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Justice Innovation Labs for sustainable solutions Community Justice Centres in Imo State, Nigeria

Community Justice Centres in Imo State, Nigeria

Innovation lab journey

The justice innovation lab in Imo State developed an innovative plan to launch community justice centres in Imo State to make justice accessible and affordable for all. The lab convened a diverse group of 32 stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Together, they codesigned the community justice centre over a period of four sessions from September 2022 to February 2023. 

Participants included representatives from the state Ministry of Justice, national judiciary, state judiciary, the Judicial Service Commission, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Legal Aid Council, traditional and religious leaders, and nine town unions. Academics, potential impact investors and Social Finance NL, an organisation that advises on business models for social initiatives also participated in the lab. 

Overview of justice problems in Imo State

According to a nationwide survey conducted by HiiL in 2022, around 71% of individuals in Imo State encounter a new legal issue every four years. The most common legal problems of people are related to money, neighbours, employment, and crime. Of the people who faced a legal problem, only 20% utilised the formal justice system and 37% did not achieve full resolution for their justice-related issues. The majority of people take a largely unstructured and informal journey when resolving their problems. 

Design of the solution

The Community Justice Center (CJC) acts as the initial resource for individuals who want to prevent or resolve justice problems. It is located in a central or accessible place in every community. It has one-stop shop locations, with online tools  and a network of community justice volunteers to provide information, advice, referral and mediation services. 

Rather than duplicating existing services, the CJC model integrates seamlessly into the current justice system. This innovative approach collaborates with and enhances the efforts of both formal and informal justice institutions to enhance service quality, and alleviate existing workloads for all stakeholders involved. The following section outlines services offered by the CJC to various user groups within the state:

1. For the community

2. For the Community Justice Providers

3. For the Formal Justice System

Reflections of participants