Since the demise of its military dictatorship in the late 1990s, Nigeria has made remarkable democratic progress. Still, widespread corruption bedevils the country—which in many respects presents its biggest policy challenge and its biggest threat to stability and development. Drawing on a workshop held in Abuja as well as on in-depth interviews with civil society leaders and others, this report analyzes the undercelebrated but unique contributions of an emerging movement for transparency and accountability, the scope of international funding and training, and how this support affects the effectiveness of civil society efforts.

Summary

  • Nigerian activism and collective efforts to combat corruption have risen dramatically in recent years. Combined with a range of new civil society organizations working to push reforms, a movement for transparency and accountability may be emerging.
  • Civil society organizations and activists have demonstrated an ability to elevate and sustain transparency reforms on various political and policy agendas. Organizations have also been able to advance innovative solutions and plans, thereby increasing the likelihood of reform adoption.
  • Accountability reforms remain elusive and may not be responsive to the same approaches and tactics that have improved transparency.
  • Funding from foreign governments, multilateral institutions, and private foundations has been critical for Nigerian civil society organizations that focus on transparency and accountability. Many organizations are still working to tap into a viable domestic resource base.
  • Foreign support, in terms of funding and training, has tended to be too inflexible, short term, and focused on organizational management as opposed to mobilizing mass action and movement building.

About the Report

Focusing on transparency and accountability reforms, this Special Report examines the landscape of Nigerian activism as revealed by interviews with representatives from civil society and a research workshop held in Abuja in December 2017. It examines the scope of the substantial international funding and training support that civil society organizations in Nigeria receive and how this support affects the effectiveness of civil society actors. The report is supported by the United States Institute of Peace. Funding and other assistance were provided by the Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance office at the US Agency for International Development and by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative.

About the Author

Samson Itodo, a researcher and community organizer based in Abuja, Nigeria, is the executive director of YIAGA AFRICA, a civic organization launched in 2007 to promote democratic governance and civic participation across the continent. Davin O’Regan is a senior program officer in the Program on Nonviolent Action at USIP. Miranda Rivers of USIP provided extensive research and editing support; Aminu Gamawa conducted several interviews.

Related Publications

Nigeria’s Buhari Vows a Credible Election to Bolster Democracy

Nigeria’s Buhari Vows a Credible Election to Bolster Democracy

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

By: USIP Staff

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says he expects a credible election to choose his successor in just 10 weeks. A credible, publicly accepted result and a peaceful transfer of power could help consolidate democracy in Africa’s most populous country following democratic setbacks in the region, notably seven coups in 26 months in the Sahel and West Africa. Buhari, first elected in 2015, is completing his second term in office, the constitutional maximum, and is to hand power to his elected successor in May — an extension of democracy that Buhari has said he wants to ensure as part of his legacy to the country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

The Latest @ USIP: What’s at Stake in Nigeria’s Elections?

The Latest @ USIP: What’s at Stake in Nigeria’s Elections?

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

By: Mahmood Yakubu

Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, discusses how his team is working to ensure free, fair and credible elections — as well as why the support of young people and political leaders is crucial for maintaining the longest period of uninterrupted democratic governance in the Nigeria’s history.

Type: Blog

Democracy & Governance

Barriers for Young Women in Northern Nigeria

Barriers for Young Women in Northern Nigeria

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

By: Rachel Simon-Karu

We are constantly reminded that the youth are “leaders of tomorrow.” But when it comes to their involvement in governance and development, tomorrow never comes. In Nigeria, this has created an unsustainable system. Currently, about 70 percent of Nigeria is under the age of 30, with girls under 30 alone comprising nearly one-third of the total population. Based on their sizable role in the country’s demographics, you would think youth and young women specifically in Nigeria should have more of a voice in decision-making processes. Yet, both are often underrepresented and excluded as collaborators in all sectors of society.

Type: Blog

GenderYouth

Amid Nigeria’s Turmoil, an Election Could Alter its Democracy

Amid Nigeria’s Turmoil, an Election Could Alter its Democracy

Thursday, July 28, 2022

By: Oge Onubogu

In mid-summer 2022, Nigeria is just seven months away from elections that could strengthen, or set back, its democracy. Good news includes a surge in voter registrations and a wave of civic engagement among young Nigerians who in recent years have often despaired of better governance through elections. Yet dangers loom: risks of electoral violence or disputed election results in a country where political and criminal violence has reached new levels. To help Africa’s most populous nation pivot toward stability — and to indirectly bolster democratization across the continent — the United States and other international partners should provide diplomatic, political and technical support for Nigeria’s electoral authority.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceElectoral Violence

View All Publications