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ACT Programme

Nigerian CSOs And The Need For Sustainable Development



The obstacles of development have no doubt impeded the Nigerian nation’s building. Academics have identified a number of these obstacles as inadequate leadership, poor followership, poor development strategies, a lack of capable and efficient government and bureaucracy, and a lack of focus on areas like infrastructure development, health care, education, and agriculture that will improve citizens’ quality of life, among others.

Whatever the case, Nigeria as a nation has suffered greatly and needs to be safe immediately. For instance, out of 191 countries, Nigeria is placed 163rd in the UN Human Development Index (HDI) for 2021. In 2021, Nigeria’s life expectancy is 52.7 years (compared to 64.38 years in South Africa, 72.22 years in Egypt, and 87.57 years in Japan). Nigeria has the biggest number of out-of-school children worldwide, 18.5 million, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Poverty rate in Nigeria increased from 15 per cent in 1960 to 28.1 percent in 1980 to 69.2 percent in 1997 to about 40 percent currently hosting the largest number of poor people in the world.

It is instructive to note that by 2014, Nigeria ranked third in hosting the largest number of poor people in the world after India (first position) and China (second position). But by 2018, Nigeria was declared the world poverty capital with around 87 million people living in extreme poverty compared with India’s 73 million according to the World Poverty Clock.


Nigerian CSOs and Development

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have historically contributed to promoting development through advocacy for social change, providing services especially to underserved groups, fostering participatory development and holding government to account, the founding executive director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Otive Igbuzor, stated.

From grassroots organisations to large national organisations, CSOs contribute to various aspects of development in Nigeria including education, healthcare, governance, livelihood, rule of law, peace and conflict transformation, migration, human rights and environmental protection, among others, Igbuzor averred.

“It has been documented that CSOs in Nigeria have played key roles in humanitarian assistance; influencing policy towards more pro-people legislation; reshaping the attitudes of traditional and cultural practices; improving the public awareness of human rights; providing economic support for internally displaced persons and communities.
“In addition, CSOs contributed to the attainment of independence and campaigning against military rule that led to transition to civil rule in 1999. Moreover, CSOs in Nigeria are also an important provider of employment opportunities.

“Need to say that CSOs in Nigeria contribute to harmony and stability in society by addressing normative issues that government and private sectors have neglected such as human rights, gender equality and women empowerment, social inclusion, credible, free and fair elections, vote buying, conservation, persons with disability, etc,” he posited.


Strengthening CSOs

In 2019, the Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) Programme started working with and supporting CSOs, networks and coalitions in Nigeria to strengthen their internal, external and programmatic capabilities.

The ACT programme’s, which ran for five years (2019 to 2024), aim was to build the organisational and operational capacities of over 200 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and networks to be credible and effective drivers of change for sustainable development in Nigeria.

Implemented by the British Council, the EU-funded programme covered 10 states selected across six geopolitical zones, including Adamawa, Borno, Edo, Enugu, FCT, Kano, Lagos, Plateau, Rivers, and Sokoto.

The head of cooperation, EU Delegation to Nigeria, Massimo De Luca, at the ACT Programme closure in Abuja, stated that over €30 million was doled out to fund the ACT programme, adding that the programme, asides from supporting the development of a self-regulatory framework for CSOs, aimed to be at the forefront of advocacy efforts to ensure that the operational environment remains favourable for civil society operations.


As the programme comes to an end, about 15 toolkits were developed to help CSOs become effective drivers of change. These toolkits include advocacy strategy, risk assessment and management, developing conflict of interest policy, effective governance, fundraising strategy, and gender and social inclusion. Others are legal entity and constitution, logframe development, management and leadership roles, project cycle management, proposal writing, safeguarding policy, and strategic planning.

De Luca revealed that about 151 grants have been given to CSOs. From 2020 to date, ACT Programme has engaged the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Economic and Fiscal Crimes Commission (EFCC) to mention a few, and supported dialogues between federal and state government agencies and the civil society sector, he added.

