The Impact Of Public Opinion On Public Policy In Nigeria: An Appraisal Of 2010-2012

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

The Impact Of Public Opinion On Public Policy In Nigeria: An Appraisal Of 2010-2012


This research work that analysis on the impact of public opinion on public policy in Nigeria from 2010-2012 while narrowing it down to the economic policy of deregulation or fuel subsidy removal of 2012. Broadly divided into five chapters, the work breakdown how governmental decisions are being influenced by the opinions of the people in the democracy of Nigeria. History had it that before the discovery of oil, agriculture gave Nigeria about 70% of her income until now oil has earned Nigeria a higher foreign income. Hence, this work fills the gap and age answers to questions on whether public policies are products of public opinion, the impact of public opinion on public policies and if the deregulation is a solution to poverty and underdevelopment. The system theory became the theoretical framework which deals on policy input and policy out put. A historical analysis was made on the topic was made, while the effect of public opinion on public policies were also discovered. Policies for managing poverty and underdevelopment were broken-down in the work. At the end, the work gives an insight and explains the reasons behind policy making in Nigeria and also gave possible solutions to the issue.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Since independence in 1960 in Nigeria, different governments have embrace on one programme or another. The research work is to examine the activities of the public opinion on public policy from 2010-2012, hence, narrowing it down to an economic reform policy of the deregulation of the downstream oil sector in Nigeria, also known as the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria. Nigeria is a democratic nation. One of the principles of democracy is the operation of fundamental human rights, which of allows for the freedom of speech, which is on the view of the majority, influencing governmental decisions. Public policy as applied to politics is seen as a statement xii of a principle with their supporting rules of action, that conditions and governs the achievement of their goals. Government usually engages in different programmes, as the government is the authoritative body because they are backed up by the law. Government also has both power and authority to execute their duties and also ensure compliance. These programes are directed towards solving a particular programmes or preempting them. Therefore, programmes are not just mode for fun of making them, they are made to solve the societal needs. They entail the expenditure of public funds. Before colonialization, the economies of the different kingdoms that now constitute the Nigeria political entity were based on agriculture. Since independence in 1960, the role of agriculture in the economy of Nigeria has been on the downward trend with regards to its contribution to GDP. Its share to GDP fell from 61.5% in 1963/1964 to 14.6% in 1983. This has been partly due to the xiii emergence of oil-Reynolds (1975) argued that agricultural development can promote economic development of the underdeveloped countries in four different ways: 1. By increasing the supply of food available for domestic consumption and realizing the needed labour for industrial employment. 2. By enlarging the size of the domestic market for the manufacturing sectors. 3. By increasing the supply of domestic savings 4. By providing the foreign exchange earned by agricultural exports. Since the discovery of oil, which earns us our foreign exchange, agriculture has been abandoned. Exploration for crude petroleum oil in Nigeria first began in 1980. But serious and sustained efforts did not happen until shell Darcy petroleum Company commenced operations in 1935. It took this company more twenty years to discover petroleum crude oil in xiv commercial quantities in Oloibiri in 1956. Nevertheless, oil price has never been satiable in the country as successive governments keep adjusting the price upwards beyond the affordability of the common citizens of the oil producing country. Like in the price of petroleum products is a global phenomena problem in the international market. Specifically, oil prices in Nigeria have been on a continuous increase since the beginning of 2004 and this has happened despite the organization of petroleum Exporting countries (OPEC) increase in its oil out put. Earlier in 2004, the run up in oil price was attributed to surging demand for petroleum products due to global economy. Then, it was the unrest in Nigeria. Concerning the security of oil, supplies have heightened more recently. Nigeria is the sixth oil producing nation in the world. xv The subsidy removal on fuel has increase the price of oil. In the past, the increase in price occurred mostly in the extent of disruption to oil supply. Now, the deregulation policy has heightened the price of oil disruption of oil supply. There is concern the current step rise in the price of oil as a result of the removal of subsidy on fuel could have an adverse impact on the Nigeria economy; that is currently on road to recovery and expansion. When oil is expensive, people try to use less of it. They may reduce the amount they derive on reduce the temperature to which they heat their houses, which their minor economies will have little or nothing on consumption Higher have less money to spend on other things. This reduces because most goods and services the consumer would have bought have required the use of oil for their production and delivery. If higher oil prices reduce consumer demand very much manufacturers and retails will find that their profits suffer and that they xvi have surplus capacity. They will therefore, deter their plans for expansion. This will result in very large energy savings because work is energy intensive. The concept of public policy can be seen as simply governmental actions or course to proposed actions that are directed to achieving goals (Ikelugbo 1999). Care Fredrick (1980) defined it as government or one of its divisions by government. The main idea of public policy is that it has to do with the government. It is an action or sets of actions taken by public authorities, it is the out put or production of governmental process and activtieyt. Public involves and affects the wide verity of areas and issues with which government have to do such as the economy, education, health, defence, social welfare, foreign affairs as well as other areas like culture. Sometimes, the government adopts the state coercive agencies like the police to enforce and ensure compliance of policies. Also these coercive agencies end up loosing xvii their lives in the course of ensuring compliance. A case study is in Ilorin, Kwara state a police officer and a youth were feared dead. Their death occurred during a violent demonstration by the youths that engaged the youths and police into a tow hours fight, throwing missiles which led to the use of live bullets by the police. The subsidy removal on fuel is an economic policy. Nigeria adopted several economic policies for development. The introduction of economic reform programmes started after her independence in 1960. During this period, Niger derived to embark on a programme for development, which they saw its importance for gaining economic independence especially. Still at that, the past colonial masters of Nigeria still control the affairs of the nation. While the past-independent leaders sort assistance from them for development. This was done through the iprotation of industrial technology amongst others, while the assisting xviii countries will give out their conditions. And any developing country like Nigeria that will not submit to the scheme of economic demands or conditions of those aiding them or will not accept their advice and control, usually, will have little choice of developing. The economic policy have been seen or have given the impression that it is a policy which has been influenced by the western countries or foreign investors based on their interest in the country‘s oil; another way the westerns want to dominate Nigeria again. This has elicited stiff resistance by the Nigeria public through labour unrest and mass protest. This study therefore, attempts to assess the impact of public opinion on public policy in Nigeria, using the deregulation of the downstream oil sector or oil subsidy removal as our analytical focus.

