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Niger Delta Watch 2015

2014-2015

Summary

This project sought to leverage the opportunities of the internet and digital activism, as well as on-the-ground observation, to foster a freer, fairer, and more credible 2015 election in Nigeria. On the digital front, a dedicated interactive website was created to map political (e.g. vote buying) and social (e.g. violence) events leading up to, during, and after the election. Crowd-sourcing information was possible via mobile phone texts, imported as reports to the website, creating a rapid reporting network of ‘citizen journalism’ throughout the Niger Delta. Merging mobile phone technology with the website also made possible for people living in remote areas of the creeks to contribute, where an internet connection was often unavailable. The Niger Delta Watch 2015 website was designed to facilitate a quick response to confirmed events, and serve as a centralised data resource for civil society organisations (CSOs) to highlight issues and advocate for an improved response. Reports from a team of election observers across Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers States helped to substantiate crowdsourced text-reports, and, together, informed a series of 11 election eNewsletters to brief key stakeholders on emerging issues to focus on before they escalate.

Aims

The goals of this project were to improve the freedom, fairness, and credibility of elections by increasing the transparency of government in core Niger Delta states, highlighting issues to focus on before they escalate, and amplifying the voice of local communities, including in remote areas.

Key activities

  • Built and maintained a Niger Delta Watch 2015 website dedicated to hosting crowd-sourced, mobile text-fed reports of election issues and plotting these on a map.
  • Supported CSOs to use data on the Niger Delta Watch 2015 website to highlight issues and advocate for an improved response.
  • Trained and fielded a team of election observers to inform a series of 11 election reports.
  • Organised a public Governorship debate in Rivers State, based on manifesto pledges.

Context

Since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigeria, and particularly the Niger Delta region, has suffered acute disenfranchisement, violence, and electoral malpractice around election periods. The repeat of this experience (or a perception of it) can lead to frustration, fear, disengagement, and ultimately, apathy in the Governorship and Presidential election.

While competition in politics is healthy, in Nigeria this has fostered a political climate that is often populist, reactionary, and combative towards political opponents. Political debate centres around a contest of personalities and factional interests, rather than differences in manifestos to address long-standing issues in the Niger Delta. The focus on personalities has been fuelled by vast patronage networks maintained by corrupt politicians using oil ‘rents’ (wealth) derived from the huge quantities of oil extracted from the Niger Delta. This wealth should instead be funnelled towards addressing the multiple development needs in Nigeria and in communities impacted by oil extraction.

As a result, manifestos, although commonplace, suffer from low-commitment and excessively broad content—and are so similar to one another that rival parties often accuse each other of copying the content of their manifestos. Consequently, citizens have little record of what their politicians pledge, and even less to hold them to account against. The repeated experience of this cycle, with poor governance between elections, has led to a large section of society in the Niger Delta growing increasingly disengaged from demanding that pressing issues are addressed, and their constitutional rights upheld.


Project resources

Funders and Partners

Published: 11.12.2019