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Civil Justice Transformation in Ogun State, Nigeria

Supporting data and know-how

April, 2021

Photo: Omoeko Media, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


This Deep Dive Report accompanies the Strategy Document, Civil Justice Transformation in Ogun State, published in April 2021. Between January and March 2021, the Ogun State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Gbolahan Adeniran, convened 25 distinguished justice leaders in the state’s first Civil Justice Transformation Lab. The aim of this process was to deliver a vision on civil justice in Ogun State whereby people can safely live, work and do business. 

During these months, four Civil Justice Transformation Goals and three Gamechanging Pathways to achieving them were outlined, always keeping the people of Ogun and the outcomes they need at the centre. The four goals are related to land problems, neighbour problems, and family problems (divorce/separation and domestic violence). This report has been developed along the transformation lab process, informing and subsequently being informed by the different stakeholder dialogues. It contains data on justice needs and research on “what works”. 

For each of the goals, and following the pathways set out by the stakeholders, the HiiL research team collected the following relevant data:

The conclusion wraps up these different parts of the report, and highlights that the findings generally support the pathways that the stakeholders developed, while providing anchor points for the next steps towards implementation (Chapter 6). 

Neighbour problems

In Ogun State, 250,000 neighbour disputes can be expected every year. For such disputes, community justice services using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) are recommended, which is fully in line with the pathways set out by the stakeholders. 

This report refers to a number of models for local dispute resolution services that can be considered. One important issue identified by the stakeholders was how to entice disputants to use such services. Programmes in other countries have discovered a number of good practices for inviting the other party to the dispute. The report also shows how other jurisdictions have dealt with conflicts about noise and identified the particular forms of mediation that work for neighbour disputes. Another issue brought up by the stakeholders was the one of enforcement. Several ways to improve compliance with (negotiated) decisions have been tried and tested. Linking informal justice in communities to a supervisory role of the courts can be done in different ways.  During the implementation phase, this know-how can inform the design of standardised “treatments” for the many neighbour disputes that are likely to occur in Ogun State.

Land problems

In Ogun State, the yearly expected number of land disputes is at least 100,000. Disputes over boundaries/access, land titles/ownership, use of land and land grabbing are most frequent. Standardising the interventions to resolve land disputes is very much supported by the literature. Fit for purpose land registration is a tested approach, with many best practices identified. Local record keeping, and solving land disputes locally, is recommended.  

We cite examples of similar programmes. Although the costs of such programmes are substantial, they offer a pragmatic alternative to centralised land registration systems. These programmes can provide adequate protection to people living on the land, whilst balancing the interests of investors and government agencies. Interesting best practices include the  use of ‘halfway-documents’, dialogues and support with filling out standard forms by neutral persons. The literature recommends affordable and consistent record keeping of all tenure forms, locally grounded land records in close proximity to communities and reflecting the situation on the ground. Besides recommending alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, there are also many findings about the way this can be organised, informed by (contradicting) evidence and preserving future relationships between disputing parties.

Family problems: divorce or separation

Family disputes in Ogun State are mostly related to divorce and separation. The number of divorce cases going to Ogun State courts is in the hundreds, whereas 15,000 disputes related to divorces and separation can be expected every year, based on survey data. Both formal marriages and informal family relationships are often dissolved. 

This report confirms the need for specialised family justice services. It summarises high quality studies, including valuable ones conducted by Nigerian researchers. One study details nine outcomes of “good divorce law,” such as preserving the sanctity of marriage and the stability of the family; saving marriages that are salvable; reducing the bitterness associated with divorce; and protection for the economically weaker spouse, victims of domestic violence and the children of the marriage. 

Many international good practices around “dispute system design” are described, including the tendency towards a mandatory mediation process. For mediation, guides and training manuals list the techniques and interventions that can be used, which have already been adapted to the Nigerian context. HiiL and others worked on recommendations for justice practitioners for the key dilemmas they identified in their family justice practices. When implementing local justice services for separation and divorce, a sound financial and organisational model will be needed. In this way, justice services to families can be of good and consistent quality. 

Family problems: domestic violence

On the basis of the Nigeria JNS survey, the expected yearly number of domestic violence problems in Ogun state is 15,000. But domestic violence is likely to be underreported. The Deep Dive Report provides access to the vast literature on domestic violence worldwide. There are hundreds of studies on domestic violence in Nigeria in particular.

A one stop domestic violence response has been implemented in quite a few settings. A recent literature review lists the barriers and enablers of setting up such services in lower and middle income countries. Increasing voice and participation in the design of responses is a recurring theme. We summarise some of the lessons learned and best practices developed by domestic violence practitioners. One problem to address is the usage rate of such services. Another issue prominent in the literature is the need to finetune the use of criminal justice interventions. Finally, the effectiveness of different forms of therapy (for victims, perpetrators, couples) needs to be considered when implementing these services.