Behind Ford’s Grant to the Nigerian Police

The Nigeria Police Force has over a dozen specialized sections to deal with specific criminal activities such as homicide and human trafficking. But in a country that has among the highest levels of gender-based violence in the world, why isn't there a focus in this area? Apparently, the Ford Foundation asked the same question and responded with a $300,000 capacity building grant earmarked for a project to help the Nigeria Police Force address gender-based violence and related offenses.

Even though $300,000 is a decent chunk of money in Nigeria, this new Ford-financed program looks like it may be long slog from laying the groundwork to actual effective implementation.

The Nigeria Police Force has been plagued with controversy and corruption for years. Amnesty International released a report in 2014 that made it sound like more like a paramilitary organization—one that engaged in torture, collusion with criminals, and rape—than an organization meant to protect and serve the community.

To say the Nigeria Police Force has a serious public image problem is an understatement. This helps explain why it is attempting to clean up and revamp its tarnished image and improve public confidence.

Gender-based violence rates in Nigeria vary by region, but they’re high, with around 40 to 65 percent of women reportedly having suffered from such violence. With the continuing uprising of the Islamist terrorist movement Boko Haram, those numbers aren’t getting any better. Making matters worse, there is a culture of silence in Nigeria when it comes to acts of violence perpetrated against women. It’s also worth mentioning that, although the numbers may be lower, gender-based violence against men occurs as well, often in the form of rape as a humiliation and emasculation tactic.

The Ford grant was awarded out of the foundation’s Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice program, which largely supports sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) through comprehensive sex ed and policy reform. This particular grant is tied into Ford’s Youth Sexuality, Reproductive Health and Rights initiative.

That initiative focuses heavily on education and policies to promote gender and economic equality. This includes efforts to end child marriage and advance SRHR for young people, especially girls and women.

Related: What Does Ending Child Marriage Have to do with Economic Opportunity?

In a regional context, West Africa and more specifically, Nigeria, has been on Ford’s radar since the mid-1990s, though this is the first time the foundation has cut a check to the country’s police force. Ford’s continuing support after this grant period ends in 2016 will presumably depend on how well the Nigerian police spends the $300,000. As well, it will depend on Ford's grantmaking priorities after it completes a strategic planning process now under way at the foundation.