Sunday, November 6, 2011

Insights into Politics and Development in Nigeria

This first appeared on Africa in Transition.
Over the last week, a number of papers have been published that will be useful to Nigeria watchers.
The Center for Global Development’s Fighting the Resource Curse through Cash Transfers initiative has published a piece by Aaron Sayne and Alexandra Gillies (pdf) that evaluates the potential of direct cash transfers in the Niger Delta. The basic concept of the cash transfer system is that money, if given directly to those who need it, will be more wisely spent than by alternative recipients, such as government or development organizations. Sayne and Gillies find that while such a system may in fact improve the lot of its recipients, direct cash transfers are unlikely to result in transformative economic development because of factors such as lack of infrastructure and insecurity. Sayne and Gillies make the point that a system of direct payments to individuals would also promote the current, unhealthy focus on how to access state largesse that could trigger competition for payments resulting in insecurity. (An additional benefit of this paper is their clear break down of the Nigerian government’s current revenue sharing model.)

The Fund for Peace, creator of the acclaimed Failed States Index, has published its latest installment of incident reports compiled by its UNLock Nigeria early warning network, from April –September 2011. (This includes reports from the contentious 2011 elections.) The FFP methodology is expansive, capturing a wide range of insecurity. What is unique is that this data is not compiled from press reports, but from a network of trained civil society organizations on the ground. While their reporting is country wide, it is concentrated in the Niger Delta, much of which is off-limits to Westerners, and where the extent of insecurity is significantly underreported by the Nigerian press. Based on the authors’ analysis of incidents, they find “With a significant youth bulge–over 40% of the population is under the age of 15—a history of economic and social imbalance between the North and South, religious and ethnic tensions, and a fragile system of political power sharing, Nigeria faces significant challenges over the next few years.” A fair assessment.

And finally, Elizabeth Donnelly at Chatham House has published “Tangible Tensions” (pdf), a broad overview of the challenges Nigeria is facing. The key takeaway, I think, is the differences between the pessimism of those who focus on security issues (Boko Haram, ethnic conflict in Plateau, low-level violence in the Delta, crime, etc.) and the optimism of the business community, especially in Lagos.

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