“On Friday 15th and Saturday 16th March, the ACT Progamme provided training to Senators and members of the Federal House of Representatives to enable them to better understand the civil society sector and sustain collaboration with the sector. Through efforts spearheaded by the ACT programme, the 10th National Assembly (NASS) has committed to re-establishing the CSO liaison desk within the National Assembly to aid engagement between the NASS and CSOs,” De Luca revealed.

The head of cooperation stressed that although the ACT programme has ended, the EU will continue to engage with CSOs, especially regarding its focus areas, including peace, governance, health, education, agriculture, green jobs and climate change.

The ACT national programme manager, Damilare Babalola, while speaking on the impact of the programme, averred that the project contributed to improvement in CSO capacity to implement advocacy and policy monitoring projects in diverse areas such as education, health, environment, climate change, governance, livelihood support, voice and accountability, Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI), democracy, rule of law, anti-corruption, peace and conflict mitigation, migration and resilience etc.


“It has also led to improvement in CSO partnership among themselves and in strategic engagement with other stakeholders. In addition, the ACT programme contributed to appropriate and inclusive regulation framework. It has popularised the need for self-regulation and the establishment of Civil Society National Self-Regulation Council (CNSRC) with over 240 CSOs subscribing to self-regulation.

“Another important aspect of the ACT programme is facilitation of engagement with regulatory agencies such as EFCC, FIRS, PENCOM etc. and legislators. The climax was the joint workshop/retreat with the Senate Committee on Diaspora and NGOs and the House of Representatives Committee on Civil Societies and Development matters,” Babalola highlighted.

Chair of the board of CSO Accountability and Transparency Initiative (CATI), Dr. Funmi Akinyele, said the ACT programme also led to the establishment of CSO Accountability and Transparency Initiative (CATI) as a co-ordinating entity focused on environment of operations, compliance with statutory regulations, capacity development and self-regulation. Already over 300 CSOs have been sensitised on compliance requirements to extant regulations and 203 CSOs supported on regulatory compliance, Akinyele added.

The executive director, at the International Society of Media in Public Health plus Development (ISMPH+D), Moji Makanjuola, while quoting UNICEF data, said more than 2.5million Nigerian children are severely malnourished, some of them looking as if the country is in a war situation.

“The ACT programme gave us another push to ensure that our children are well taken care. We worked in Kwali and Bwari, local government areas, in Abuja, where we impacted 40 families, still counting. We give kudos to the British Council and of course the EU for the success of the project. The opportunity to drive strategic change came on the platform of ACT programme. That opportunity empowered us at ISMPH+D and other partners to change the trajectory of malnutrition in the country,” Makanjuola asserted.


Sustainability, scaling-up

The ACT programme is not the first, as in the past two decades, there has been several projects to strengthen CSOs in Nigeria. They include the United State Agency for International Development’s Nigeria Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (USAID-SACE); USAID’s Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (USAID-SCALE); State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI); Department for International Development (DFID) now replaced by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Voice to the People (V2P) and DfID/FCDO Engaged Citizens Programme (ECP), among others.
Many of these projects have had follow on projects which is commendable, but most of them are focused on a few states and national impact, which becomes challenging.

As the ACT Programme closes out, the founding executive director, Centre LSD, Igbuzor however harped on the need for sustaining and scaling up the contributions of Nigerian CSOs to national development. “National development requires the co-operation and partnership of government, private sector and civil society. There is the need for concerted effort and action from CSOs themselves, government, development partners and other stakeholders to address the challenges facing CSOs such as funding, capacity, policy environment, sustainability of projects and scaling up to cover the entire country,” he advised.

Igbuzor urged CSOs to take up the agenda of self-regulation more seriously so as to isolate criminals who masquerade as CSO practitioners, adding that CSOs governance, compliance with statutory regulations and management need to be more professionalised.

“Government needs to partner more with CSOs and build trust with CSOs. The Legislative arm of government need to ensure a good regulatory environment for CSO operations. Every attempt to enact NGO bill that will strangulate CSOs in Nigeria must be resisted. The development partners must take seriously the issue of decolonisation and localisation and empower local CSOs to deliver more robust contributions to national development. In addition, it is important for development partners to ensure that there is no break between one project and the follow on project,” he recommended.


Source link: Leadership

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