Oil reform in Nigeria: The ups and downs of channel-hopping programme delivery

27th July 2017

‘Thinking and Working Politically’ (TWP) has been gaining traction in development programming, given its premise that programming teams can maximise the possibility of real impact if they can get the ‘politics’ right. But how much do we really know about what a TWP approach can achieve – and where it might present dangers – in challenging political and sectoral contexts?

In the hope of finding some answers to this question, we have been looking at an innovative, locally-led programme that focuses on the Nigerian oil sector, the Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform (FOSTER). The Nigeria office of the key donor, the UK’s DFID, has a long tradition of experimenting with new approaches. This is grounded in its early work on Drivers of Change, which encourages programme designers to ask themselves a structured set of questions about the dynamics of pro-poor change. Those questions follow on from a single fundamental question: is there a disconnect between a country's political framework and the operations of its institutions and development agencies?

Conceived with the learning from Drivers of Change in mind, FOSTER’s vision from the outset was remarkably broad and intentionally open

So when DFID began to think about how to shape assistance to reduce the many incentives for misuse of power and capture of oil revenues in Nigeria, FOSTER became one of the earliest DFID programmes with an explicitly ‘thinking and working politically’ approach. Conceived with learning from Drivers of Change (PDF) in mind, its vision from the outset was remarkably broad and intentionally open.

Our paper examines the first phase, which ran from 2011 to mid-2016. FOSTER’s aims were to support policy reforms in the sector; to strengthen the accountability and competence of actors on both the demand and supply side; and to support efforts to improve monitoring mechanisms and transparency. The aim was to tackle the distortion of Nigeria’s policy and politics through oil revenue capture and perhaps divert those revenues towards accelerated economic and social development.

We looked at five ‘clusters’ of FOSTER interventions, three viewed as successes and two as failures by the FOSTER team themselves, and we asked what drove both success and failure. Our examination of what worked and what didn’t is unusual in the growing literature on TWP-based development programmes, where the focus of research tends to be on success alone.

Initially FOSTER was a relatively traditional technical assistance programme working primarily with government on reforms to legislation and regulations, and building technical capacity. But its flexible design allowed it to change tack as the Jonathan administration, elected in 2010, took control. In particular, faced with the vanishingly slim possibility of working alongside the new administration, the programme was able to pivot towards supporting interventions that promoted demand for reform from civil society. Then, after the election of President Buhari in May 2015 on an explicitly anti-corruption ticket, the programme was able to pivot again towards supporting both demand- and supply-side interventions.

And our findings suggest that FOSTER offers lessons for three aspects of programme implementation: process – the ‘how it’s done’; content – what sort of activities work and which ones don’t; and the politics of interventions, both for external and internal relationships and incentives.

Interestingly, the findings highlight both the pros and cons of a TWP-based approach. To take just one example, it’s fair to say that in designing a programme that did not prescribe which agents would be appropriate partners – leaving those judgements to the locally-led team’s intimate knowledge of the political and sectoral landscape – DFID had a high tolerance for risk. But it was rather more cautious about reputational risk where it seemed possible that FOSTER’s work had potential to undermine UK relationships with Nigeria and threaten broader aid programming in the country. FOSTER and their management team were expected to mitigate these risks.

All this tells us that there may be times when a TWP approach can become more of a challenge than a strength. For the FOSTER initiative, a politically savvy approach delivered success where a more traditional programme design could not have done, particularly when working with the government and its institutions became difficult. Yet once it became possible for the FOSTER team to work with government again, new dangers loomed. What impact might that have on the relationships built with civil society demand-side change agents? And was it possible that the actions of civil society partners might undermine relationships with supply-side government reform champions and institutional partners?

The outcome was a policy of discretion, particularly in the way information researched and disseminated by FOSTER was presented. Branding of publications stopped in the first year of the programme, and there was a shift towards presenting FOSTER as a neutral repository of factual information on the Nigerian oil sector, accessible to any interested party. It was clear, however, that the very flexibility of the programme and its ability to respond to political change by switching horses, so to speak, also opened space for potential damage – and this had to be managed.

It is, we conclude, all about balance. As with any framework, practitioners need to be alert to the possibility that an apparent strength of a TWP approach may also be its weakness – and they should be ready to avert that danger.

 

This study was supported by UK aid from the UK government.

