Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study examines policymakers’ perceptions of the nature and hierarchy of evidence used in the development of public policies in Nigeria. Specifically, it explores the kind of information, data, and ideas that policymakers in Nigeria utilise in policymaking, the relative importance that the policymakers attach to the different kinds of evidence, and the contextual political factors that influence not only the utilisation of evidence but the policy process. A major justification for this study is that while significant progress has been recorded in the use of evidence in policymaking in developed Western nations, there is a noticeable paucity of such literature in Africa. The situation is, however, gradually improving and there is an increasing awareness of the concept of evidence-based policymaking (EBP) leading to a rise in scholarly attention. Nevertheless, a significant number of the burgeoning Afrocentric literature focuses on the relationship between research and policy, with only a few empirical research dealing with the notion of evidence. In Nigeria, studies on the use of evidence in policymaking focus largely on health policies and the use of evidence in the development of non-health policies is an under-researched area.

This study seeks to answer the main question: “What is the nature and hierarchy of evidence used in the development of public policies in Nigeria?” The study adopts an exploratory, inductive, multiple-case study design to examine the development of four federal government policies. Data collection was based on triangulation. First, 36 respondents (nine for each policy) were purposively selected and interviewed using a semi-structured interview method. A total of 20 of the interviews were conducted face-to-face while 16 were done through the telephone.
Second, online questionnaires were administered to the 36 respondents after the completion of all the interviews. Third, policy documents, including reports on policy successes, failures, and remedial actions were analysed.

Findings showed that contrary to the dominant view, a wide range of evidence is used in the development of public policies in Nigeria. This study identified nine kinds of evidence used in policy formulation: research evidence, previous policies evidence, media evidence, internet evidence, residual knowledge of policymakers’ evidence, MDA (Ministries, Departments, and Agencies) evidence, local consultants’ evidence, ideology evidence, and external stakeholders’ evidence. Interestingly, the last four types of evidence were identified for the first time by this study as substantive types of evidence used in policymaking in Nigeria. A hierarchy of evidence, showing the relative priority the policymakers attach to the nine kinds of evidence was developed based on data. The findings further identified three venues where the different kinds of evidence were integrated - advisory/technical committees, stakeholders’ meetings/workshops, and the legislature.

Findings also showed that the government did not only play a central role in policymaking, but it also controlled the process. And even where the government decided to allow non-state actors to ‘lead’ the policy process, it still controlled the process from the shadows. Consequently, while different kinds of evidence are available to policymakers, the utilisation of evidence in the policy process largely depends on political considerations. So, although evidence-based policymaking is often contrasted with policymaking based on “ideology”, the true picture appears to be considerably more nuanced. The study concludes by suggesting that stakeholders desirous of impacting policies should be aware of the nuances of policymaking and leverage the policymaking venues to provide relevant evidence.
Date of Award1 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJonathan Portes (Supervisor) & Olawale Ismail (Supervisor)

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