Civil society refers to any non-governmental entity that is formed by a group of people working in the interest of the citizens. It is a group of citizens who are linked by common interests and collective activity.
Functions Of Civil Society In Nigeria
The functions of civil society groups in Nigeria is the main reason why this article is written. Some of the functions of civil society in Nigeria are:
- Civil society groups make states at all levels to be accountable, responsive and also to be more effective. They help to somewhat limit and control the power of the state thereby preventing abuse of power and when such abuse of power takes place, they call the attention of relevant authorities to it and seek redress.
- They promote political participation by educating the people to know their rights and obligations as citizens, and also encouraging them to participate in elections.
- They help to train and groom future leaders.
- They inform the public about important public issues
- They also help to mediate and resolve conflicts within society.
- Civil society contributes to the formation as well as the practice of democratic attitudes among citizens in the country.
- Qualities and Characteristics of Civil Society
- It facilitates open and voluntary participation in democratic processes
- It enables community stakeholders to hold economic and political gladiators accountable for outcomes of policy decisions
- Civil society provides a context for mutual benefit as well as exchange
- It seeks to promote the “common good,” with a particular focus on the inclusion of those currently marginalized.
- It is always non-profit oriented.
Although there is a considerable presence of civil society groups in the country, not much is felt in terms of their impact by the average Nigerian. Some of the problems faced by civil society groups that have hindered their effectiveness in the country are discussed below.
Civil Societies In Nigeria
There are numerous civil society groups in existence in Nigeria as of today but some notable ones include:
- Arewa People’s Congress
- PANDEF – Pan Niger Delta Forum
- Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta
- Nigeria Labour Congress
- Oodua People’s Congress
- Centre for Women, Youth and Community Action (NACWYCA)
- Initiative for Food Environment and Health Society (IFEHS)
- Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
- Centre for International Volunteers for Youth Development (C4144YD)
Principles of Civil Society
Basically, there are 3 principles upon which civil society groups are founded. These are:
- The principle of participatory engagement: Simply, this principle states that all members of a civil society group should have access to participate in the group.
- The principle of constitutional authority: This principle simply states that the right of every individual must be protected at all times.
- The principle of moral responsibility: This principle states clearly that every member of a civil society group should have a moral responsibility to use his/her civil liberties in ways that do not violate the human right of others.
Problems Of Civil Society In Nigeria
Political instability is one big issue limiting civil society groups from effectively carrying out their functions. Functions of civil society have been discussed above. Frequent change in government, from civilian rule to military rules for many years have prevented these groups from being effective. This frequent change in government is also accompanied by inconsistent government policies. All of these affect the development and growth of the civil society in the country.
- Lack Of Proper Awareness By Nigerian Citizens.
There is a lack of awareness among Nigerians on what these civil society groups do and what they represent. Hence, they do not value these organizations. This has therefore significantly hindered the national spread of these societies’ goals and objectives.
- Political Illiteracy Of Nigerians
Without a doubt, a significant percentage of Nigerians are politically illiterate. Aside from the fact that more than 50% of Nigerians are illiterates with no formal education, political illiterates are those who are not politically conscious and have no knowledge of how they are being governed. This has affected the way these groups are accepted by Nigerians especially those residing in rural areas who have low or no education in the political system of Nigeria. Thus, they have not been able to use this civil society as a proper vehicle to mount pressure on the government.
There are lots of civil society groups operating in the country and it is well known that there isn’t much collaboration between them. This has often led to disagreements in communicating with the government about their interests. These disagreements can occur either as a clash of interest between two civil society groups or within a single group. Due to this inability to find common ground, they often create a loophole for the government to play them.
Finance is a major factor affecting a lot of civil society groups. This prevents them from being able to pursue their interests. It has been found out that due donor has ignored the Civil society due to the deficiency in proper organization of these groups. Also, this has forced some of these groups to shift their focus from pressuring the government to do what is right, to seeking funds from both local and foreign donors. Some of them have even become slaves to the government of the land as the government funds them and at unable to rise up against the government when it does wrong.
- Lack Of Internal Democracy And Other Skills
This problem is quite notable as members of these groups are unable to learn democratic norms and values. A result of which is that they are unable to teach these values to Nigerian citizens. They also lack important skills such as advocacy and organization which are required to be able to have an effects conversation with the government.
- Corruption And Personal Enrichment
Often times, allegations of corruption and personal enrichment are leveled against members of these civil society groups. These allegations range from embezzlement and conversion of funds to personal accounts, to lack of transparency by these civil societies. This has led to a drop in morals preventing these groups from engaging with the government fruitfully.
- Involvement In Partisan Politics
It has also been observed that some members of these civil society groups are involved in partisan politics. You will realize that such members are unable to speak up against the government if doing so will affect their personal interest.
- Solutions To Challenges Faced By Civil Society In Nigeria
- Proper Organization By The Civil Society. These civil society groups should properly organize themselves so they can effectively discharge their duties.
- Proper Nation-Wide Awareness. They should carry out nation-wide awareness to improve their acceptance among Nigerians.
- Proper Political Education.
- They should go for proper political education training for their members who will, in turn, transfer such knowledge to Nigerians.
- Common Interests.
- They should find a way to align their interests so that they can unite to fight collectively to achieve such goals.
Conclusion On Functions Of Civil Society In Nigeria
The functions of civil society in Nigeria have been discussed extensively as well as some of the challenges they face. Possible solutions have been preferred to help them overcome these challenges and meet their goals. So, you have been well educated in the functions of civil society in Nigeria.
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