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The context of a country matters-The case of Nigeria. Nkoyo Toyo Innovations in accountability and Transparency through citizen’s participation . Introduction.

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the context of a country matters the case of nigeria

The context of a country matters-The case of Nigeria

Nkoyo Toyo

Innovations in accountability and Transparency through citizen’s participation

  • Briefly this presentation will argue that a country’s political context and the events that define it at certain moments are crucial to how effectively civil society can engage and hold the state and its institutions to account. Given the varied forms of accountability and their multiple implications for any governance agenda, I will illustrate my point with two accounts of engagement by civil society of a national scale and their significant. I will also raise a few points about challenges in the way of innovation and what we can do. What is the Context? The cheering news is that a certain Goldman Sachs predicts that Nigeria will be one of the 20 biggest economies by 2020 and the current leadership of Nigeria has taken this seriously. However, many of us in civil society networks are skeptical. Worried not because Nigeria cannot become one of the 20 largest economies but the fact that we fear that given the way the country in going, growth will exacerbate the inequities in wealth distribution, leave the majority who are poor largely unaffected and spark off other sub-regional social and political crises.
country context
Country Context
  • The Nigerian situation is already remarkable for many reasons- often talked about in terms of poverty in the midst of plenty, my presentation will share one event in which civil society networks were able to meaningfully engage the National Assembly (legislature at the centre) and thereby implant there voice and open spaces for ongoing engagement and another of how the MDGs review process has created avenues for ongoing engagement in National Planning programmes also involving the legislature and donors. Speaking theoretically, Civil society has broken into cycles of horizontal and vertical accountability, bringing their voices into different processes. These efforts are not in themselves independent of the many other countervailing factors such as the role of international development actors in negotiating the medium term plan (NEEDS) for the country. The cumulative value of these cases is that it provides tangible examples of how civil society is innovating and opening new spaces for pro-accountability activism.
mdg process
MDG Process
  • Initially, the MDG took off as a state programme with limited external input. By 2006, UNDP sources state that there is evidence from the MDGR to show that there is a likelihood that Nigeria will achieve three of the eight goals; these are universal basic education; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing global partnership for development.
  • Constitutional responsibility for implementation of the MDGs rest with the states and local governments in Nigeria’s federal structure, while there are appreciable strides at federal level, commitment to meeting these goals, as well as institutional capacity remain relatively low at other levels of government. Poor governance and integration of the MDGs into national development strategies is a constraint while other challenges include a weak monitoring mechanism for the MDGs and low stakeholder involvement (private sector and Civil Society Organizations).
  • Despite these challenges political commitment remains very high at the federal level under the leadership of a Senior Special Adviser to the President on MDGs.
based on this challenge
Based on this Challenge
  • The opportunity to capitalize on the MDG process opened with the setting up of the Oversight of Public Expenditure in Nigeria (OPEN) programme to monitor the Debt Relief Gain (DRG) and works in participatory and inclusive ways involving private sector and civil society interests. Secondly, working through CSO it has deviced systemic ways for tracking resources arising from the DRG. Unsatisfied with this limited mechanism, GCAP re designated as “make our money work for us” joined other CSOs to review the progress implementation of the MDGs. Its findings moved it to engage the National Planning commission, the National Assembly and the Fed Ministry of Finance -largely through the research and dissemination of findings. However, with the change in government in 2007, the past administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo strategic blueprint– NEEDS with a four year implementation cycle (2004 – 2007) came under review. Under the auspices of the MDG coalition work, groups intervened in the process of NEEDS2 calling for a strong commitment to the MDGs and creating spaces for them to become recognized as a legitimate part of the process.
needs 2 and others
NEEDS 2 and others

In 2007, the CSO group moved to work out tools for engaging the new government of Yar adua particularly challenging its vision to make Nigeria one of the top 20 economies by 2020. Also seeking for engagement with Vision 2020 long-term developmental plan. The basis for this new engagement has been Yar adua’s campaign manifesto entitled, End Poverty, Develop Nigeria, his promise that “the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is our guide” and his personal commitment to “confront poverty” if elected. On the strength of these commitments some groups are counter posing alternatives to the market and growth model on which 2020 is predicated. A CS think tank is closely monitoring the 2020 formulation process, working with insiders and intervening through participation in committee work based on research. Also by pushing for the harmonization of the 2020 vision with the MDGs, NEEDS2 and Yar’adua’s manifesto.

