Glendon Senior Fellow Vincent Del Buono awarded top Nigerian honour

Glendon alumnus Vincent Del Buono (BA ’72) was recently awarded Nigeria’s top honour, the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFRN). How does an Italian immigrant and Canadian citizen receive such an honour? Six years ago, he responded to an advertisement in The Economist for a new position as head of a development program created to support the reform of the police and justice systems in Nigeria. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Del Buono took up leadership of a $60-million, seven-year Access to Justice/Security, Justice and Growth program in Nigeria, a project funded by the British government’s Department of International Development and implemented by the British Council. While there, Del Buono made a point of being more than an outside adviser by always dressing in the African tradition.

Right: Vincent Del Buono’s wife Jennifer Pothier (left); Vincent Del Buono, member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Nigerian High Commissioner Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, officer of the Order of Niger

During the more than five years he spent in Nigeria, starting in 2002, Del Buono’s program collaborated with Nigeria’s federal and state governments as well as non-governmental and community organizations on numerous initiatives intended to ensure that the poor were better treated when seeking justice. These included modernizing the country’s legal and judicial systems, reforming the legal aid system and introducing a community policing training program for Nigeria’s 320,000-person police force, one of the largest in the world. He and his colleagues also supported the creation of electronic case management systems, a radical move forward in maintaining government and police records.

The Nigerian government’s citation for this national honour detailed Del Buono’s achievements in promoting justice sector reform and human rights, especially for the poor. It also recognized his contributions to humanity internationally through his previous work as united national inter-regional adviser on crime and justice, and deputy secretary general of Amnesty International, a post he held from 1999 to 2001. In accepting the award, Del Buono commented that it recognizes not only his work, but also honours the achievements of the many colleagues he worked with in Nigeria.

Left: The Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria medals awarded to Vincent Del Buono

Del Buono was particularly eager to make a difference in fighting Nigeria’s rampant corruption and in supporting the efforts of those Nigerians who were committed to honest practices. “With the advent of democracy [after several coups between the 1960s and the early 1990s] some donor governments shifted to working directly with the federal and state governments rather than funnelling their money just to NGOs,” said Del Buono. “Democracy has transformed Nigeria on many fronts, with the judiciary earmarked for strengthening by none other than President Yar’Adua.”

It is not often that one person can make a real difference in the activities of an entire country, but that is indeed the case with Del Buono, a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Prior to receiving the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his impact was also recognized by two traditional Nigerian titles, Eze Oka Iwu (The King’s Law Maker), Abor Community, Enugu State; and Wakilin Sulhu (The Emir’s Chief Mediator), Dutse Emirate, Jigawa State.

Del Buono, a Glendon graduate and a Senior Fellow of the newly launched Glendon School of Public & International Affairs, has a lifetime of achievements in the field of human rights and the rule of law. In a 2000 Millennium Lecture delivered at Glendon’s Millennium Alumni Homecoming ceremonies, he said he is becoming more radical as he ages. “I am becoming more and more outraged by the growing inequalities in the world, which were already great at the start…. When we see that poverty around the globe has not diminished in 30 years but rather grown in spite of unprecedented prosperity in certain countries, that outrage grows.”

Right: Vincent Del Buono at the award ceremony for the Order of the Federal Republic (left); S.I. Muhammed, Ministry of Special Duties permanent secretary, government of Nigeria; and a prominent Nigerian documentary maker Yusufu Mohammed, who was named an officer of the Order of the Niger at the ceremony

Since his return to Canada last year, Del Buono has been involved with the growing Nigerian community in Toronto. Over the years, he has also continued to maintain his close ties with Glendon and York. “The Nigerian connection is significant for York University,” he said. “The Keele campus has a growing number of faculty members and students with Nigerian roots.”

What is Del Buono’s message for today’s students? “Learning several languages opens up tremendous opportunities. Together with competency in the area of information technology, those are the most important and most sought-after skills for getting on in the world today.”

More about Vincent Del Buono

Vincent Del Buono also holds an MA (1974) and a DJur (1975) from the University of Toronto. He was called to the Alberta Bar in 1976 and taught law at various universities from 1977 to 1994.

Del Buono was the United Nations international adviser for crime prevention and criminal justice in Vienna from 1994 to 1998. He is the founder of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform & Criminal Justice Policy in Vancouver and served as its president from 1991 to 1994. He is also the founder of the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law and served as its president from 1988 to 1991. Del Buono served with the Department of Justice of Canada from 1982 to 1991, first as counsel and then senior counsel, and from 1980 to 1982 he was with the Law Reform Commission of Canada working on the reform of the criminal code.

Del Buono is the recipient of several awards recognizing his significant contribution to justice, the rule of law and human rights. These include the International Society of Criminal Law Medal and The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson Laureateship in Public Service from Massey College in 2004.

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny