RTI implemented the USAID/Nigeria Leadership, Empowerment, Advocacy, and Development (LEAD) project to achieve collaborative, locally owned solutions for better governance and service delivery in targeted states in Nigeria. Over nine years, our approach focused on empowering and building partnerships between state and local governments, civil society and the private sector. LEAD interventions took place in the Nigerian states of Bauchi, Sokoto, Rivers and Kano and attained significant results across the project’s three main objectives:
- Strengthening governance capacity at the state and local levels and increase the transparency of their operations
- Strengthening capacity of local organizations
- Improving service delivery in basic education and strengthening the health system.
LEAD’s results in Nigeria show how integrated governance programming can improve service delivery across sectors, promote systems that are sustainable and self-reliant, and ensure efficient allocation of resources. But what’s most important is not achieving these improvements—it’s ensuring that they’re sustainable. And building capacity at the local level is the key to sustainability. That is why LEAD focused on empowering local government officials and local civil society leaders to develop and disseminate locally-created best practices to solve the problems facing their districts and citizens.
LEAD’s integrated approach across sectors and stakeholder groups facilitated Nigerian-owned solutions that have improved governance and service delivery, and position Nigeria for continued success in its journey to self-reliance.
Sustainable, locally driven results
An impact assessment by the independent development Research and Projects Center (dRPC) surveying local government officials, civil society leaders and community members found the following benefits:
- LEAD facilitated a shift in the relationship between citizens and local government authorities (LGAs) from one of indifference and disengagement to one of engagement and partnership
- Citizens felt more informed and engaged
- Citizens felt that government transparency and accountability were improved.
In other words, LEAD worked. This transformation was fueled by LEAD’s adherence to its core objectives, which provided a strong return on investment in the form of sustainable, quantifiable, improvements in services.
One of the project’s biggest measures of success was helping more than 600,000 Nigerians gain access to potable drinking water. In just the fourth year of the project, LEAD provided access to potable drinking water to 130,000 people or 216 percent of that year’s target of 60,000 people.
This achievement illustrates the importance of adaptive programming and locally owned solutions. Originally, LEAD was tasked to work with LGAs to drill new boreholes to increase access to water. However, it was discovered that lack of access was not because of too few boreholes, but due to improper maintenance of the existing boreholes. LEAD empowered local community structures to take on this problem by training Ward Development Committees on repair and maintenance. Five years later, with no support from the project, these Committees live on under local leadership.
Strengthening local governance, empowering local communities
LEAD enhanced the management and leadership capacity of local government, including by training nearly 6,000 local government officials. By the fifth year of the project, LEAD provided assistance to nine times the number of subnational entities required in the life of the project. LEAD also helped LGAs enact fiscal responsibility and procurement transparency laws, set community-based priorities, develop service and revenue improvement plans, and conduct state-level monitoring and evaluation. LGA budgets are now compliant with International Public Sector Accounting Standards, better known as IPSAS.
LEAD also engaged citizens and empowered them to participate more actively in local governance. Through LEAD, communities are working with 26 LGAs on budget priority setting, and, from 2013 to 2017, communities are working on 1,200 citizen-prioritized projects were included in LGA budgets. Additionally, LEAD built a dialogue with state-level actors about legislative changes that provided more citizen access to information and local decision-making, creating greater transparency of local government operations. Overall, LEAD provided support for nearly 1,000 local organizations, giving citizens a platform to engage with their governments on service delivery improvements.