USIP Report Credits MRA, Others With Expanding Civic Space in Nigeria

Nancy Lindborg, President, USIP
Nancy Lindborg, President, USIP

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in a Special Report issued in October 2018, extolled civil society organizations and activists in Nigeria for elevating and sustaining transparency and accountability reforms on various political and policy agendas, acknowledging that “Efforts by Media Rights Agenda and others were critical to expanding civic space and protecting freedom of expression.”

Titled “Nigeria’s Movement for Transparency and Accountability: Bringing the Pieces Together,” the Report noted that civil society organisations in Nigeria have also been able to advance innovative solutions and plans for transparency and accountability, noting: “Media Rights Agenda and others were critical in putting these items on the political agenda and keeping them there.”

Authored by Samson Itodo, executive director of YIAGA AFRICA, and Davin O’Regan, senior programme officer in the Programme on Nonviolent Action at USIP, the Report cited Nigeria’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011, as “perhaps the most notable transparency reform in Nigeria,” adding that: “The (FOI Act’s) bill’s contents were first drafted in 1993 and 1994 during workshops organized by Media Rights Agenda, the Civil Liberties Organization, and the Nigeria Union of Journalists,”

Referencing Media Rights Agenda’s publication, Campaigning for Access to Information in Nigeria: A Report of the Legislative Advocacy Programme for the Enactment of a Freedom of Information Act, the Report said following the drafting of the bill, Freedom of Information Coalition, a network of over 150 civil society organisations launched an advocacy for the its enactment into law.

Further illustrating the contribution of civil society activism towards advancing transparency and expanding the civic space, the Report cited the 2016 efforts wherein “Enough Is Enough, Media Rights Agenda, and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria filed a lawsuit to challenge the Frivolous Petitions Bill, which would have made it a crime to make any allegation online, in print, or on the radio without a supporting court affidavit,” noting that “The bill was eventually withdrawn in the Senate following outrage channelled through the #NoToSocialMediaBill campaign.”

The 16-page report which highlighted the successes and challenges of transparency and accountability activism in Nigeria, submitted that “Signs of an emerging movement to advance transparency and accountability are prominent in Nigeria,” hinting that: “A range of new civil society groups and campaigns may serve as the organizational infrastructure for this emerging movement.”