Nigeria NGO Code

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Contents

[edit] Nigeria: Facts and Figures

With a population of over 140 million, Nigeria is one of the largest nations in Africa. Its population comprises over 250 ethnic groups, of which Hausa and Fulani (29%), Yoruba (21%), Igbo/Ibo (18%), Ijaw (10%), Kanuri (4%), Ibibio (3.5%), and Tiv (2.5%) (CIA Factbook) are the majority. Nigeria is a country of numerous religions and five official languages; it is a significant oil producer and a member of OPEC. The country attracts almost half of Africa’s foreign investments according to the World Bank. Despite its wealth of resources and astronomical oil revenues poverty is pronounced; per capita GDP is USD 1,400, one of the lowest in the world, and the country is ranked 159 out of 177 on the United Nations Development (UNDP) Program’s 2006 Human Development Index (HDI), a comparative list of countries ranked by the standard of living. Corruption runs rampart, fuelled by illegal industries, and as a result of poverty. In Transparency International’s 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria is ranked 150th out of 163. Additionally, clashes and ethnic violence continue to plague the country impeding both social and economic progress.

[edit] Nigerian NGO Sector Today

Although there is no official registry of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nigeria (Iheme 2001), WANGO’s Worldwide Directory of NGOs reveals the strength of the NGO sector; 341 of the total 871 West-African NGOs are listed in the Directory. NOGs encompass every aspect of social and economic life in Nigeria, having been a vital part of the country’s social and cultural landscape before the country’s independence in 1960. Legally, NGO activities are well regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Nigeria, as well as federal and state laws (Iheme 2001). Even though NGOs in Nigeria are not subject to extreme bureaucratic restrictions, many of them, particularly human rights and labor groups, have endured and continue to face political isolation and scrutiny (Iheme 2001). Another issue troubling Nigerian NGOs is organizational. Many NGOs are locally-based, even to the point of being ethnic and parochial, catering to specific groups (Iheme 2001). This situation poses a severe danger to the integrity of Nigeria’s local communities as ethnic clashes in certain areas have continued throughout the 1990’s and into the 21st century. Moreover, on the national level, such a plethora of NGOs results in duplication, lack of coordination and cooperation, and a weaker funding strategy (Ikelegnbe 2001).

[edit] On the Road to Democracy-- The Historical Development of civil society from independence to present

Nigeria’s path to democracy has been one of political turmoil, instability and infighting for power. Governments, mostly in form of military regimes, changed frequently and periods of relative peace were sparse. In only four decades have Nigerians witnessed numerous coups (1966, 1976, 1983, and 1985), a devastating civil war in 1967 and ethnic violence (1962-1963 and then again from 2002 on). The three longest stretches of time without violent political fighting had been the periods of 1960 – 1965, 1966 – 1975, and 1993 - 1998 . Just like in colonial times, the nation as a whole suffered the consequences of leaders’ quest of self-gain and power. Despite years of upheaval, civil society and NGOs continued to flourish, responding to social and economic injustices and advocating human rights.

Up to and following independence, the NGO sector rapidly grew, with nationalistic organizations playing a particularly key role in civil society development and emboldening national identity. The history of Nigerian NGOs indicates a link between the prevailing political and economic situation and the organizations started at that time. It is in the 1950’s that some of the most influential NGOs were founded, such as the Nigerian Medical Association, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Society of Engineers (Bradley 2003). By the mid-1970s, there were over 1,500 NGOs (Ayide 2004). The strength of those organizations is clear as all of them have managed to operate throughout the years of political instability in Nigeria and are still in existence.

[edit] 1970s and the Oil Boom

As the world’s appetite for oil grew dramatically in the 1970’s, oil-rich Nigeria enjoyed a period of relative prosperity. Labor groups involved in the oil industry became even more influential and certain areas of the country were able to benefit from that, as was the case of the Niger Delta Region, which received more of the oil revenues after the unions intervened (Bradley 2003). Increased oil exports and increased government-funded education opened up new possibilities for civil society. New kinds of organizations emerged, promoting democracy and advocating progress, such as the Nigerian Democratic Movement and the Movement for A Democratic Nigeria (Bradley 2003). In addition, the women’s movement gained momentum and such groups as the Market Women of Nigeria and Women in Nigeria (WIN) were established . With this shift of attention beyond the public sector and employment issues, and toward the under-represented strata of society, Nigeria’s democratic ambitions were now shared by even more citizens and met with widespread appreciation of the public.

