DFID's Programme in Nigeria - International Development Committee Contents


73. DFID identifies weak governance as being one of the major challenges to Nigeria realising its full potential.[139] The new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) emphasises that "governance remains the main challenge at all levels of government" and states that it "will be both a core theme and a cross-cutting theme, an integral part of virtually every form of support" provided under the CPS. The document sets out the donor partners' key areas for governance support:

  • Transparency and accountability
  • Participation
  • Sector governance
  • Capacity development
  • Judicial reform and democratic governance.

Assistance will continue to be provided to initiatives aimed at strengthening procurement processes, public financial management, civil service reform and statistical capacity. [140]

Legacy of military rule

74. The decades of military rule which Nigeria suffered "corroded governance structures, systems for basic service delivery and infrastructure, and have hampered growth outside the oil sector."[141] The DFID Minister was clear that "we have to recognise that it is not that long ago that military rule came to an end" and that one of the key roles for donors was therefore to help Nigeria recover from the damage done during that 30 year suspension of democracy:

    […] the systems that we would take for granted in the UK to do budgeting and planning, to manage finances effectively, simply were not there to the extent that we would recognise. You have that huge legacy of a loss of effective civilian capacity in key ministries […] Part of the development challenge has been how do you build up that capacity to manage things in a more effective way […][142]

The Minister told us that "the experience and tradition of democracy, of political parties operating and having their own internal democracy, of civil society engaging with those political parties, is extremely young".[143] He believed that there was still "an awfully long way to go" in rebuilding the necessary structures.[144] One of the most challenging symptoms of the weakness of democratic structures is a lack of accountability and widespread corruption, as we discuss below.

Government structures

75. Under Nigeria's federal structure the 36 State governments take lead responsibility, with the 774 local government areas (LGAs), for delivery of basic services. States are not required under the constitution to account to the Federal Government for the use of the 50% of public funds allocated to them. Under the 30 years of military rule, many States operated without budgets and public finance management is therefore a particular weakness. The capacity of local government to manage and deliver services is also weak.

76. DFID highlights that "inter-governmental collaboration is weak, disparate and uncoordinated resulting in poor service delivery and risks to macroeconomic stability".[145] The Federal Government has tried to overcome this obstacle by setting up service delivery agencies in particular sectors but DFID assesses that this "further crowds and complicates the institutional landscape". It gives the example of education where, in addition to the Federal and 36 State education ministries, 20 government agencies and institutions also operate.[146]

77. Witnesses agreed that there were significant structural weaknesses. Dr Raufu Mustapha believed that States were deliberately keeping LGAs weak by preventing sufficient funding from reaching them, despite the fact that LGAs share responsibility for delivering important services such has health and education.[147] Aboubacry Tall of Save the Children told us that the lack of co-ordination between the different tiers of government meant that progressive and useful Federal policies, for example on health care, had not survived the "translation" down to State and local level.[148]

78. We met the Minister for National Planning in Abuja. The Ministry houses the National Planning Commission which is responsible for the co-ordination of forward planning across the country. He said that co-ordination was "easier said than done" under the Federal system but he believed that there had been a drastic improvement under this Administration; a meeting with all 36 State Governors is now held every month.

79. Some witnesses identified a lack of a common vision within Government and amongst the elite in Nigeria on future directions for the country, which resulted in personal agendas dictating policy.[149] The President's Vision 2020 plan, to be launched on Independence Day on 1 October 2009, aims to make Nigeria the world's 20th largest economy by 2020. We asked the DFID Minister for his assessment of the potential of Vision 2020. He believed that the Federal Government had "more work to do" to ensure that its objectives were realistic and achievable. The Head of DFID Nigeria is a member of the Steering Group for Vision 2020. DFID believed that what emerged from the Vision 2020 process would not be very different from the previous Administration's policy framework—the Nigerian Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS).[150]

