A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr. Salihu Moh. Lukman has called for local funding of Civil Society Organizations, CSOs
, by the Federal Government so to reduce their dependence on foreign donors who have links with the government of their countries.
The party chieftain, who identified funding as one of the major determinants of performance and loyalty of civil society groups, maintained that so long as sources of funding for the work of these organizations were largely from foreign donors while local funding is hardly available, the CSOs would continue to be loyal to the government of their foreign donors while dealing with FG as enemies.
“Sadly, this negative orientation has pushed leaders of civil society in Nigeria to develop a mindset, which encourages them to positively relate with foreign organizations that are directly linked to governments in their countries but despise considering developing a positive or structured relationship with the Nigerian government. It is basically a belief that accepts a relationship with foreign governments as good but the relationship with Nigerian government is bad.
“Interestingly, however, individual leaders of civil society could have positive relations with functionaries of the Nigerian government. If it is okay for individual leaders of civil society to have positive relations with functionaries of the Nigerian government, why should civil society continue to resist negotiating improved relations with the Nigerian government? If Nigerian civil society can accept funding from foreign governments
, why should it be difficult for them to take steps to negotiate structured local funding, which may include contributions from the Nigerian government?” he said.
Lukman, who is the Director-General of Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, in a statement titled, “Civil Society and Nigeria’s Democratic Development”, released Monday canvassed for greater level of collaboration between Federal government and Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, in the country in order to forster development and depeen Nigeria’s democracy.
The PGF DG averred that the problem of poor relations between Nigerian government and civil society has produced combination of poor funding and very weak organisations of civil society in the country.
The PGF DG blamed the frosty relationship between government and CSOs on the background of repressive military rule, which he said made campaigns for human rights and democracy to become the primary focus of the work of civil society, while a negative mindset that translated to opposition to Nigerian government remained deep-rooted among civil society leaders.
He said Civil society leaders believe that opposition to government is a requirement for their work, while on the other hand, government functionaries have contempt for civil society and their leaders.
“With all our realities in Nigeria, the consequence is that there are no guaranteed local funding sources available to support the work of civil society organisations. Sadly, there is no campaign in the country to create domestic funding sources for the work of civil society.
“Why should relationship with Nigerian government be considered bad, but relationship with foreign governments good? Most activists in civil society pretentiously overlooked this issue largely because good relationship with foreign governments enable them to access grants from organisations such as the UK Department for International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), European Union (EU), etc. These are basically funding directly provided by governments of UK, US and countries under the European Union.
“Why should Nigerian civil society resent financial support from Nigerian government but accept from UK, US and EU governments? Isn’t it possible to negotiate conditions that makes funding from Nigerian government acceptable? Part of the disadvantage of refusal to consider negotiating stronger relationship between Nigerian civil society organisations and Nigerian government is that work of these organisations are dictated by priorities set by foreign donor organisations.”
As a way of bridging the local funding gap for CSOs in the country, Lukman suggested that Civil Society organizations should be granted access to portions of corporate social responsibility funds provided by big corporations in the country.
He added that access to corporate social responsibility funds, could provide opportunity to create legitimate sources of financial support for the work of Nigerian civil society.
“Imagine a situation, whereby a national framework is instituted, which for instance make it possible for the pooling of a ratio of corporate social responsibility funds in the country to support the work of Nigerian civil society organisation. Such a framework should necessarily have both management framework and defined criteria for access.
“Also, think of the possibility that the management framework would have representative structures and some levels of democratic control, which could strengthen ownership by civil society. Development of a framework that can guarantee the independence of Nigerian civil society from interference by government while at the same time mobilising local funding is possible. Such funding could be further supported by government through appropriate annual provisions based on existing budgetary processes, which could be negotiated by the management framework.
“Political leaders in the country should be encouraged to develop a more positive disposition towards civil society in the country. To achieve that, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be able to provide leadership in initiating and implementing activities to facilitate negotiations for improved relationship between Nigerian government and civil society. Part of the objective should also be to enhance processes of political leadership recruitment in the country, which are hardly planned and largely impulsive. This can be achieved if political political parties in Nigeria broaden membership mobilisation to include engagement with Nigerian civil society as a strategy for leadership recruitment?
“Improved relationship between Nigerian government and civil society groups can be designed to reorient civil society to return to being membership based with high measure of democratic control by the members. Being democratically controlled by members should mean that activities of Nigerian civil society organisations accommodate the priority needs of Nigerians. This should translate to high impact on levels of welfare of citizens from activities of Nigerian civil society. Capacity for policy engagement will be high,” he stressed.