Spotlight: Nigeria, emerging power of civil society

Oliver Henman was Head of Partnerships & International at NCVO, and blogged about civil society around the world. Oliver left NCVO in July 2014 but his posts have been kept here for reference.

In the build-up to the joint CIVICUS event at NCVO on 3 July we will spotlight a number of key partners from across the world who have been active in NCVO’s international membership.

oyebisi-babatunde-oluseyi-nigeria-network-of-ngos-100pxOyebisi Babatunde Oluseyi, Nigeria Network of NGOs

Civil society organizations are becoming more and more visible in Nigeria with increased profile and voice through engagement between the government and civil society but some of this interaction can be said to be tokenistic in nature.

There is no specific government legislation regulating the work of NGOs however there has been partnership between CSOs and governments at the Federal, State and Local level. One of these is the Lagos State Government Civil Society Partnership which the Nigeria Network of NGOs is championing with the Lagos State Government and other civil society networks in the State. The partnership provides the platform for CSOs to feed into the State Governments programmes and policies. There are also ongoing calls for accountability of the sector from government and indeed within the sector itself as there is no regulatory framework for the work of NGOs in Nigeria.

Challenges
While funding is a major challenge for all organizations across the world, NGOs in Nigeria are facing particular challenges owing to issues around legitimacy, accountability and transparency as they need to demonstrate their capacity to run not for profit organizations, ability to plan effectively and fund raise. The lack of a regulatory framework for the work of NGOs in Nigeria also leads to difficulties in the legal definition of NGOs.
As a result, partnerships with government are often politicized or tokenistic and there is a gap in professional skills in civil society in Nigeria. Collaboration amongst NGOs, trade unions and other civil society institutions on a national scale is still poorly developed.

Opportunities 
There are real opportunities to demonstrate the value of civil society, in particular through providing evidence-based information; and working together with other Networks to evolve accountability mechanisms and initiatives. We are keen to tap into the experience of international AGNA members to learn and share best practices on NGO management and running umbrella associations with a view to becoming a voice for the sector in Nigeria, collaborating with various civil society institutions to advocate for change and in developing a pool of civil society professionals.

The Nigeria Network of NGOs has been an NCVO International Member for a number of years and has been a key participant in CIVICUS conferences around the world.

The membership base of the Network has continued to grow, between April 2011 and June 2012 they received and processed 327 new membership applications from across the country including outside Nigeria. Today their membership stands at over 1000 organizations.

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