Fake civil society, rise of pro-govt. NGOs undermining democracy in Nigeria – US think-tank

A report by United States-based think-tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has said Nigeria’s top power brokers have cultivated a new generation of pro-government Non-Governmental Organisations, (NGOs), which, according to it, masquerade as authentic civil society groups, singing the praises of top officials and attacking their critics.

The report, conducted by a non-resident scholar at the institution, Matthew T. Page, published on Monday, in its website, noted that Nigeria’s dynamic and expansive civil society is one of its greatest strengths and is crucial to maintaining what democratic space still exists in the country, but its independence, outspokenness, and unwavering commitment to democracy, transparency, and human rights have long antagonized the kleptocratic, power-hungry—but also image-conscious—ruling elites.

According to it, to help protect themselves from domestic pressure and outside scrutiny, Nigeria’s top powerbrokers have cultivated a new generation of pro-government non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the fake grassroots groups bankrolled by past military juntas.

The surrogate organisations, it said, masquerade as authentic civil society groups, singing the praises of top officials and attacking their critics.

The report, among other things, said part of the key takeaways from its findings, is that of 360 pro-government Nigerian NGOs identified, 90 percent have started operating since President Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015, noting that the correlation suggests that these groups receive high-level support and encouragement.

Many of the groups, it said, are controlled by a small number of individuals who have personal and ethnic connections to Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The report noted that this trend implies that pro-government NGOs’ rhetoric emboldens political and military leaders who behave counterproductively, undermining domestic and international efforts to encourage the Buhari administration to govern more effectively and humanely.

As part of its recommendations, the report called on Nigeria’s mainstream media outlets to conduct more due diligence when covering previously unknown civil society groups and refuse inducements to attend their events or place stories about them, even as it called on relevant stakeholders to do more to call out pro-government groups’ toxic behaviors and press their high-level backers to stop sponsoring them.

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