A PAPER PRESENTATION BY IFES AT THE 12TH NATIONAL DELEGATES CONFERENCE OF FOSIECON
DONOR AGENCIES AND SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRATIC CULTURE IN NIGERIA
Democracy is about equality and elimination of discriminations irrespective of race, class or ethno-religious or cultural affiliations. In this perspective, it is important to ensure that there is adequate constitutional provisions that promote equity and to also monitor and advocate for its implementation and practice in a democratic nation.
Democratic governance represents an articulate modus operandi of how political leadership is engaged in policy making in determining how power is exercised to embody transparency, accountability and rational and prudent resources management.
Governance is also a process of exercising power, a process of utilizing authority and appropriating state resources for the benefits and welfare of the masses. It is a cumulus of interrelated processes, relationships and institutions through which citizens and groups articulates their rights, exercise their rights, and meet their obligations and mediate their differences. In this perspective, governance could either be adjudged good or bad. Good governance is sine qua non with democratic governance; bad governance is linked with autocratic regimes. In this paper therefore, governance is used synonymously with good governance to mean the strict adherence to the tenets of constitution by a democratic nation in its relation with the citizens and in exercise of state power and authority in the management and administration of state affairs. Thus, it is about credible election, transparency, accountability, equity, rule of law, justice, freedom of speech, among others. The paper seeks to link support of Donors in Nigeria to a good democratic culture.
In the early 1990s, donors began to show interest in promoting political change in addition to economic reforms in Nigeria.
Democratic political reforms were emphasized as key factors in the determination of future economic assistance for Africa. The Development Advisory Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is on record in support of “participatory development,” which includes democratization, improved governance, and human rights. The condition that political reforms be undertaken is now attached at least rhetorically to almost all Western aid. Actual donor practices vary: France proposes greater liberty and democracy, Great Britain recommends good government, the United States focuses on good governance, Japan talks about linking aid to reductions in military expenditures. Yet, regardless of the approach, there is increasingly strong agreement among donors that political reforms in Africa must result in reduced corruption and more financial accountability, better observance of human rights, independent media and an independent judiciary, participatory politics, and a liberalized market economy in order to move closer to the ultimate goal of meaningful economic growth and development .
ADVANTAGES OF DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE
- Aid delivered as general budget support reinforces the political business cycle by allowing governments (Nigerian) to increase expenditures right before elections. In such cases, aid can be used to augment expenditures for developmental needs.
- Development and democracy aid also demonstrate disparate effects on key elements of consolidation, including the avoidance of democratic erosion, the enhancement of accountability and the promotion of competitive party systems.
With respect to democratic erosion, donors have threatened to reduce or rescind aid in a number of instances where incumbents attempted to abrogate presidential term limits in their constitutions or where media freedoms have been suppressed.
- Even though democracy aid remains extremely small in comparison with total overseas development assistance to Nigeria, it plays a much more direct role with respect to vertical and horizontal accountability. By supporting independent media outlets, augmenting the capacities of civil society, reinforcing electoral commissions, and strengthening legislatures and judiciaries, democracy aid aims to reinforce relationships of responsibility between citizens and their governments as well as between different government institutions. Without this aid, many of the key institutions and actors important for consolidation would be much weaker.
- Development aid represents a type of unearned income that reduces governments’ incentive to levy taxes and thereby reduces burden on citizens and makes resources available to government for extended development.
DONOR SUPPORT TO DEMOCRACY AND ELECTIONS
Many developing countries moving towards democracy, Governance or consolidating democracy such as Nigeria often rely heavily on external funding for their elections. Thus, donor agencies such as USAID, UKAID, EU, UNDP, CIDA, JICA to mention a few have a stake in ensuring that such resources are used well and not wasted by inadvertent administrative errors or mistakes made by poorly trained EMB staff. Investing in capacity building of EMBs contributes to the goals of election funders as such investment will reduce the misuse of funds and enhance cost-effective elections. When elections are conducted cost effectively, they will be more affordable for home governments, which will reduce the financial burden on external donors.
Effective support to Professional development of SIECS
Professional development of electoral officials is effectively factored in as a permanent activity by assistance providers and partner institutions. This offers the best chance of ensuring institutional sustainability for the electoral institutions and a successful gradual disengagement strategy for the development agencies.
The benefits of training and professional development activities are not immediately tangible and offer little visibility for development agencies, unlike ballot boxes or voter education and information materials. However, as EMBs (especially the SIECs) generally have a difficult time persuading governments to approve budgets that
contain sufficient funds for these training activities, this is a typical area where external assistance is requested, sometimes at a very late stage in an electoral cycle, when electoral officials are already too absorbed by operational duties related to the upcoming electoral event.
Targeted Capacity Building: The tendency for electoral assistance providers and development agencies to focus too much on national elections, envisioning top –down democratisation, also requires careful reconsideration. Local elections can be as important as national ones for the democratic development of a partner country and also require targeted capacity building programmes. Hence the capacity building is focused on key areas of operations, logistics, voting and counting procedures, communications, and in the near future use of technology in elections. But above all electoral assistance providers are beginning to move away from short term interventions to EMBs to a more long-term approach of strategic planning which aims at building the capacity of EMBs to carry out long term election planning to improve conduct of local elections.
This means election planning for SIECs will need to shift from an event approach to a process approach.
Promotion of legislative reforms that provide the EMB’s highest officials with the means to protect institutional memory and continuity. This can be achieved by introducing uniform legislation for the conduct of LGA elections across the country which will include financial autonomy, tenure and procedures for conduct of LGA elections across all states which provides strong penalties for breach of the law by any state. It is crucial to help the SIECs developa coherent vision for its role between elections – which may form part of long-term electoral reform proposals. The possibility of enhancing the career development of EMB staff should be identified and supported.
Support for harmonization of a legal framework: Nigerian states differ in the organization of their territorial, political and governmental systems, which affects the design of their SIEC electoral frameworks. Similarly, the legal instruments and traditions upon which electoral frameworks rest, vary. These factors greatly influence the design and revision of frameworks and for the Nigerian Local Government elections, it is our common hope that a standardlegal framework guiding the conduct of the LGA elections is developed.
Nigeria, unlike many democratic countries of the world, has two electoral management bodies. They are the Independent National Electoral Commission and the State Independent Electoral Commissions. While the former is responsible for all federal and state elections, the latter is saddled with the conduct of local government elections. These two institutions are at various levels of independence. While INEC is faring better in terms of administrative and financial autonomy, SIECs on the other hand are dependent on states to make resources available for functioning. INEC since 1998 has not failed to conduct periodic elections unlike SIECs which are due to inadequate funding have not been very systematic in the conduct of local government polls. As against the express provision of section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, many of the LGAs in Nigeria are governed by sole administrators or caretaker committees.
This should not be so! Donor agencies support advocacy for electoral reforms in order to achieve true independence for the EMBs.
Support for Inclusive Governance: The democratic space in Nigeria is still not wide enough. The women, youth and persons with disabilities are still highly marginalized. The percentage of these vulnerable groups in elective and appointive positions is still infinitesimally low. Though there are policies drafted to enhance participations of these marginalised groups in government and electoral process (INEC Framework on Access for PWDs). The advocacy for affirmative action to be adopted to bridge the gap is still a wide gap away. SIECs still need to do more in mainstreaming gender and encouraging PWDs in its local elections operations. IFES as part of its ongoing support to strengthen Nigeria’s local elections will work with SIECs to put together an inclusive strategy which will help provide a roadmap for gender mainstreaming and PWDs inclusion in future local elections.