Lessons from Nigeria for improved thinking and working politically in the extractives sector
LOPEZ LUCIA Elisa, BUCKLEY Joanna, MARQUETTE Heather & MCCULLOCH Neil, "Lessons from Nigeria for improved thinking and working politically in the extractives sector" in Development Policy Review vol.37/1, June 2019, Special Issue: Thinking and Working Politically: Learning from practice [available on Wiley Online Library], DOI.org/10.1111/dpr.12441
Despite the wealth that comes from being the biggest oil producer in Africa, Nigeria has some of the worst development indicators in the world. From 2011 to mid‐2016, the DFID‐funded Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform (FOSTER) programme's unique design aimed to reduce incentives for the capture of oil revenue by elites and international oil companies, restoring the potential of those revenues to accelerate economic and social development. This article asks what lessons FOSTER's successes and failures offer for improved “thinking and working politically” (TWP). It examines the outcomes from five “clusters” of interventions: three viewed by the FOSTER team as successes and two as failures. The article identifies factors for successful TWP‐based programming, including the need for local ownership rooted in staff with a combination of technical expertise, a deep knowledge of the local political context and excellent networking abilities. The research used a qualitative and inductive approach. Field research was undertaken with 44 semi‐structured qualitative interviews during one month of fieldwork in Abuja and Lagos. The research also included reviews of FOSTER's internal documentation and evaluation frameworks, as well as analysis of newspaper articles and grey literature on the oil sector in Nigeria. The project offers important lessons for politically informed programming about how interventions were implemented (process), what was actually done (content) and how the project responded to changes in context that created or blocked opportunities for reform (responsiveness). The article identifies factors for successful TWP‐based programming, including the need for local ownership rooted in staff with a combination of technical expertise, a deep knowledge of the local political context and excellent networking abilities. The findings have important implications for programme design. They demonstrate the value of built‐in flexibility that allows staff to choose and switch the partners they work with and the channels they work through. They also show that a key aspect of TWP‐based programming is implicit acceptance that some failure may be unavoidable, since this permits staff to balance risk against opportunities. Finally, a better understanding of FOSTER's failures reveals the challenges of a TWP‐based approach and the trade‐offs it demands.