Electoral system

80. DFID says that "Nigeria's political system has largely developed as a mechanism for exploiting and sharing oil revenue, by its rulers and the elite".[151] As is the case in many resource-dependent countries, stability and political power have been maintained by its leaders "sharing the spoils" to ensure that they keep the support of allies and limit the influence of potential political rivals. Using oil resources to maintain political power has prevented the development of a "social contract" between the government and the people. Political leaders see themselves as owing their position to other members of the elite rather than to the people who voted for them. [152]

81. Dr Mustapha told us that "elites do not believe in elections; until they are forced to take elections seriously I do not think we will ever get any accountability from them."[153] Sam Unom, an independent consultant, highlighted that the existence of "cynical politicians who just do not care" was a major obstacle to proper accountability. He believed that this would come about only if there were free and fair elections in which incumbents risked losing their position and which therefore "impose a cost on politicians" for unacceptable behaviour.[154]

82. 2007 saw the first transition between democratic regimes since independence, although the election was identified as being seriously flawed.[155] DFID says that, following the 2007 elections, it undertook lesson-learning exercises on the impact of its support for the process.[156] The main lesson was that the international community and Nigerian bodies should avoid concentrating only on the elections as a single event; they should support changes in the wider electoral process. DFID regards its support to the electoral process as "contributing directly to the wider goal of improving the accountability of Nigeria's government to the legitimate demands of Nigeria's people". It says that it will adopt "a more holistic approach" to its support to the next elections in 2011, with a broader programme seeking to strengthen the capacity of key democratic organisations, including "the National Assembly, electoral management bodies, political parties, the media, civil society, and conflict prevention mechanisms" to make them more effective, accountable and responsive.[157]

83. Michael Peel, formerly the West Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, pointed to the weak response from the international community to the flawed elections of 2007. He challenged DFID's view that "questions around the legitimacy of the election overshadowed the tenure of the new President until an election tribunal upheld the result at the end of 2008" (emphasis added).[158] He believed that few Nigerians would accept that the tribunal had removed the doubts about the election results.[159]

84. The Minister accepted that DFID had a responsibility "to work with government on trying to make the next round of elections a further significant improvement on what has gone before". However, he believed that the challenge went wider than the electoral system: "the whole process of governance and democracy in Nigeria clearly needs to develop and change in a very significant way.[160] The President's Electoral Reform Commission was established in August 2007 and has presented a report to the President.[161] The Minister told us that the President had now accepted 170 of the Commission's 186 recommendations and published them in a white paper. DFID wished to see the implementation of these recommendations as a minimum requirement in terms of electoral reform. Another priority for DFID was for:

    […] the Electoral Commission to be able to function on its own and to have a source of funding from the government which does not make it dependent on the government to operate on a day to day basis. That would be one of the most important reforms that we could see and should expect to push government for. [162]

Sam Unom stressed that electoral reform had to deliver the "credible elections which the Nigerian people are yearning for".[163]

85. Fair and free elections are not the only element in a functioning democracy but they are an essential one and give a clear indication of whether a developing country is making the necessary progress towards proper governance. The 2007 elections demonstrated that Nigeria is a long way from achieving this. The political elite needs to do more to demonstrate that it understands that politicians are accountable to the people, that political power must be bestowed by the people through the ballot box, and that it has moved away from a situation where power is carved up between those with vested interests, in a crude "sharing of the spoils". We believe that donors, including DFID, need to apply increased pressure on the Nigerian authorities, and work with them, to continue to reform the political system. This should include a new and fully independent Electoral Commission, whose recommendations are properly considered and implemented. The inter-relationship between politics and oil wealth is discussed below.