1.2 Statement of the Problems

It is obvious that the present democratic rule in Nigeria has witnessed increase price increase of petroleum products more than during the past military administrations. Since independence, successive governments in Nigeria have embark on various policies geared towards developing their country. The first development plan was carried out during the ear of Abubakr Tafawa Belewa (1962-1968), the second was during the era of General Yakubu Gowon (1970-1974), the third was during the era of General Murtala Mohammed (1975-1980), Green Revolution by the government of General Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari 91981-1985) carried out the operation Feed the Nation Policy (OFN), War Against Indiscipline (WAI) was carried out by the government of general Mohammed Buhari in 1989, General Ibrahim Babangida carried out the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) between 1990and 1992, General Sani xx Abacha carried out the policy on War Against indiscipline and Corruption in 1997. At the advert of democratic rule in 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo embarked on economic reform pregramme, encapsulated in the privatization, liberalization and deregulation programmes. Not withstanding, these array of programmes, Nigeria is still looking for a better way for advancement and development as none of these economic reforms of the country. Deregulation of the downstream sector started during Obasanjo‘s regime as an economic told that will enhance or foster development. This was justified on the grand that the downstream sector or the oil sector is riddled with corruption as a result of mismanagement and ineffiency. Same Nigerians especially the political observes see it as a good step that will save Nigeria from her present economic problems. Other see it as a means where by few xxi people will benefit, which a large number pf the citizens will not, instead, it will be detriment to them. To some scholars also, it is a channel for development while other sees it as a new way or means of penetrating and exploiting Nigeria by the western world. None has however emphasized the role of public opinion in influencing the formulation or abrogation of public policies to assuage the yearning of the populace. This research work therefore attempts to fill this gap to the extent liter by seeking answers to the following questions:

  1. Are public policies in Nigeria a product of public opinion?
  2. To what extent has public opinion impacted on public policies in Nigeria?
  3. Is the deregulation of the down stream oil sector a panacea to poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

This work is channeled at the critical examination and analysis of the impact of public opinion on public policy.

Specifically, the study intends to:-

  1. To ascertain if public policies in Nigeria are products public opinion.
  2. To ascertain the impact of public opinion in public policies in Nigeria.
  3. To determine if the deregulation of the downstream oil sector is a panacea to poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria.

1.4 Significance of the Study

Recently in Nigeria, public policies have affected the lives of the Nigerian people. The work optimistically will be of great value to the contributors of literature on policy formulation in Nigeria. Therefore, it is to inspire and guide researchers who in the future want to enroll in more studies. This work will help policy makers and executors to consider their nation while attempting to make policies in Nigeria as well as other nations. With this, it is believed that the study will contribute to the economic, political, educational, social development of Nigeria, hence beneficial to the Nigeria public.

1.5 Statement of Hypotheses

Drawing from the forgoing, the study will be enriched in the following:

  1. Public policies in Nigeria are produces of public opinion.
  2. Public opinion seems to influence public policies in Nigeria.
  3. Deregulation policy may aggravate poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The research work is on the fuel subsidy policy or the deregulation of the downstream oil sector that was adopted by the federal government of Nigeria, to take effect from January 1, 2012. Though the policy took effect on the given date, the work is the therefore to examine on the impact of the policy on the lives of Nigeria masses as well as the problem of the policy.

1.7 Definition of Terms


The act or process of removing or reducing state regulations.


A benefit given by the government, usually in form of a cash payment or reduction.

