The Politics of Pro-Poor Service Delivery: Insights from Nigeria's Conditional Grant Scheme to Local Government Areas

  • Bala Yusuf

Student thesis: Phd


The Politics of Pro-Poor Service Delivery: Insights from Nigeria’s Conditional Grant Scheme to Local Government Areas Abstract This thesis provides an analysis of the politics of the design and implementation of Nigeria’s Conditional Grant Scheme to Local Government Areas (CGS to LGAs) through the lenses of elite commitment and state capacity. The study employs Brinkerhoff’s (2000) and Fukuyama’s (2013) analytical frameworks for elite commitment and state capacity respectively. Utilising a process tracing methodology, this thesis reveals the complexity faced by attempts to improve service delivery to poor people in difficult governance contexts. Through detailed case study work, the study finds that the CGS to LGAs scheme was well resourced, well-designed in technical terms and was politically savvy, as it sought to ‘partly go with the grain’ of Nigerian institutions, rather than promote an ‘ideal’ model. Initially, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) made considerable progress in the entire Debt Relief Gains (DRG) implementation, but sustaining such progress requires the continued commitment of political and bureaucratic elites along the implementation chain. At the local level, the scheme partially achieved its goals, as in Guri LGA, where a development coalition comprising of the state governor, the LGA chairman and benefitting communities, was able to seize the opportunity to increase spending and improve the capacity of the LGA to deliver health and education services. The reforms were less effective in other areas, such as Mashi LGA, where contextual factors, especially elite capture and high turnover of bureaucrats undermined reforms. Ultimately, changes in the national political leadership (through democratic process) affected the governance reforms. Specifically, the emergence of patronage politics in the overall management of the CGS to LGAs scheme ensured reforms were not sustained and resources became thinly distributed. Thus, contrary to the view that capacity is exogenous to commitment and should precede it, our evidence shows that capacity without commitment does not deliver the expected outcomes. Indeed, in the absence of political elites’ commitment, existing bureaucratic capacity may be weakened. Relatedly, in the absence of genuine commitment to top-down accountability, fiscal decentralisation – theorised to improve service delivery for the poor – can lead to elite capture. Paradoxically, democratic process, hypothesised to increase transparency and accountability, weakened accountability of the US$1 billion per annum of DRG/CGS to LGAs implementation in Nigeria.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Hulme (Supervisor) & Admos Chimhowu (Supervisor)


  • Development governance
  • State capacity
  • Service delivery
  • Elite commitment

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