Strengthening the capacity of traditional rulers in alternative dispute resolution ©

Justice for All

March 2020

The Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN) programme is working to strengthen the traditional justice system. In Yobe state, the programme has trained 775 traditional rulers in alternative dispute resolution and supported the establishment of four record keeping centres (Sulhu). Data from the centres indicate that 4,633 cases have been handled by trained traditional rulers with a success rate of 89%. 

These recent improvements have led to increased public confidence in the traditional justice system - according to an annual perception survey that tracks progress against the MCN programme’s outcomes and impact. The most recent survey conducted in 2019 indicated that more respondents believed the system functioned effectively. The majority of respondents revealed that they would take their disputes to traditional rulers and would be happy to respond to summons from the traditional courts if others reported cases against them. This is further evidenced by the increased willingness of formal security and justice institutions to refer cases to the traditional rulers.



A longstanding land dispute between two families in Potiskum had dragged on for years. The case was transferred from the Sharia Court in Borno State to Potiskum, following the creation of the Yobe state in 1991. After initial efforts to resolve the case failed in Potiskum, it was referred to Sharia Court of Appeal in Damaturu. However, the court could not sit for over seven years due to the insurgency.

When the court resumed sitting after the situation improved, the case was further stalled by the death of the Grand Khadi who was the presiding judge. When the case was brought to the newly appointed Grand Khadi, he referred the matter to the Sulhu Centre (mediation centre) in Pataskum Emirate for speedy resolution. The centre conducted further investigations and discovered that the land originally belonged to the father of the petitioners who allowed his brother, the father of the defendant, to farm on it. The defendant took over farming on the land after his father’s death and later leased it to another farmer. The problem arose from the decision of the defendant to put up the land for sale to the person he had leased the land to. The ruling of the Sulhu Centre - in accordance with religious and customary laws - helped to reunite the families.

'We are grateful to the Sulhu Centre for the mediation because we are old…now in our 80s. We wake up every day wondering whether we are going to pass on the conflict to our children and grandchildren. This would not happen now with this resolution. Our family is now reunited.'

Idrissa Zulu, Potiskum, Yobe state

Bade Emirate

The Sulhu Centre in Bade Emirate resolved a major inter-communal conflict, which had resulted in violence between the Kurkushe and Tasga communities. The conflict stemmed from competition over access to a shared river for fishing purposes. It led to violence in which many persons from both communities sustained injuries. The Emir of Bade summoned the leaders of the communities and the district head and referred them to the Sulhu Centre to resolve the issue. An agreement was quickly reached to demarcate the river among users for fishing, end the reprisal attacks, and seize the arms used by the two communities during the violence. Both parties made a commitment to the peaceful resolution of future conflicts. 

'The training and the record keeping centre have both greatly supported our work. We can now respond to conflict in our communities in a timely and effective way. Traditional institutions are better able to complement government’s efforts to maintain peace and stability.'

Garba A. Budde, District Head, Gogaram, Bade Emirate, Yobe state