Opaqueness in the Energy Sector Remains a Major Challenge to Any Reforms Efforts

The Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR), the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) and the University of Ibadan Leadership convened this policy dialogue forum dubbed “Utafiti Sera Stakeholder Feedback Forum” to share the findings of the study with key stakeholders in the energy sub-sector. The convening was an opportunity to exchange views, ideas and obtain feedback on our findings.

The half-day forum was designed as a knowledge-sharing and stakeholder-learning event for the study team led by PASGR and IDS, as well as development and policy practitioners and other stakeholders involved in similar study/work in Nigeria. They openly discussed and critiqued the findings of our study and shared policy options for various stakeholders informed by our findings. Significantly, convening allowed us to interact with the potential users of the research specifically those on the energy subsector, members of the civil society, the media and the government, members of the press and academics researching this.

Led by Professor Ayobami Ojebode, Professor of Development Communication, University of Ibadan, and Dr. Martin Atela, Research and Policy Manager, PASGR, the findings of the study whose main focus was to find out the reasons labour unions and activists haven’t been able to lead Nigerians successfully towards fuel subsidy protests, and to bring out lessons on how to lead people on a volatile issue like energy protest.

The research involved interviews with different key informants, Focus Discussion Groups, event catalogues of ten years and popular media depiction of fuel crises in Nigeria.

“Fuel prices affect everything, If the price goes up, everything goes up,” Prof. Ayobami Ojebode said while presenting the findings to the caucus. He further noted that a number of respondents saw fuel subsidy as a social contract between the government and the citizens as much as the government subsidises fuel.

What was clear from the discussions was that there is a growing understanding that evidence is available, but this does not translate to implementation of policy and initiatives informed by that evidence. Lessons from previous protests showed that there’s “lack of trust between the for labour leaders and a feeling of betrayal.

” Research is not linear and evidence may change, thus the need to involve various stakeholders. This will improve the chance that evidence gathered from the research will be able to influence policy making,” Dr. Martin Atela said while giving his opening remarks.

The use of scientific evidence to inform policy decision-making in is crucial due to the transformation sweeping across Africa. However, there is recognition that Africa is still lagging when it comes to evidence use to inform policy and program processes. One of the reasons that have been documented to this lack of evidence use is a lack of capacity to do so.

It is for this reason, that PASGR partnered with Centre for African Bio-Entrepreneurship (CABE, Kenya), Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP, Kenya), Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR, Rwanda) LEAP Africa (Nigeria) and Pamoja Trust (Kenya) to device a model to bridge the gap between evidence and policy processes. The model is called “Utafiti Sera,” a Swahili word for “research policy.” The Utafiti Sera model builds a community of researchers and policy actors working together to ensure that appropriate and negotiated policy actions and uptake occur around issues for which evidence has been provided.

Dr. Atela further added that, Utafiti Sera creates a safe space, a market place or a forum for evidence produced; and, it also helps to create an environment where all parties are treated equally, acknowledging their importance and not looking at one party, say an academic one, as more important.

“Struggles over energy access in fragile settings research Programme is an international study that explored how, as well as the circumstances under which struggles over energy access in fragile and conflict-affected settings empower the powerless to hold public authorities to account,” said Professor John Gaventa, Director, Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) programme.

More research is needed into contextual factors to better understand what lies behind energy access struggles, he added.

One of the participants said that the presentation is an eye opener in several areas. “For example, there needs to be transparency on where the subdisies go,” he further stated.

Taiwo Ajakaye, one of the participants said that we should keep finding a better way to push for what we want until we get it.