For decades, Nigerians have learned to survive without any expectation of justice, good governance or public goods (such as electricity, water, security). Lifetimes of experience have also taught ordinary citizens the resounding lesson not to fight the powerful, from Government to other “Ogas at the top”. The effects are felt across society, but nowhere more than in poor or otherwise marginalized communities where survival too often means living with compromised leadership, corruption, and pervasive injustice. For these communities, forced eviction, displacement, land grab, environmental degradation, police extortion and harassment, and other rights violations have become a part of daily life. Meaningful participation in political processes and access to justice are limited by myriad factors such as cost, education, location, and everyday corruption – compounded by a prevailing legal/justice system that is adverse to the rights of the poor.
What results is pervasive distrust of government and lack of faith in rights and accountability mechanisms. The positive flipside of this is the tenacity and resilience of poor communities to provide for themselves, where possible – through local-level governance, community-led and financed development initiatives (e.g. provision of water, electricity, sanitation, roads, and security), and alternative means of settling disputes and justice problems. JEI builds on such local resilience and the power of collective voice to strengthen the capacity of poor and marginalized communities to hold the powerful accountable from the bottom up.