Image: Work in the Niger Delta (Cristiano Zingale)

 

0 Comments

Leave a comment

The views expressed in Opinions posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of DLP, the Australian Government or DLP's partner organisations.

Author

Joanna Buckley

Joanna Buckley

Joanna Buckley is a Senior Consultant at Oxford Policy Management and manager of OPM’s conflict, security and violence portfolio. Her key areas of specialisation are market and private sector development, extractive led growth, social exclusion and fragility and conflict.

 

Read more

Author

Neil McCulloch

Neil McCulloch

Neil McCulloch is a development economist with expertise in political economy analysis and the design and implementation of politically smart aid programmes. He has also done extensive work on the political economy of fuel subsidies, both in Indonesia and Nigeria, and the political economy of aid for power sector reform in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

 

Read more

Author

Heather Marquette

Heather Marquette

DLP's Director, Heather Marquette, is Professor in Development Politics in the International Development Department, University of Birmingham. A political scientist by training, she has extensive international experience in research, policy advice, consultancy and training on the politics of development, governance, corruption, political analysis, and aid policy.

Read more

Author

Elisa Lopez Lucia

Elisa Lopez Lucia

Dr Elisa Lopez Lucia is a researcher at the Political Science Department of the Université libre de Bruxelles. She was previously a researcher at the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department and at the University of Warwick. She has also worked at the French Ministry of Defence and the EU’s Directorate-General for External Relations.

Read more

Related items

What are governance advisers missing with 'Political Economy Analysis'?

DLP's contribution to a new-style field guide for development practitioners. Guest post in FP2P

Opinion by David Hudson8th October 2015

The challenge of realising Pacific democracies' development potential

Bringing to the fore some of the unique problems faced by the Pacific region.

Opinion by Julien Barbara8th July 2016

When the stars align to tackle inequality

Reflections on the 2015 DLP annual conference.

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal18th February 2015

Overcoming premature evaluation

Sometimes failure is the first stop on the road to success for development programming. (Guest post in From Poverty to Power)

Opinion by Chris Roche15th November 2016

Don't give up on government

Can the World Bank's flagship World Development Report inspire a good governance revolution that delivers development gains?

Opinion by Dan Hymowitz3rd February 2017

Do anticorruption messages work? Findings so far and what they could mean for Papua New Guinea

How do anticorruption messages influence people’s views about corruption and about anticorruption efforts?

Opinion by Caryn Peiffer23rd March 2017

Politicians and administrators: conflict, collusion or collaboration?

How do relations between political and administrative leaders affect reform?

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi23rd October 2014

Two remarkable transitions: lessons from Oman and Somaliland

What we can learn from areas of stability and calm in regions where near neighbours seem to be struggling to resolve strife.

Opinion by Sarah Phillips20th July 2015

Corruption: unpacking the black box of political will

New thinking on the reasons why individuals engage in corruption - including the pragmatic calculation that, right or wrong, corruption may be the only solution to pressing difficulties. 

Opinion by Heather Marquette12th January 2015

Politics shape services; and services shape politics

How governance and sector specialists can help each other understand the politics of service delivery

Opinion by Richard Batley19th June 2014

Is education a magic bullet for addressing corruption? Insights from Papua New Guinea

This post for Devpolicy unpacks the findings of a new Development Policy Centre/DLP paper.

Opinion by Grant Walton17th June 2015

What do we do on Monday? Political settlements in theory and practice

Can donors, researchers, policymakers and practitioners all agree on what we mean when we talk about 'political settlements'?

Opinion by Edward Laws15th July 2015

Bringing Political Economy Analysis in from the cold

Once seen as a 'transformative' tool to change donor thinking, does much PEA now do little to help staff think and work politically?

Opinion by Jonathan Fisher6th May 2014

Development cooperation and fighting corruption: thinking differently

Corruption is an emotive word and covers a huge range of behaviours - yet anti-corruption efforts still follow a one-size-fits-all pattern.  

Opinion by Heather Marquette24th June 2015

Politics, risk and development: three takeaways

Reflections from last week's Australasian Aid Conference and DLP’s 2016 Annual Conference, both hosted at Australian universities. 

Opinion by Chris Roche19th February 2016

Cancer and the links between medicine and development

DLP Senior Research Partner discusses what cancer has taught him about the links between medicine and development. Guest post for From Poverty to Power.

