On the 1st of January of 2012 while Nigerians were still on holidays, the federal government announced casually that it was removing subsidies on petrol thereby effectively increasing the price of Nigeria’s most essential product and driving a corresponding sharp rise in the cost of living. The government took this decision alone even after it had promised that it will consult broadly as it seeks ways to more efficiently manage the subsidies which had become a major source of corruption and economic drain.
A group of community organizers and activists held the view that the action of the government amounted to unjustly transferring the cost of its ineptitude in managing the petrol subsidies, to citizens. Given the significance of petrol to the Nigerian economy where electricity to drive businesses and sustain households is generated privately mostly using petrol generators, it was obvious that the action of government will result in serious economic pressure on Nigerians. This group of community organizer and activists congregated under the name We the People, directly derived from the opening pages of the Nigerian constitution, with the objective of expanding the civic engagement space and ensuring that the government rethinks its position. We the People supported mobilization across the country through literature development and popular conversations.
Long after that first successful collaboration, the group remained active in engaging government policies and pushing for a more open and just Nigerian society. In 2017, We the People became registered as nongovernmental organization in Nigeria with the name Centre for Social Studies and Development, RC.99913.
Goal, Mission, Vision and Objectives
Goal: To create an open and free society founded on a contemporary Social Contract
Mission: To uphold and enforce the Social Contract with every Campaign
Vision: A just society founded on the principles of a citizen driven Social Contract
• To create and promote civil spaces for community engagement
• to analyze government and private sector policies and promote viable alternatives
• To promote the accountability of public institutions to all stakeholders
Community Centered: We hold strongly to the view that our first responsibility is to the community of citizens which our campaigns and interventions serve. All our actions must be tailored to serve their interests first.
The People First: We believe that NGOs cannot replace the role of citizens in extracting the social contract from duty bearers. We believe that our role is to support communities of citizens as they demand for the fulfilment of the Social Contract and not to replace them in that engagement.
We Develop Together: We do not develop solutions looking for problems. We are connected with our partners. Together we define the problem and craft the solution as a team.
We Work Efficiently: We work in an efficient and prudent manner. For us value form money is as important as the results we achieve.
We have Integrity and Dignity: In our campaigns and interventions; and in our dealings with partners’ we uphold the highest level of integrity and dignity not only when it is convenient, but especially when it is not.
We are Innovative: We continually seek innovative and creative ways to make our interventions more impactful.
Equality of Persons: We believe in the unreserved equality of all humans irrespective of gender, (dis)ability, ethnicity or religion. In our activities we reinforce this value through affirmative action.
Why We Are
We the People- Centre for Social Studies and Development was established to provide platforms and spaces for citizens, especially those at the vulnerable end of often negative government/private sector policies, to protect their social, political and economic rights. CSSD supports communities of citizens with tools, skills, networks, and alternatives as they project their voices and interests against negative government, and private sector policies and practices.
CSSD aims to research and identify best practices and alternative frameworks which respects the rights of community people, protects their livelihoods, conserves their environment and promotes their existence. CSSD works in solidarity with communities to identify, plan and carry out solutions crafted by them and tailored to address their own unique needs.
How we work
• Through building collaborations and solidarity among citizens and citizens’ organizations, we work to create productive synergies and amplify citizen voices in the management of affairs that affects them. This happens through popular engagements such as protests, community led advocacy and awareness.
• Through strategic trainings, We the People deploys valuable social change skills to its partners which enables them better advocate and engage on issues of social, political and economic values to them.
• Working with affected communities, We the People carries out research into issues of concern to its target stakeholders, and develops informed analysis and alternative courses of action and policy frameworks.
• We the People works to identify and project community stake in key social, economic and political considerations of the government and private companies.
• In collaboration with stake-holding communities, We the People uses traditional and alternative media platforms to amplify community and citizen issues and voices towards generating widespread attention and action.
Our Team and Experience
We the People is structured around an experienced and carefully selected 5-person Board of Trustees, 8 committed Staff members and 11 Volunteers. The staff members have long histories spanning decade of work around important issues of social transformation including public finance accountability, human rights advocacy, climate change and environment as well as democracy and governance. Our Volunteers are selected from ranks of young activists with passion for our different areas of work.
To ensure that We the People taps from its vast network of partners and supporters, an Expert Advisory Committee is established to support the organization in its different areas of intervention. The Committee consist of 14 experts in different fields relevant to the work of We the People. They include media practitioners, lawyers, environmentalists, a university professor, a financial analyst, a labour unionist, an accountant and an energy policy expert. Members of this Committee support project teams with professional ideas and insight as they develop and implement interventions.
Our Areas of Work
Human Rights- Rights are at the core of the work of We the People. Our human rights work has two components, Human rights education and Human rights intervention.
In human rights education, we develop creative resources to educate different social segments on their rights and how to protect them. Our Human rights outreach programme targets particular economic or social segments of the society with human rights education. In the past we have developed resources and targeted road transporters who are routinely abuses by the police.
Our Human rights intervention programme reaches out to persons whose rights have been abused to ensure that they get justice.
Transparency and Accountability- We the People is passionate about ensuring that citizens receive the maximum benefit from public resources. We work to ensure that there is transparency, accountability and prudence in the management of public resources. Our intervention in this regard has two important components- an Open Budget Campaign aimed at ensuring openness and participation in the development of state and local government budgets and an Anti-Corruption Campaign aimed at raising the bar against corruption and mobilizing citizens to take actions against it.
Climate and Energy- We the People works with communities that are already at the receiving ends of the negative effects of climate change, whether in the form of increased flood patterns, changing agricultural seasons or poorly implemented climate change mitigation programmes. We the People works to ensure that communities are central to climate change adaptation and mitigation programmes and their rights are not violated through those schemes.
We the People believes that access to electric energy to power homes and businesses is a human right. We work to achieve an energy policy that is just and ensures equal access to all. We are committed to ensuring an energy regime that is not only affordable but also based on clean and renewables sources.
Creating and protecting Civic Spaces- Globally the space for civil society and civic engagement is shrinking. In Nigeria, that space is closing at an accelerated rate. From bans on demonstrations to legislative attempts to regulate civil society organizations and restrict access to the internet. We the People works to ensure that the civic space is protected and expanded, and that the right of citizens to engage is upheld.