innovation through research and information
Innovation through research and information
  • Meanwhile, to counter the pro-growth arguments, the CSO group has commissioned research and argues for an alternative model which is based on agriculture led industrialization as well as facilitated an examination of ways in which public budgets and expenditure patterns addressed the NEEDS 1 priorities relating to poverty. These pieces of studies have been used to engage the National Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance in ongoing dialogue. Other intervention using the outcome of the research include public dissemination through media and engagement of the National assembly’s under its oversight and appropriation functions. Speaking with Salima and Julia yesterday more visual based presentation of the research will make a more dramatic impact and something we will be happy to explore.
the second case study
The second case study
  • The second case study underlines the importance of the National assembly (parliament) as an ‘open’ but highly contested and dynamic space with huge potentials for galvanizing collective action, influencing policy and enhancing social accountability.
  • The outcome of President Obasanjo’s attempt to prolong his tenure is the case in point. On 16 and 17 May 2006 the Upper and Lower Chambers of the National Assembly threw out constitutional reform proposals designed to allow President Obasanjo to have a third term in office against the letter and spirit of the 1999 Nig. Constitution. Obasanjo was serving the last of his eight year term as a elected President. Indications started to emerge immediately he began his second term of office in 2003 that there were plans to prolong his rule. The major argument was that the President was engaged in a successful process of economic reform and struggle against corruption and needed more time to institutionalize the reforms and make them irreversible.
still on third term
Still on third term
  • However at the heart of resistance to his actions were different perspectives about the future of Nigeria’s democracy and its economic development. The “third term struggle” as it was known became a political framework through which Nigerians defined and acted for a democratic future. Precisely because of this larger dimension of the struggle, it is useful to point to the potentials it created by raising agency and pushing for the construction and greater appreciation of democratic citizenship within the country. The President’s men had developed an elaborate plan by first putting in place 1st a National Political Reform Conference which failed to endorse him after 8months of sitting. Then there was the idea to use the strength of 36 State Governors with control over their legislature to push through the prolongation plan which also failed as did the subsequent attempt to amend the constitution.
third term
Third term..?
  • The failure was that although many political parties actors and most of the political class had an anti-democratic political culture, the Nigerian people showed resilient commitment to oppose Obasanjo. Civil society played a major role through the National Civil Society Coalition against the Third Term, the Transition Monitoring Group and the United Action for Democracy, amongst others. The political opposition, including the Vice President, some Governors and political parties were also active. In the National Assembly, a small group of legislators known as the 2007 Movement opposed the move and their numbers and strength grew as more Nigerians rose to oppose the third term agenda. Even religious leaders joined the fray as many of them openly and vigorously condemned the third term agenda. Bankers played a major role by phoning and informing journalists about amounts and recipients of bribes passing through their banks.

The mass media, especially the private television stations and newspapers, became the vanguard of the struggle and they ran a very effective name and shame campaign against legislators supporting the third term agenda. Even musicians came in with songs and poems condemning the third term plotters. Street kids were the final arbiters. They started beating up legislators from their constituencies who were supporting the third term agenda. At the end of the day, legislators realized that supporting the third term agenda was not in their future interest and the whole plan collapsed. Over what lasted for one year or more considerable agency and democratic citizenship was animated. The question that followed was how to sustain the tempo arising for such a moment of collective action.