[edit] 1980s

The economic stability and positive growth that prevailed in Nigeria in the 1970’s was thwarted by the 1979 energy crisis and, consequently, a worldwide recession. By 1982 the price of oil had dropped considerably. Domestically, the decrease in revenue marked the beginning of the era of a worsening economic situation with the reduction of imports and the capping of wages and public spending (Adekson 2004). This time of economic instability laid the foundation for new organizations; by the mid-1980’s NGO activity had increased significantly, which Ikelebe (2001) attributes to a combination of economic difficulties and the government’s failure to put forth any development plan. Organizations like the National Labor Congress, the National Association of Nigerian Students and the Academic Staff Union of Universities became the vox populi of that time (Bradley 2003).

[edit] 1990s

The coup of 1985 brought more repression and curtailment of political activity in Nigeria. Consequently, the Nigerian community doubled their efforts in providing checks and balances in an unequal fight with the military government. Among the most preeminent human right NGOs of that time were the Civil Liberties Organization, the Constitutional Rights Project and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (Kiru 2006).

These and other human rights NGOs intensified their struggle in the early 1990’s, consolidating their efforts to oppose and publicize the illegality of the annulment of the 1993 election. They acted as a watchdog for governments, pressing for the termination of military control and despotic, incompetent practices (Adekson 2004). The development and strength of these human rights NGOs would become vital for political future events. The human rights movement has been instrumental in promoting government transparency and mobilizing the masses to fight deep-rooted corruption in the country.

Nigerian NGOs faced their greatest challenge in November 1993 when the insurgent government of General Sani Abacha dissolved all civilian institutions and organizations (Kiru 2006) . The attempt of the new Nigerian government to undermine the work of the human rights NGOs, however, had the opposite effect on Nigerian society; instead of becoming overpowered by the authoritarian rule, “the human rights community came up with collective efforts to curtail the problem” (Kiru 2006). That tumultuous time also marked the beginning for one of Nigeria’s most prominent human rights NGOs, Campaign for Democracy, an umbrella organization for over 40 human rights groups.

[edit] 2000 - Present

At the new millennium, military rule had come to an end and the country established a new constitution. The challenges for the newly appointed civilian government were numerous, from reinstating democratic institutions and a rule of law to repairing the county’s ruined infrastructure. The new authority turned out to be successful as Nigeria has enjoyed the longest stretch without any political turmoil in the country’s history as far as current NGO work and activity are concerned. Entering a new era under a new president (Umaru Yar'Adua of the ruling People's Democratic Party), Nigeria’s democracy is possibly just as vulnerable to an escalation of violence now as it was so often in the past. As rifts in Nigerian society grow deeper following religious and ethnic altercations, the new president is highly unlikely to resolve all the burning issues or even offer a quick and unanimously-backed solution; in a recent BBC News online article Chinua Achebe, an esteemed Nigerian writer, said that “democracy has not progressed in Nigeria - corruption has not diminished”. Apart from corruption, the new president will also have to address child labor, human trafficking, the increasing role of Sharia courts in light of reports of their extreme rulings , and spiraling violence and poverty in the Niger River Delta, all of which Nigeria is still criticized for by the international community according to Human Rights Watch . However, in all these struggles, Nigerians can be sure they will have the assistance and support of the NGOs they have nurtured along the road they have traveled down together since 1960. These organizations stand for the greater good, something that Nigerian society endorsed with their patience, resilience, ingenuity, and, in many cases, with their own sacrifice.

[edit] Conclusion

Nigerian civil society has come far since independence. The rough path to democracy has proved to be a difficult test, in which Nigerians have shown persistence and dedication to democratic values. The fight is by no means over; the future of the country is being decided at this very moment. With new, weekly instances of ethnic clashes and kidnappings, many international NGOs may be forced to limit their activity in the country in order to protect their staff. The fate of Nigeria is again in the hands of its people and the newly elected authorities. The upcoming months will be vital in shaping the NGO landscape. One thing remains certain – after years of struggle to uphold civil society and its institutions, Nigerians are not likely to surrender and accept defeat. Despite mostly negative media coverage, this situation will only add to the consolidation of strength that Nigerians put into making their country a successful democracy, where law prevails and civil society thrives.

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