have clear and consistent information on what services are offered by which organisations (2013)
ii. Co-operate with Enugu State MOJ to develop plans for a Victim Support Centre to be established, promoting cross-sectoral involvement (2014)