these cases point to a few things
These cases point to a few things
  • That Civil society innovation is a constant shifting post and it can be by way of mass action or through small constructive interventions. While the dramatis of the third term galvanized a broad spectrum of society it was really the existence of an accessible National Assembly that generated the hybrid forms of accountability that brought the third term plot to an end. It involved working across the vertical-horizontal divide and causing intra-state horizontal accountability mechanism to be energized. As with the third term case, the decision to engage with the vision 2020 agenda and take findings from the research on the MDGs to the National Assembly is to divest the NPC of exclusive control over the process, force a discussion and promote alternative positions and voices – seeking for them to be heard and respected.
what are some of the challenges
What are some of the challenges
  • In pushing for engagement with the NPC and the National Assembly issues of expenditure priorities are raised. Our group is often faced with the absence of expert capacity in both institutions on the MDGs or other related matters of policy. While the NPC/state have some in-house capacity, less of such specialized knowledge can be found within the NA. Consequently, even as CS grapples with the challenge of providing the National Assembly/NPC/budget office with timely, accurate, and relevant information for effective allocation of resources and decision making, it is often faced with the weaknesses of the supply side and this impacts on the structure of its engagement – with shift into a more advisory role.
  • A very important instrument for engagement on many fronts has been the budget and making it MDGs compliant. This also means there is the need to ensure that public policies and performance align to the achievement of MDGs and link with to annual budget. The scope of this work can be daunting and often underfunded.
character of the state as a challenge
Character of the state as a challenge
  • In addition to the issue of capacity there is the findings of the Drivers of Change study which indicates that Nigeria has for many years been characterized by institutional failure, an entrenched vicious cycle of impunity generating more impunity.
  • Under military rule the suspension of the legislature and therefore a relatively new addition to national political experience.
  • A legislature undermined by the executive through executive capture.
  • This notwithstanding, post the third term struggle, the national assembly has shown great signs of courage – public hearing and probes into last 8 years in sectors such as Power and energy, FCT and also NNPC.
  • What becomes of these probes which are very popular with the Nigerian public, is in fact the next big challenge. There is a yearning gap in terms of nature of answerability and enforcement – the implications of a failure to impose punishment by governmental systems designed to ensure due process could spell serious set back for democratic forces.
  • These cases are as highly political as they are technical, dealing with the investigative and prosecutory demands are way beyond the reach of many in CS. There is need for greater specialization, additionally while CS has shown the capacity to act collectively on certain issues (FOI) there are many others where it is less engaged with. This are present lost opportunities for reinforcing and building their legitimacy and it remains to be seen how these failure will impact on other attempts in the future.
Ultimately, it is probably in the things that CS fail to engage with that the real opportunities to transform the state lies. Given the structural barriers identified by the DOC study, there is a lot to be said about what works and does not work. Where CS should invest its resource or fail to. With alternative experiences such as those in the Niger Delta region which has moved from peaceful civil confrontation into organized resistance including criminal activities –now undermining the capacity for civil options- it is important for CS in Nigeria to explore a wider mix of strategies -particularly exploring the use of new forms of technologies and working closely with inside agents of change such as within the national assembly.
the legislature as an entry point
The legislature as an entry point..
  • The Legislature provides a snap shot into the health of Nigeria’s fledging democracy and its capacity to respond to the demands of its citizens.
  • For a country still wrestling with the challenges of state-crafting, the national legislature is the most representative assemblage of diverse interests (more representative than the executive) and a convergence point where citizen-state relations (vertical accountability) meet executive-legislature relations (horizontal accountability).
  • It operational culture (where it works) can be very deliberative and inclusive thereby enabling voice and accountability.
  • Lastly, with its role in the appropriation process and other forms of sanctions against the executive, it can exert a lot of authority and steer governance in a certain direction.
  • Since legislators face periodic elections, they can be made responsive to the demands of their constituents thereby giving opportunity to civil society to influence their actions.
specifically what can be done
Specifically…what can be done
  • Ultimately, the electorate will determine whether the executive has governed well, and will vote accordingly to either retain or replace it. But typically, several years pass between elections( and they are lacking in credibility), and during this time, accountability is largely the business of the legislature.
  • Specifically in terms of Donor assistance, there is much scope for fostering an architecture for accountability through building the capacity of the legislature at all levels to be more deliberative and inclusive
  • Support effort to mobilize people to claim rights and also demand accountability.
  • Support actions that enable the realization of the answerability element of accountability and push for enforcibility.
more actions
More actions
  • Support as with the MDG example, pro-accountability actors from civil society to work across vertical as well as horizontal mechanisms of accountability (between governments and citizens, and between citizens and other institutions).
  • Raise awareness about accountability mechanisms.
  • Support citizen’s-led accountability initiatives.
  • Foster increased engagement between private and civil society organizations (some of the tensions in the vision 2020 is related to this failure)
  • Improve donors’ own accountability. Donors

need to be more accountable to people they aim

to support—and who they pressure to reform.

finally on the legislature
Finally on the legislature..
  • Support technology based platforms that promote open discussion on the contents of laws, the working of the legislature to help broaden and deepen public debate. Support Public hearings which provide a structured way of bringing into debates the perspectives of experts from academia, civil society and the private sector. Support research to produce approaches for mainstreaming accountability.

Foster greater Openness which can also help to build trust in government.

  • Work closely in the short term on the reorientation of legislative bodies towards openness and more accessible to information in terms of addressing the concerns of citizens.