Public Policy:

A system of laws, regulatory measures, course of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a government entity on its representatives.

Multi National Companies:

A corporation that has its facilities and other assets in at least one country that its home country. Such companies have offices and/or factories in different countries and usually have a centralized head office where they co-ordinate global management. Very large multi nationals have budgets that exceed those of small countries. And most times, they come inform of foreign investors.

Underdeveloped or Less developed Countries (LDCS):

Consist of the countries of the third world of Africa, Asia and lain America that are referred to as agricultural because they rely on agriculture and have little or no industries, for manufacturing. Characterized with:

  • Economic. Financial, technological and cultural dependency.
  • Lots of import substitution industries which depend on external resources.
  • Poverty
  • High level of child mortality
  • Unemployment
  • Political instability
  • Malnutrition
Developed Countries:

They are also known as the advances countries of Europe and Western America. They are called industrialized countries because of their advanced technology. They are often characterized by the following:

  • High level of employment
  • Self-reliance
  • Independent control of economy
  • Self-sufficiency in food production.
  • Increase in the ability to guard national independence Economic

It is a guideline, used in the economic development of a nation. Example, Structural lii Adjustment programme (SAP), deregulation of the downstream oil sector etc.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the impact of public opinion on public policy in Nigeria.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the public opinion on public policy.

5.2 Summary

There is no doubt that it is proper “that governors shall seek out popular opinion, that they shall give it weight, if not the determinative voice in decision, and that the persons outside the government have a right to be heard” (Key, 2006). But as pointed out earlier, in Nigeria, the governors hardly seek or accept popular opinion which is contrary to theirs-and Nigerians outside the government are rarely heard. In the opinion-making process, three main groups of “publics” have been identified; they are: the mass public: this is the largest public, but the least capable of articulating coherent opinions on public policy or exercising any influence on governmental decisions or policies.

Members of this public lack the informational and evaluative resources necessary to adequately comprehend the complexities of public policy; the attentive or interested public: this is smaller in size than the mass public, but it plays a far more decisive and consistent role in opinion formation and policy formulation. Members of this public are educated, informed, and highly motivated participants in public affairs; and the opinion-elite or opinion-making public: this group is made up of the confirmed or recognized opinion leaders in the country. These are those persons who, because of their social position, communication resources, organizational ability and political leverage, are able to exert a strong influence on public moods as well as public policy.

The main difference between the last two publics is that although both are informed and interested in public affairs, the latter has the additional quality of having a more or less direct access to the centres of decision making in the society (Suberu, 1991). It is appropriate to state that majority of Nigerians belong to the mass public, and they do not have the requisite competence and financial resources to influence the policy-making process. Apart from the fact that different governments in Nigeria have always been unresponsive and insensitive to the people’s yearnings, to the vast majority of the population (who are mostly poor and uneducated), the phrases “public opinion” and “policy-making” mean very little or nothing.

5.3 Conclusion

It is pertinent to say that public opinion and public policy has a symbiotic relationship as most public policy is hinged on the potency and efficacy of public outcry. Policy representation is likely limited more by a parliamentary rather than presidential system. In the latter, Congress can act to correct errors made by the executive, whereas in the Nigeria presidential system there is in most case extreme separation of power as the senate president is at the helm of affairs of the upper house. And thus enjoys considerable amount of freedom. Policy representation is likely also limited by public responsiveness. This responsiveness is the critical incentive for representation, but it requires a clear ‘policy signal’; in order to react to policy change, the public needs to be able to identify that policy change.

The likelihood that citizens can identify policy change is lessened considerably by federalism. Where there are multiple governments making policy in the same domains, spending funds that are often transferred from one level of government to another, the capacity to monitor or respond to government activities is likely reduced. This problem is not unique to Nigeria, but this is a country for which the dampening effect of institutions on the opinion-policy link may be especially great. (Recall that the particularly complicated system of concurrent legislative powers in many Nigerian policy domains likely makes the ‘policy signal’ especially confusing.) This is not to say that Nigeria is not a functioning democracy, of course. It surely is. But the efficiency with which preferences are converted to policy, and policy change is then reflected in preferences, is diminished when compared to countries where policymaking authority is more concentrated.

5.4 Recommendations

There is no standard, formats or universal solution to Government policy formulation and implementation as any public policy adopted or implemented depends on the impact of the institutional arrangement of the government and the acceptability of the public. It is important to know which condition made a public policy feasible and how this policy changes will affect the life of the people and its environment. To this end, the problem of public policy formulation is amongst the most difficult task that individuals, business organizations, governments and nations faces in determining the best policy(s), its implementation and the difficulty of deciding which issue(s) should the policy address. Government should therefore handle the issue of policy formulation and implementation with caution so as not to make a costly mistake as it is difficult to reverse a policy after implementation.
Government should not also implement policy based on public opinion as some crowed could be politically motivated to achieved the objective of few selfish individuals.

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