Parliamentary strengthening

86. We have made clear in the past our view that DFID does not devote enough attention to strengthening parliaments in developing countries.[164] We highlighted that, although DFID funding for governance increased from about £85 million in 1997 to over £322 million in 2008, the allocation for parliamentary strengthening was still only £14 million (4.3%). In our Report on the 2008 DFID Annual Report, we welcomed the Permanent Secretary's indication that DFID would increase its work on building parliamentary capacity and recommended that this was accompanied by a significant uplift in funding.[165]

87. In its White Paper published in July 2009, DFID undertook to do more to improve transparency and accountability in developing countries: "The UK will commit to setting aside an amount equivalent to at least 5% of its budget support funds to strengthen mechanisms for making states more accountable to their citizens." However, no special role is identified for parliaments in developing countries; they are simply grouped in with "citizens groups, local media, […] audit bodies and others" who are seen as having a role in monitoring how governments use their resources.[166]

88. The Minister was not able to tell us how much of this increased funding for accountability would be spent specifically on support for the Nigerian parliamentary system.[167] DFID has, however, provided significant support to the National Assembly in the past, through its Strengthening the National Assembly Programme (SNAP), to which it has allocated £2.7 million over the past three and a half years. DFID says that its support has resulted in:

  • Awareness-creation and capacity-building for new members and administrative staff on committee functions, use of Nigeria's debt relief gains, and budgeting for achievement of the MDGs;
  • Support for passing of key economic reform legislation including the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Public Procurement Act and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Act;
  • Establishment of a civil society liaison office to strengthen linkages between civil society organisations (CSOs) and the National Assembly on MDG issues, and training for CSOs on advocacy and lobbying skills.[168]

89. The National Assembly is bi-cameral, with a 109-member Senate and 360 members in the House of Representatives. It is assessed by DFID as "still developing, lacks institutional memory, and needs assistance to build its capacity."[169] In Abuja, we met the Chair of the National Assembly Committee on International Donors and Civil Society. She welcomed the support which DFID had provided for the Assembly and specifically for her Committee, including funding for "retreats" in which committee members could engage with donors and civil society. She regarded the high turnover at Nigerian elections as a serious issue: only 25% of parliamentarians retained their seats in the 2007 elections resulting in a loss of experience and capacity. She favoured further electoral reform to improve the conduct of elections, and a properly independent Electoral Commission and believed increased donor assistance for such reforms was needed. She believed it was also an important part of the reform process for politicians themselves to show a much greater willingness to accept defeat in elections.

90. DFID's SNAP programme will end in September 2009.[170] There will be a broader successor programme—Deepening Democracy in Nigeria—which is still in the design phase but which DFID says will seek to strengthen the Assembly's capacity "to be a more effective venue for the articulation and scrutiny of reform policies and legislation." It will also improve the technical support available to legislative committees.[171] DFID expects to allocate £20 million to the programme as a whole, although it is not yet clear how much of this will be spent on the parliamentary element.[172]

91. We have made clear in the past our view that parliamentarians have a specific and important role to play in promoting transparency and accountability in developing countries. Nigeria has a long way to go in this respect and it is vital that the National Assembly is assisted by the international community to understand and fulfil its scrutiny role. We are not convinced that DFID yet understands the centrality of parliaments to effective governance and this is reflected in the small proportion of DFID's governance budget which goes to parliaments. We urge DFID to live up to the renewed commitment to transparency and accountability made in the White Paper by ensuring that support to the Nigeria National Assembly is a central and properly funded pillar of its new Deepening Democracy in Nigeria programme. DFID should provide specific support to the National Assembly to help develop robust mechanisms for holding the government to account, and to assist individual parliamentarians and parliamentary committees to become more effective.


92. Corruption is described by DFID as being "endemic" at every level of government in Nigeria and across society more broadly.[173] Nigeria's position in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index improved from a ranking of 152 in 2005 to 121 in 2008. However, DFID points out that the 2008 report is based on 2007 data, so it does not necessarily reflect the current situation.[174] At a roundtable meeting with civil society in Abuja, we were told that an estimated 60% of public procurement expenditure was lost to corruption. Tackling corruption is one of the priority areas in President Yar'Adua's 7-point agenda.

