When disconnected institutions serve connected publics: subnational legislatures and digital public engagement in Nigeria, an article co-authored by CDE PhD student Temitayo Odeyemi and Omomayowa Olawale Abati, has been published in The Journal of Legislative Studies.
The article is available to read at Taylor & Francis online.
Nigerians are more active online today than at any time in the country’s history. A significant portion of their online activities relate to political conversations wherein they discuss and assess (rightly or wrongly) the activities and performance of political actors and public institutions. These, ideally, should also influence how institutions and actors perform their activities and carry out their mandates. There is an expectation that institutions are able to promote engagement with the public by making information available, and generally trying to connect with the people, as the ultimate end users of public services and supposed kingmakers of the polity. Is it the case that public institutions running on tax payers money are very open, accessible and inclusive? More than any other government institution, the legislature, as the voice of the people, is expected to connect with the people and online technologies make this easier and cheaper. But are the various legislative houses in Nigeria optimising this? We take on this important question in our article.
We focused on the 36 Houses of Assembly in Nigeria in the light of recent debates on ‘restructuring’, ‘devolution’, e.t.c., aimed at granting more powers and resources to the subnational levels, as well as ‘financial autonomy’ for the various assemblies. How prepared are the assemblies to leverage technologies in serving as citizens’ plug to democratic governance and development across the states? We assessed the parliamentary websites as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts of the assemblies and also interacted with relevant officials. Our findings are contextualised within global best practices in legislative digital engagement and compared with resources available to the states, the level of internet users in each, how long the assemblies had existed, literacy rates and the ages of the presiding Speakers (to see if younger Speakers are more likely to drive engagement initiatives).