Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil-producing country, which gives the nation access to wealth and resources its neighbors do not have. Unfortunately, that wealth and those resources haven’t traditionally trickled down to the Nigerians who need them most.
In 2018, Nigeria’s population of people living in poverty became the largest in the world at 87 million, which far surpasses India’s 73 million living in poverty. Why does a nation with outsized wealth compared to its neighbors fail to lift its people out of poverty?
According to a new report, the issues are mismanagement and outright corruption.
Post-Flood Money Fails to Benefit Victims
A good example of mismanagement and corruption emerges from the floods that Nigeria experienced in 2012. The flooding killed almost 400 people, and more than 2 million were displaced from their communities.
Nigeria’s central government dispersed $110 million for relief in October 2012. A civil organization called “BudgIT” sent a team to 12 different Nigerian states to track how the relief money was spent and whether or not it benefited the victims and communities that needed it.
What the BudgIT team found was that nearly all of the money went to people and organizations that either mismanaged it or directly kept it from benefiting the people and communities it was meant to help.
Using Technology to Create a Solution
What can be done in a country where “information on public expenditure is not always available” and where there’s no “culture of punishing offenders” who steal public funds meant to benefit the most vulnerable?
BudgIT and similar organizations are turning to technology, as well as a blend of on-the-ground resources and traditional communication channels.
For example, BudgIT launched what’s called the “Tracka” initiative in summer 2014. BudgIT staff members find public projects by analyzing budget data and information. They then create pamphlets that include comprehensive project and contact information. And, finally, they send recruited team members with those pamphlets to travel throughout Nigeria’s states while monitoring progress on publicly funded endeavors.
BudgIT’s monitors hold town halls to talk to everyday people about what’s planned for their communities. They meet with and urge local government officials to complete projects that have stalled. And they even take pictures and share updates on social media to further pressure government officials to follow through on promised expenditures.
Citizens Get Involved, Too
It’s hard for citizens living in poverty to follow government news or to get involved in holding government accountable. That’s why the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) launched with a focus on getting more people involved in governance.
The PPDC relies mostly on social media and radio broadcasts to share information with everyday Nigerians and ensure there’s government transparency around spending and completing promised projects.
Similarly, Connected Development (CODE) launched a “Follow the Money” initiative in late 2013. The initiative connects specific government projects to the communities where they will be completed by using hashtags on social media. Like the PPDC, CODE is using the common communication channels of everyday Nigerians to better inform them about promises the government has made to their communities.
Progress Made Though Challenges Remain
All of this progress is made possible by Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act, which passed in 2011. Still, achieving full transparency and getting more and more Nigerians involved in governance will take time.
As of now, more everyday Nigerians are involved in government, and more Nigerian politicians are being forced to do the right thing. But there remains progress to be made on both fronts.