What is Civil Society? Civil society groups maybe defined as a group of people coming together for a common cause and to provide an alternative to pressure groups in social, economic, and political matters. Civil society also be described as an arena of un-coerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. It is also a body of persons joined together for the sole purpose of influencing government policies or legislation that are not in the interest of the populace.
Oftentimes, these groups embark on actions and break the law Evelyn to protest some government policies the commonly embrace the diversity of space actors and institutional forms through lobby and regular consultations with government civil society groups. This helps the government to acquire a deeper insight into certain problems which in turn helps to adopt appropriate solutions of policies.
15 Functions of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria
1) Exert Influence on The Legislature
Most civil society groups dreamcatcher on government to pass laws or adopt policies that will favour their members. sometimes they also exert considerable pressure on government to withdraw a particular policy that affects the citizens adversely. Example, the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria that took place on the 1st of January 2012, under former President Goodluck Jonathan, another example is the protest against giving lands to herdsmen accross the country in 2019 under President Mohammed Buhari.
2) Protection of Fundamental Human Rights of Citizens
Through their activities, civil society groups help to protect the rights and liberties of the individuals and those of the minority groups.
3) Check Dictatorship and Political Extremism
Civil society groups help to check the emergence of dictatorship and political extremism in the states. A very notable example this group played a very significant role was during General Sani Abacha administration and the June 12 1993 and annulment of general election by General Babangida administration.
4) Serve as a Bridge Between Government and The Electorates
The government sometimes approaches some group to solicit the help to educate their civil society members of public about a particular government policy. the civil society groups intern communicate popular feelings and wishes to the government after consulting with their members.
5) Act as Critiques to The Government
Civil society groups unknown to offer criticisms against unpopular government policies. For example the government of Nigeria reduced before pump price of petrol from 14297 in January 2012 following its opposition by civil society groups. The civil group also criticised Buhari’s government of being less sensitive to the citizens for sharply increasing the fuel pump price from 123naira to 143 Naira while oil prices worldwide has dropped significantly.
6) Use of Demonstrations
Demonstration is one of the most popular antiques used by civil society groups in Nigeria. The undertake activities like symposia lectures protests to express their views and explain their policies with a view to influencing government to adopt these views and policies.
7) Monitor Conduct of Elections
The civil society groups are usually involved in the conduction of elections at all levels of government. The monitor the goals on directions number to prevent reading and act as a mouthpiece to International observers.
8) Fighting of Corruption
civil society groups are always in the Vanguard of exposing corrupt police officers when they tamper with the state treasury. Since they are accountable to the public and serve as a link between the public and the government it is their duty to serve as watchdogs in this regard.
9) Serve as Source of Information to the Government
As much as civil society groups critics of government also act in capacity as sources of information to the government. Through lobbying and regular consultations in government in power, civil society groups place your knowledge and expertise at the disposal of the government which interns help the government to acquire a deeper insight into certain problems with helps to adopt appropriate solutions and policies in the general interest of the masses.
10) Promotion of Healthy Lifestyle
Aside holding political office holders accountable to the plights of the citizens, Civil society groups are known for promoting healthy lifestyle of their members too. Health is wealth, only a healthy mind can perform optimally.
11) Facilitate Democratic Process
They are know to help the in making the democratic system of government operate to its fullest by acting as checks and balances to the government, hence accountability by the government towards electorates.
Oftentimes, government become greedy and insensitive to the plights of the people. Civil society groups are known to checkmate the excessive use of power and resources at their disposal. They ensure the government live to their campaign promises and stick with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
13) Conflict Resolution Function
Civil society groups Bible term role in the resolution of conflict in a country.
14) Promotion of Political Participation
The help to educate the electorate on political activities by embarking on a massive enlightenment campaigns to ensure that the public fully understand and participate in political activities in the country.
15) promotion of Democratic Values
Civil society groups help In advocating, promoting and developing the Democratic values such as tolerance, moderation, compromise, respect for political parties, as well as respect for the rule of law.
10 Problems of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria
1) Interference with Political System
A particular civil society group claim to represent public opinion but in Close scrutiny it will be fun to represent the views of the small vociferous minority.
