Social, economic and political context in Nigeria

Key policy influencing actors in Nigeria


Development aid to Nigeria has been low compared to other African countries and has reduced considerably since its peak in 2006. Net overseas development aid was roughly USD 11 billion in 2006, 2 billion in 2007 and less than 1 billion in 2008. Half of this was for health and population projects/programmes, and one quarter for debt relief.

Both multilateral agencies and bilateral donors have been active in Nigeria. Among the multilateral donors, the UN system stands out. USAid is the largest of the donors, followed by DFID. There are a number of smaller bilateral agencies, including the Norwegian Embassy, that are mainly co-financing basket-funded projects and selected international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs).

Nigeria has recently undergone economic reforms, and although outside actors, such as donors, regional organisations (AU, NEPAD and ECOWAS), the Nigerian Diaspora and international private companies inside and outside the oil sector  have been important influences, research indicates that domestic forces have been the main drivers of the reform (Utomi et al. 2007).

The National Assembly

The Nigerian National Assembly is seen as an influential and accessible actor, although it has challenges and institutional weaknesses due to its large size and remunerations, allegations of corruption and informal and inherited structures. In recent years it successes include the election and removal of several Presidents of the Senate, the passage of private member’s bills and the creation of various committees of oversight and control.

Civil Society Organisations

Civil society organisations are considered to play an important role in the consolidation of democracy, good governance and development in Nigeria. Whilst some CSOs were active before the country’s independence, their activities increased in 1980s, at least in relation to democratic governance issues. Actions include the fight against the Nigeria military and the role they played in the restoration of civil rule between 1993 and 1999, when in collaboration with the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) they mobilised students and workers for civil disobedience, strikes and protest marches across the country. CSOs have been particularly active in the following areas: human rights, child labour and human trafficking; right to life and properties; monitoring the national budgeting process; campaigning for legal reforms in the National Assembly and; resisting unpopular policies.



Gender equality structures and mechanisms

National Gender Mechanisms

  • Federal Ministry of Women Affairs
  • Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation
  • Gender Electoral Reform Committee
  • Donor Coordination Gender Group


  • The 1979, 1992 and 1999 constitutions prohibit any forms of discrimination on the basis of sex
  • The Violence against Women Prevention, Protection and Prohibition Act 2002
  • The Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law of Lagos, State Law No 15, 2007
  • Land Administration Act
  • Land Use Act of 1978

Ratification of international instruments

On 23rd April 1984 Nigeria became signatory of CEDAW and on 13th of June 1985, ratified the principles of this convention without prejudice. However, attempts by the CSOs to domesticate the convention have failed, particularly CEDAW which was perceived by many as ‘anti-religion’ and ‘foreign’. Some argue that this was because Nigeria attempted to pass the text of CEDAW wholesale, rather than the customised manner of other countries (ODI 2012).

Regional instruments

  • The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

National instruments


  • National Gender Policy (2006)
  • National Education Policy on Women 2001
  • National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) 2004
  • Strategy for Acceleration of Girls’ Education in Nigeria 2003
  • National Social Security Policy for Inclusiveness, Solidarity and Sustainable Peace and Prosperity Bill (2009)
  • Integrated Maternal Newborn and Child Health Strategy (2007)
  • National Health Bill, (introduced of a National Health Insurance Scheme (decreed in 1999, implemented in 2005).
  • National Strategic Framework and Plan for Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (2005)
  • National Guidelines for Women’s Health (2002)
  • National Breastfeeding Policy (1997)


Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill


Amundsen, Inge (2010) “Good Governance in Nigeria: A Study in Political Economy and Donor Support”, Norad Report 17/2010 Discussion

CIVICUS Civil Society Index (2007), “Civil Society in Nigeria: Contributing to Positive Social Change”

Heymans, Chris and Pycroft, Chris (2003): Drivers of Change in Nigeria: A Preliminary Overview. London, Abuja, GHK International and DFID. 

Ikubaje, J. (2011), “The Changing Roles and Contributions of Civil Society”

Mercy, O. (2012), “Civil Society and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria”, Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies 3 (1): 61-67

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (2003), “The Nigerian National Assembly as a Driver of Pro-Poor Change”, Position Paper submitted to DFID

Ojo, J. (2012),  “Civil Society and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria” (PANA)