93. Michael Peel believed that a promising start had been made on tackling corruption under the previous Administration and that limited gains had been made but that those had been lost because of "a change in the political temperature".[175] DFID agreed that momentum has not been sustained.[176] The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established in 2003 and began to make an impact with a number of high-level prosecutions. Between 2005 and 2008 convictions increased from 20 to 200 and assets recovered rose from $1 billion to $5 billion. The DFID Minister told us that under the Obasanjo administration:

    […] between 2005-07 we saw about $5 billion of assets recovered that had been corruptly purloined and the prosecutions of about 82 comparatively senior people. I think there was a significant improvement in terms of accountability for people who were guilty of corruption.[177]

However, more recently there have been reports of increased political interference and influence over the EFCC, particularly since the dismissal of its former Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, which the DFID Minister said did "not send the best of signals in terms of the future direction of the work of the Commission".[178] He told us that there were "some questions being asked […] about the current Government's commitment to working with the EFCC" and pointed to frustration arising from slow progress in cases against Governors and a number of cases being adjourned.[179]

94. Dr Mustapha believed that former President Obasanjo had taken personal risks in tackling corruption but that it was now really only being addressed at State rather than at Federal level. It was also only officials who were being investigated now, rather than politicians. Corruption cases were being pursued against thousands of bureaucrats at enormous administrative cost and with little real impact, rather than trying to deal with the key individuals at the top.[180] The Head of DFID Nigeria thought this could be viewed in different ways:

    […] quite a lot more people are being looked at […] There are a lot more federal officials, for example, being investigated. You can obviously take that in either of two ways: it is good in that the net has been broadened, or you can say it is bad and that is putting the spotlight on to different people and off others. It is extremely difficult to say which it is.[181]

The Minister also highlighted a lack of capacity in the EFCC with a shortage of investigators and prosecutors.[182] DFID would continue to support the Commission to build up its effectiveness but higher level action was also required:

    The international community, including ourselves, needs to continue to press at ministerial level in particular for the Federal Government and, indeed, state governments to take the issues of corruption seriously and seek to move Nigeria on to the next level in terms of addressing corruption.[183]

95. The Head of DFID Nigeria was emphatic that "governance is at the core of everything we do in Nigeria". It was important to recognise that it was not just through the obvious, direct measures that corruption was being tackled:

    You also tackle it through programmes like GEMS [Growth and Employment in States], for example, […] which helps to take discretion out of the system, that helps to reduce the number of licences that you need to open a business and, therefore, reduces the number of opportunities there are in that process for graft. We need at least a three-pronged approach: one is working upfront in the anti-corruption effort; the other is helping to build the systems; but then you also need to reduce the opportunity for corruption.[184]

Reforms to improve transparency and tackle corruption in the public services which DFID is supporting include:

  • The Federal Government's financial allocations to States are now published monthly on the internet.
  • Budget and payroll systems have been improved, leading to the removal of an estimated 70,000 ghost workers from State and Federal budgets. One State reduced its pension bill by two-thirds.
  • Nigeria is a leader in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) which promotes transparency of revenues from natural resources (see below).
  • The Pharmaceuticals Licensing Body (NAFDAC) is taking a stronger stance against corruption, leading to a dramatic reduction in counterfeit and fake drugs.[185]

Sam Unom pointed out that corruption was now an inescapable front-page issue in Nigeria: it could no longer be "swept under the carpet", which was an important development in itself.[186]

96. We support DFID's approach that puts good governance at the core of its programme in Nigeria. It is right that corruption should be tackled both through direct and overt support for bodies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and through programmes which reduce opportunities for corruption and build Nigeria's own systems of accountability and transparency. However, this is a battle which is nowhere near being won: as DFID acknowledges, corruption remains endemic in Nigeria. It is a canker which, if not removed, will continue to obstruct improvement in the lives of millions of poor Nigerians. We recommend that DFID and its international partners continue to press the Nigerian Government to prioritise tackling corruption as the most effective route to overcoming many of the other obstacles which threaten development in the country.


