West Africa - Nigeria

Advocacy on Open Access Scholarly Publishing in Nigeria

Nigeria has an estimated population of 173 million with about 126 universities (National Universities Commission, 2013). Many researchers in Nigeria publish in international Open Access (OA) journals, however, only a few local journals are published online. Nigeria has no national policy on OAs although a few universities have adopted AO policies.

With the advocacy initiatives by eIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries), and the recognition of Nigeria as a country with a large output of scholarly publications, it was decided that there was need to engage with the Nigerian Library and Information Science (LIS) community to advocate for OA policies.

eIFL galvanized stakeholders to hold the first international workshop on “Open Access Repositories: new models for scholarly communication” in April, 2008 at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. These included the Department of Library and Information Science, ABU, Zaria and the Nigerian University Libraries Consortium (NULIB). The workshop facilitated by Dr. Ezra Gbaje, a lecturer in the Department of Library and Information Science had 89 participants from 45 institutions, including policy makers, ICT experts, Librarians, editors-in-chief of peer reviewed journals, scholars and researchers from universities and research institutes. The main objectives of the workshop were to provide information on:

  • the importance of OA initiatives to academia and society at large
  • the strategies for formulating appropriate policy for implementing and sustaining OA institutional repositories
  • copyright issues and open content licenses
  • strategies for the promotion and marketing of institutional repositories (Gbaje, 2008).

A follow-up workshop was organized in November 2009 with the theme “Maximizing Research Output and Impact” by the same stakeholders and also at the ABU, Zaria. The third initiative was the seminar organized by Dr. Joseph Ana, of the British Medical Journal West Africa Edition, with the theme “Open Access to Health Information”.

The key outputs from these initiatives led to advocacy for universities to develop OA policies and for Nigerian researchers to embrace OA. Since these workshops, the following achievements have been recorded by various institutions:

  • Three institutions established OA repositories which are listed in the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) and in the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR). These are the University of Jos, Jos; University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Covenant University, Ota.
  • The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria’s effort at establishing an institutional repository experienced some hitches and is only available on its intranet.
  • The Department of Library and Information Science, ABU changed their two existing journals (The Samaru Journal of Information Studies and The Information Manager) which were previously by paid subscription to Open Access.
  • Seven institutions (Ahmadu Bello University Press; Federal College of Education, Akoka; Forestry Association of Nigeria; Science Education Development Institute; College of Medicine, University of Ibadan; Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto and Wilolud Journals) have signed the Budapest Open Access Initiative.
  • Covenant University initiated a policy in 2011 mandating researchers to deposit their publications in journals, conference proceedings and books in the university repository.

Some of the challenges that have led to the low up-take of OA initiatives are:

  • Limited awareness of the Open Access movement by researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders
  • Limited understanding of the benefits of Open Access
  • Intellectual Property issues: researchers are concerned about piracy and plagiarism of their works
  • Lack of skilled professionals that can manage Open Access repositories
  • Lack of national policy on Open Access
  • Limited support from institution’s leadership
  • Limited follow-up activities and advocacy to drive sustainability of initiatives.

However, the institutions that have adopted Open Access have lauded the initiative and the huge benefits accrued. Such benefits include better visibility of research output and researchers in the international arena; higher self-esteem of the librarians and greater respect of librarians from faculty. According to the University of Jos Librarian the deployment of an OA institutional repository at the university “has been a journey well thought of, a path well taken, a result most fulfilling, an excitement worth celebrating, and a project worth sharing”.

With more efforts to improve Open Access initiatives in Nigerian institutions, the horizon looks bright especially with the increasing availability and affordability of internet access and a better enabling environment engendered by government policies. The IFLA Statement on Open Access has been discussed at different fora including the African Library Summit in Pretoria, South Africa in 2013 and at the Nigerian Library Association conference in Calabar, Nigeria in July 2013. The Librarians Forum organized by the Librarians’ Registration Council of Nigeria in 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria, also provided a platform to create awareness and to urge participating institutions to sign the Berlin Open Access Declaration. Furthermore, the research carried out by IFLA International Leaders Associate created an opportunity to educate respondents about the IFLA principles and the Berlin Declaration.

Victoria Okojie

Last update: 1 August 2014

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