2) Undermine Administration of States
Civil society groups activities may undermine the smooth running and administration of the States as well as slow down and retard the development programmes of the government.
3) Establishment of Relationship with Political Parties
Civil society groups in establish ties with political parties and the state but the most important thing is that they must retain their independence. These groups I’ve been known in past and recent times to be compromised by political parties by collecting bribes in form of gifts and grants.
4) Freedom of Choice
One of the problems of civil society groups in Nigeria is the overuse of the freedom of choice. This can sometimes distabilize the polity.
5) Identification Problem
Sometimes it is difficult to clearly identify setting civil society groups, as such their intentions may be misconstrued. For example, it happen in Nigeria in January 2012 during the fuel subsidy removal demonstration. Some civil society groups that participated in the demonstration could not be easily identified. It has become a norm for faceless groups to hijack peaceful demonstrations and convert it to violent demonstrations and looting spree. Another recent example was the peaceful demonstration by the NLC and other Civil societies in Nigeria during the xenophobia attacks of Nigerians in South Africa. Faceless groups hijacked the demonstration in Lagos and started looting malls like ShopRite and even mega stores and companies owned by Nigerians. Identification problem was experienced during that period.
6) Voluntary Groups
Civil society groups are made up of professionals Lay men, artisans etc, who have voluntarily and willingly come together to pursue a course they believe in. Since it is a voluntary gathering, no incentives in form of payments at the end of the month are expected by members. This downside of CSOs makes it easy for compromise from leaders of the group.
7) Government Interference
Government at all levels in Nigeria are making best use of a number of strategies, tactics and instruments in suppressing Civil Society groups. This Shrinking Civic space is expected to continue especially in Nigeria where the rule of law is hardly obeyed by those at the helms of affairs.
8) Selfish Motives
Since Civil societies are a small group representing a larger audience, their personal interest comes into play when compromised. Civil society in Nigeria is affected by the electoral divide where criticizing the current government is often seen as a support to a new government simply for selfish interests.
9) Lack of Funding Capacity of Civil Society Groups
Another problem faced by Civil Society Groups in Nigeria is aid reduction and shifting donor priorities. While these are not new, shifts in donor priorities and modalities are expected to have a significant impact on the doings of Civil Society Groups and their beneficiaries, especially those that can’t function without external supports. Issues like this will continue to take centre stage in discussions of the existence and proactiveness of Civil Society Groups in the country.
List and Examples of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria
Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC)
Oodua People’s Congress
Arewa People’s Congress
PANDEF – Pan Niger-Delta Forum
MEND – Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
Advocate Youth Initiative
Advocates for Human Rights and Justice Development
Agents of Communication and Development (A-CODE)
Alliance for Credible Elections
Center for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)
Center for Democracy and Development (CDD)
Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
Citizen’s Advocacy for Good Governance (CAGG)
Citizens Center for Integrated Development and Social Rights
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Community Life Project
Community Rights Project (CRP)
Empowering Women For Excellence Initiative
Enough is Enough Nigeria
Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Initiative
Gender on the Balance
Global Association of Female Attorneys (GAFA)
Global Race Against HIV/ AIDS Nigeria (GRAPH)
Human Rights Justice and Peace Foundation
Human Rights Monitor, Kaduna
Initiative for Total Development and Empowerment
Inspire Nigerian Youth
Justice & Peace (JDPC) /Caritas Nigeria
Majesty Community Rural Development Foundation
Media Rights Agenda
National Youth Movement for New Initiative
Next Generation Youth Initiative International (NEGYII)
Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEMUBOG)
Nigeria for Change International
Nigerian Women Trust Fund
Partners for Electoral Reform
Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC)
Proactive Gender Initiative
Responsible Citizens and Human Development Initiative (RECHI)
Rural Youth Initiative
Spaces For Change
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
Women’s Right to Education Programme
Young Innovators of Vocational Training Initiative
Youth Alert Nigeria
Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth & Advancement. (YIAGA)
In summary, Civil Society in Nigeria has grown tremendously since May 29, 1999 (New era of democratic government in Nigeria). With the various Civil Society groups springing up for various needs and purposes, we can tell that democracy has come to stay and various eyes (CSOs) are acting in their own capacity as watchdogs, checks and catalysts towards making sure the government are accountable to the citizens.