Opinion by Chris Roche15th April 2015

How does politically informed programming shape development outcomes?

A new 'thinking and working politically' community of practice aims to develop practical guidance for development practitioners based on evidence of what works in politically smart programming.

Opinion by Mark Robinson29th January 2016

Our money, our projects: Demand-driven community development

Emerging lessons from the Central Land Council’s community development program to strengthen Aboriginal people’s participation in mainstream Australia.

Opinion by David Ross15th April 2016

Using aid to strengthen Parliaments: fix the car, or worry about the driver?

Parliaments have always been treated as the poor cousins of democracy assistance efforts. (Guest post for From Poverty to Power)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal24th November 2014

The practicalities of change: Positive deviance and land reform in Vanuatu

Anna Naupa's 2016 Adrian Leftwich Memorial Lecture discussed where most transformation happens - in drafting the rules, or in putting them into action.

Opinion by Anna Naupa13th April 2016

'Sticky’ change: What international development can learn from adaptive management

Promoting and sustaining individual behavioural change is as important as building flexibility into development programming.

Opinion by Greg Power2nd December 2016

From functional governance to sustainable peace: Making the space to reflect, learn and adapt

Learning how to balance the technically possible and politically feasible in volatile, conflict-affected contexts.

Opinion by Aditi Haté 22nd February 2017

Different development: walk the talk

The argument for asset-based approaches to development programming and practice that value communities' capacity, skills and knowledge.

Opinion by Gillian Fletcher14th April 2015

Anti-corruption in Bolivia: fighting greed – or attitudes?

Social attitudes towards corruption may be shaped by beliefs and values, rather than facts.

Opinion by Nieves Zúñiga29th June 2015

Reforming FIFA: what can we learn from experience with (other) corrupt autocrats?

FIFA may not be a developing nation, but international football has its own complex political economy. Guest post for From Poverty to Power.

Opinion by Paul Jackson and Heather Marquette11th June 2015

Breaking new ground in parliamentary strengthening

The importance of tailoring parliamentary support programmes to their context. (Guest post for openDemocracy)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal29th March 2016

Is developmental patrimonialism a dead end?

The key role of leadership succession rules and effective institutions in sustaining the success of high-growth autocracies.

Opinion by Tim Kelsall27th September 2016

It's all about inclusion, but how?

Shifting the focus of development intervention from form to the actual practice and distribution of power. (Guest post for the World Bank Governance for Development blog)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal6th April 2016

Parliamentary strengthening: the IDC report

Parliaments - and the political parties that populate them - are the institutions people trust least. Guest post for ODI's Shaping Policy for Development blog.

Opinion by Tam O'Neil9th February 2015

Beyond the limits: can we Think and Work Politically to achieve the SDGs?

How international development agencies need to change to confound the sceptics. (Guest post for the OECD's Institutions and Stability blog)

Opinion by Heather Marquette4th February 2016

Gender and power: six links and one big opportunity

Donors have recently made great efforts to understand power in partner countries. Yet they have largely ignored one of the most pervasive power relations – gender.

Opinion by Diana Koester21st May 2015

Fragmentation of the Thinking and Working Politically agenda: Should we worry?

Many different paths, but all leading to similar destinations - and adding useful nuance to development thinking and practice.  

Opinion by Thomas Parks29th August 2016

The curious case of Indian autocracy and what it tells us about 'thinking and working politically'

The history of India’s largely forgotten shift to autocracy and its return to democracy can tell us much about how change happens.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi25th June 2015

Gender analysis, and thinking and working politically – bridging the gap

Guest post on Devpolicy  introducing panels at this week's Australasian Aid Conference

Opinion by Chris Roche14th February 2017

The road to transparency in resource-rich Myanmar

Myanmar's resource management transparency process has joined government, business and civil society actors in collective action for the first time.  

Opinion by Taylor Brown1st April 2016

Positive deviance and Myanmar's telecoms revolution

A DLP research project looks at the politics of economic reform through the lens of Myanmar's remarkable transformation of its telecoms sector.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi3rd February 2016

Authoritarianism, democracy and development

What does the evidence say about whether giving aid to a high-achieving authoritarian regime makes good developmental sense? 

