Nigerian lobbyists use old and new

September 6, 2002

When the University of Ibadan announced recently that it could no longer pay salaries or pensions to retired staff because of a lack of funds, the Nigerian government, under pressure from the media, promised to increase its grant.

Vice-chancellors of other universities met quickly and decided to make similar representations. The strategy worked. Now, thanks to the lobbying of the vice-chancellors, there are plans to improve the financial situation of all universities.

The committee of vice-chancellors is the main university lobbying organisation. It meets regularly with the country's president and state governors to lobby for more funds for teaching, research and staff pay.

But in a country with strong traditions, chiefs are often called in by government agencies and trade unions to resolve disputes. "Their intervention becomes crucial when the universities are closed down during prolonged strike actions," Kudiratu Saliou, lecturer in ethnography at the University of Madiguri, said.

"They are lobbied by warring parties who, in closed-door meetings, present their own side of the case with a view to winning the traditional chiefs to their cause. However, these chiefs end up as mediators and peace-makers."

Other groups act informally on behalf of the universities. The various alumni associations are influential lobbyists. Members in the private and public sectors often exert subtle pressure on the government over policies affecting universities.

And the staff unions, too, have a considerable influence on the country's politicians.

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