In Nigeria, as in other African countries, universities are the main institutions with the structures and capacity to carry out research and promote discourse on national development issues. Since most universities in Nigeria are dependent upon government support, they also become immediate casualties of national economic crises. In the last two decades this has compelled well-trained faculty members to seek opportunities in the private sector or migrate to universities in foreign countries. The implication is that the quality of research on national development issues emanating from the universities has been declining. Closely related to the declining research output on national development issues from the universities, is wide gap between research results and their use by policy makers. Research results have not been translated into policy action because communication between researchers and the governments, which are expected to implement these research outputs, is poor. At the same time the relationship between researchers in the universities and the myriad of mostly single purpose non-governmental organizations that have emerged in Nigeria in recent years have been quite limited.
These patterns can be explained by the fact that most research on development issues carried out in the universities has been at best terminated at the policy recommendation phase. There have been limited attempts to communicate the recommendations to policy makers at the national and sub-national levels. There has been little attempt to carry out intervention programs that can provide a basis for replication by government agencies and civil society organizations. This has led to the lack of a holistic approach to finding solutions to the multivariate problems of development at the grassroots level in Nigeria. If poverty reduction at the grassroots level is to succeed, all the key component factors which impinge on the poverty of the people such as health, education, gender equality, income and employment, environment and good governance must be pursued simultaneously.
It is against this background that the Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED) was established to focus on grassroots development issues in the Niger Delta in particular, and other parts of Nigeria, in general.