97. The DFID White Paper published in July gives a commitment to triple the funding for tackling corruption in developing countries:

    Funds will be provided to support new approaches to gathering intelligence, working with the private sector and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Funding will also be increased to the Metropolitan Police's Proceeds of Corruption unit so that they can pursue more investigations across more countries […] DFID will provide new funding for the Crown Prosecution Service to enable them to take further action against those who steal and seek to hide proceeds in the UK. The UK will report on its efforts to track, freeze and recover illegally acquired assets […] The greatest progress against corruption will be made by integrating international and country level initiatives. [….] DFID will also provide new resources to Interpol, to deal with corruption and give developing countries and the international community the reach to pursue those who steal funds.[187]

98. Witnesses stressed the importance of complementary anti-corruption measures in the UK and effective co-operation between the two countries. Michael Peel told us that these had led to "tangible results" in the past but had "fallen off a cliff in the last year or two".[188] The Minister disputed this and said that it was not the case that the UK was "passively accepting that corruption is just an issue for the Nigerian authorities and there is nothing that we can do about it".[189] He pointed to successes to date: the Metropolitan Police's Proceeds of Corruption Unit had restrained almost £80 million worth of Nigerian assets which were subject to judicial proceedings; since 2006 there had been 24 arrests directly connected to Nigerian assets and two successful prosecutions, including a three-year conviction for money laundering; and almost £21 million worth of money had been returned to Nigeria following criminal or civil proceedings.[190] However, although the UK had "stepped up the work" in London and in Nigeria, which the Minister believed was "beginning to make a difference", he accepted that "there is always more you can do given the scale of the corruption issue in Nigeria" and he indicated that the UK's anti-corruption co-operation with Nigeria would be further enhanced.[191]

99. A key part of the support which the UK can offer Nigeria in tackling corruption is to ensure that its criminals do not find refuge in the UK. Strong and concerted measures must be taken against them in the UK justice system, including the recovery of assets. DFID has given a commitment in its new White Paper to triple the funding for tackling corruption in developing countries. Nigeria's endemic corruption is an obvious target for additional effort and resources, both in-country and in the UK. We recommend that DFID provide us with details of the specific action the Government, the Serious Fraud Office and other UK agencies intend to take to assist Nigeria to reduce corruption, under the White Paper proposals.

Civil society

100. Effective transparency and accountability require a strong and active civil society. The DFID White Paper says:

    The work of governments alone will never be enough. For lasting change, states must interact with voluntary groups, charities, faith and diaspora groups, trade unions, co-operatives and others. These organisations can and do often deliver basic services where states cannot or will not. They can challenge governments to ensure that policies benefit ordinary people, including the poorest. And they can help citizens hold their states to account.[192]

The capacity of civil society is still developing in Nigeria after a long period of inactivity under the military regimes. Moreover, public expectations of government in Nigeria are very low because people have "little or no experience of Government service delivery".[193] This means that public expression of demand for basic services is largely absent and civil society needs to be supported to voice this demand effectively.

101. Eamon Cassidy, the Head of DFID Nigeria told us "there has been a bit of an explosion since 1999" in the number of civil society organisations (CSOs).[194] However, DFID's view is that they vary widely in their capacity and capability and that they are just beginning to learn how to work with government and the private sector to press for change.[195] DFID's Coalitions For Change (C4C) programme aims to help Nigeria's CSOs to advocate effectively for change by bringing a range of civil society and public and private sector actors together into coalitions to focus on specific issues. Eamon Cassidy explained that DFID Nigeria had tried to move away from the old model of selecting individual organisations to work with and building their capacity, which sometimes simply turned them into "donor consultants". The emphasis now was on ensuring that civil society was "strongly Nigerian-led". It was not about providing direct funding to individual NGOs, but rather helping groups to build their capacity to work on specific issues "around the management of the budget, for example, around oil proceeds and, […] things like climate change which is relatively new in Nigeria."[196]

