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Nigeria - Democracy and good governance

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"talks@boell": workshop on women in Nigerian politics (spring 2003).

September 23, 2008
Since the beginning of the democratisation process, the endeavours of the Nigerian government and state institutions to build up and consolidate a functioning democratic social order have shown only limited success. Political positions often serve only self-enrichment. Lack of transparency, nepotism and corruption dominate political culture on many levels. In the necessary restructuring of Nigerian society, civil-society structures and organisations can take on an important "watchdog" function. They make a concrete contribution to the democratisation process in that they substantively influence decision-making processes and inform and mobilise the public regarding relevant policy fields.

In terms of economic policy, an important field is the privatisation of state-owned companies. Privatisation policies in Nigeria, which have only just begun, currently completely lack transparency and apparently do not address numerous relevant issues (e.g., on the institutional framework, social effects, etc.). The national budget lacks transparency as well. However, outside of expert circles, not much discussion takes place among the broader public on economic issues.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Nigerian country program’s component on "Democracy and Good Governance" supports civil-society structures and organisations in their endeavours to achieve effective political participation and a qualified debate with national policymakers. This expands the transparency of political action and also promotes good governance.

In the "Economic Literacy" topic of focus, the key is qualifying civil society to participate in economic policy debates on issues that are of central importance for the reform of Nigerian society, such as privatisation, the national budget, national debt, and international economic relations.

Concrete activities are also underway to strengthen civil-society participation in government decision-making, e.g., by including NGOs in consultation processes. In order to be able to participate effectively in political decision-making processes, civil-society actors need support in concrete projects of political intervention, for example in the areas of educating and mobilising the public, campaigns, and lobbying activities. The Foundation supports the working up and formulation of several positions and strategies through targeted educational and training measures and by writing up basic studies on particularly complex topics.

In its "Democracy and Good Governance" program component, the Heinrich Böll Foundation funds a project by the "African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice" (ANEEJ) on transparency in the utilisation of income from oil production in those states where oil is produced.

Another of the Foundation’s partner organisations is the "Socio-Economic Rights Initiative" (SERI – formerly "Shelter Rights Initiative) in Lagos. Since April 2003 and with the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, SERI has been carrying out an extensive program which critically monitors the privatisation policies of the Nigerian government.