Opinion by Tim Kelsall27th November 2014

Corruption? The developing world has bigger problems

More nuanced anti-corruption work should focus on results - and even put up with some corruption if things are working well. (Guest post for Prospect)

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal26th April 2016

Indonesia and the political settlements trap

When aspirations triggered by development and prosperity outstrip a political settlement's ability to deliver on those expectations, how easy is it to 're-settle' the settlement? 

Opinion by Graham Teskey17th July 2015

From objects of care to controllers of lives: governance, development and disability inclusion

The next step on from a rights-based approach to disability inclusion is to hand over control to those who know best - people with disabilities.

Opinion by Luke Arnold25th May 2016

How quality secondary and higher education can improve national leadership: lessons from Ghana

New DLP research poses the question of whether the focus of the international development community on primary education is too narrow.

Opinion by Amir Jones25th March 2014

DLP political settlements workshop: reflections

A practitioner considers how the intangible nature of power can be discussed and included in a policy framework. 

Opinion by Astrid Jamar22nd July 2015

Where do inclusive institutions come from? Lessons from Asia

Societies with more inclusive institutions are more peaceful and more resilient, and tend to be better governed - but how do they get there?

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal27th February 2017

Corruption: is the right message getting through?

Anti-corruption messages aim to recruit citizens to the fight - but what do they actually hear?

Opinion by Caryn Peiffer12th August 2015

International donors - aiding or abetting?

The importance of acknowledging the dilemmas donors may face when giving aid to developmental states.

Opinion by Niheer Dasandi10th September 2015

The International Budget Partnership: Reflecting on two decades of campaigning for fiscal governance reform

Focusing on budget accountability ‘ecosystems’ and their influence on budget decision-making and implementation.

Opinion by Brendan Halloran20th December 2016

Adding gender and power to the TWP agenda

Gender relations are full-blown power relationships. Yet in the development context, they are too often seen as value-neutral cultural arrangements. 

Opinion by Sally Moyle6th August 2015

Uncounted: has the post-2015 data revolution failed already?

The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report tells us that how we measure affects what we do; and if our measurements are flawed, decisions may be distorted.

Opinion by Alex Cobham12th May 2015

Oil reform in Nigeria: The ups and downs of channel-hopping programme delivery

How much do we really know about what 'thinking and working politically' can achieve – and where it might present dangers – in challenging political and sectoral contexts?

Opinion by Joanna Buckley27th July 2017

Anthropology and elites: 'Studying up', politically

The parallels between - and ethical dilemmas of - anthropology's focus on context and international development's ‘thinking and working politically’ concept. 

Opinion by Paul Robert Gilbert10th March 2016

Transparency and Accountability: learning through collaboration

How can the impact of transparency and accountability work be deepened? 

Opinion by Brendan Halloran10th June 2014

Innovation: transactional or transformative?

It's time to discuss how the word 'innovation' might mean different things to different audiences. 

Opinion by Chris Roche23rd March 2015

Inclusive political settlements: who and what gets included?

DLP hosted a day-long high level introductory workshop on political settlements in June. This post introduces a series that showcases the contributions of researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

Opinion by Alina Rocha Menocal13th July 2015

Do donors have realistic expectations of their staff when it comes to 'thinking and working politically'?

Is learning to ‘think politically’ like learning a new language? 

Opinion by Heather Marquette9th June 2014

Fixing aid: we can't turn off the tap at the first sign of corruption

Much 'petty' corruption is about the poor using what little power they have to stave off destitution. (Guest post for The Conversation)

Opinion by Heather Marquette10th November 2014

Education, development, and the problem with consensus

Why rethink the international consensus on 'quality basic education for development'?

Opinion by Michele Schweisfurth7th April 2014

Thinking about women and girls makes development work better for everyone

A look at what happens when gender analysis is placed more squarely at the heart of governance work. (Guest post in The Conversation)

Opinion by Orlanda Ward7th March 2017

Security and justice – the mismatch between policy and practice

What hinders more politically nuanced security and justice programming?

Opinion by Shivit Bakrania21st July 2014

Higher education in the post-2015 agenda: proof that it matters

Taking stock of recent research evidence that shows how higher education can feed into political stability and civil engagement.

Opinion by Susy Ndaruhutse11th September 2014

Identifying rebels with a cause (and effect)

The Developmental Leadership Program will host its 2016 Annual Conference at La Trobe University in Melbourne on 8 February. Its theme is Power, politics and positive deviance.

Opinion by Chris Roche1st December 2015