Nigeria’s justice landscape recently had an opportunity to take on a new dimension, thanks to the illuminating presentation by Professor Don John Omale at a notable conference. A renowned criminologist and a voice of authority on Restorative Justice, Dr. Omale shared insights drawn from his extensive academic and professional journey, giving attendees a fresh perspective on the potential and challenges of Restorative Justice in Nigeria.
Dr. Omale’s credentials alone are impressive. A British Chevening Scholar of Criminology and an esteemed Professor of Criminology at the Federal University Wukari Taraba State in Nigeria, his knowledge is rooted in diverse experiences. With degrees from premier institutions like the University of Nigeria and the University of Leicester, and his role as an Advisory Board Member to Restorative Justice International, USA and as a UNODC Expert on Restorative Justice, he commands an unparalleled understanding of his field.
In his talk titled “RESTORATIVE JUSTICE OPPORTUNITIES IN NIGERIA”, Omale shed light on the immense potential of Restorative Justice as a transformative tool for a country like Nigeria. He stressed that Restorative Justice isn’t just an abstract, international concept; it’s a very tangible and viable method of justice that has demonstrated efficacy worldwide
He pointed out a landmark in Nigerian legislature: The Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019. This Act, according to Dr. Omale, paves the way for mainstreaming restorative justice in the Nigerian Correctional Service. It’s an acknowledgment by the state of the need to humanize justice, focus on rehabilitation, and ensure a system that’s rooted in restoration rather than retribution.
But perhaps the most striking part of his presentation revolved around the controversial reintegration of repentant violent extremists. The Nigerian government’s move to reintegrate nearly 983 extremists post their de-radicalization and rehabilitation, under the aegis of the Nigerian military’s “Operation Safe Corridor”, has seen its fair share of objections. Many victims of Boko Haram terrorism, understandably, have reservations about this government policy.
Omale, with his characteristic nuance, navigated this contentious topic, proposing that the scenario can be seen through the lens of Restorative Justice. While not glossing over the objections and pain of the victims, he presented a viewpoint that focused on the larger picture of societal healing, rehabilitation, and restoration. Dr. Omale sees this situation, despite its complexities, as a golden opportunity for Nigeria to embrace and expand the principles of Restorative Justice.
He closed by highlighting that Nigeria is on the cusp of something groundbreaking. With the emerging opportunities in the field of Restorative Justice, there’s immense potential for international partnerships and collaborations. This not only paves the way for a more inclusive and rehabilitative justice system in Nigeria but also positions the country as a beacon for other nations grappling with similar challenges.
In essence, Dr. Don John Omale’s presentation was a clarion call to recognize, respect, and harness the power of Restorative Justice in Nigeria. It was a testament to his vision and passion for a justice system that places humanity at its core.