102. Coalitions developed and supported by C4C include:

  • Constitutional Review Coalition, which supports the development of a dialogue mechanism for the constitutional review process;
  • Monitoring the Virtual Poverty Fund, which monitors debt relief gain expenditure in key areas and certain States;
  • Extractive Industries Revenue Transparency Initiative, which aims to strengthen the management and application of oil revenues;
  • Northern Nigeria Water Governance Initiative, which supports new public funding mechanisms for integrated water resource management in northern Nigeria;
  • Nigeria Climate Action Network, which aims to strengthen Nigeria's response to climate change;
  • Disabled People's Rights, which supports legislative change and other forms of advocacy around disabled people's rights.[197]

103. Save the Children argued that, in supporting the development of CSOs, it was important for donors "not to over-rely on a limited number of large 'issue based' advocacy projects". It believed that capacity building of CSOs was a key element in addressing the lack of external accountability in Nigeria and that DFID should "demonstrate the same long term commitment to building the influence and capacity of non-governmental actors as it does to state and local governments."[198] Dr Mustapha told us that donors who worked with civil society tended to focus on "like-minded people in and around Abuja" and believed that they needed to engage more with people in remoter areas "who do not have e-mail addresses".[199] The Minister rejected this claim and pointed to DFID support for rural co-operatives.[200]

104. Civil society is an essential pillar in the transparency and accountability structure of any country. Given Nigeria's challenges of endemic corruption and huge inequality in access to basic services, the role of the country's non-governmental sector in voicing demand for services, securing a fair share of resources and ensuring public money is not stolen or wasted, are central to the country's development. We believe that DFID is right to provide strong support to Nigerian civil society. In such a large and diverse country, it is however important to ensure that this support is not just provided to the high profile, educated and largely middle-class organisations in the cities. Under-represented sections of society, in rural and remote areas, are most likely to be the poor and marginalised people who have the greatest need for services and the least access to ways of voicing this need. We request that DFID, in response to this Report, provides us with more details on the ways in which it aims to support civil society, and in particular organisations which represent the interests of people living in more remote areas, who do not have access to the internet and other information networks.

139   Ev 52  Back

140   Country Partnership Strategy 2009-13, Executive Summary, paras 4-6 and 11 Back

141   Ev 57 Back

142   Qq 117, 148 Back

143   Q 148 Back

144   Q 156 Back

145   Ev 92 Back

146   Ev 87 Back

147   Q 11 Back

148   Q 56 Back

149   Qq 2-3 Back

150   Q 147 Back

151   Ev 87 Back

152   Ev 87 Back

153   Q 13 Back

154   Q 49 Back

155   Ev 57 Back

156   Ev 57 Back

157   Ev 57 Back

158   Ev 54 Back

159   Ev 58 and Q 50 Back

160   Q 148 Back

161   Ev 57 Back

162   Q 149 Back

163   Q 12 Back

164   See First Report of Session 2007-08, DFID Annual Report 2007, HC 64-I, paras 63-66  Back

165   Second Report of Session 2008-09, DFID Annual Report 2008, HC 220-I, paras 97-100 Back

166   Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future, DFID White Paper, 6 July 2009, Cm 7656, para 7.18 Back

167   Q 151 Back

168   Ev 58 Back

169   Ev 58 Back

170   Q 152 Back

171   Ev 58 Back

172   Q 153 Back

173   Ev 55 Back

174   Ev 59 Back

175   Q 5 Back

176   Country Partnership Strategy 2009-13, para 3 Back

177   Q 157 Back

178   Ev 59 and Q 157 Back

179   Q 157 Back

180   Q 14 Back

181   Q 159 Back

182   Q 157 Back

183   Q 157 Back

184   Q 159 Back

185   Ev 59 Back

186   Qq 14,19, 21 Back

187   Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future, paras 2.55-2.57 Back

188   Qq 21-24 Back

189   Q 162 Back

190   Q 160 Back

191   Q 161 Back

192   Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future, para 7.40 Back

193   Ev 87 Back

194   Q 165 Back

195   Ev 58 Back

196   Q 165 Back

197   Ev 107 Back

198   Ev 81 Back

199   Q 48 Back

200   Q 163 Back

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