Dr Olly Owen – Tax Reform in Nigeria– Oil, Transition and Legitimacy

  • Date:
  • Time: 16:00
  • Location: Baines Wing SR 1.16
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On Thursday 2nd May Dr Olly Owen will be visiting us from the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford to deliver his research paper ‘Tax Reform in Nigeria– Oil, Transition and Legitimacy’.


Nigeria is in the midst of a transition away from decades of oil-reliance and faces a future where the state will rely much more on income earned from non-oil taxes. However institutions, public expectations, patterns and ideas of political practice are all based around the natural resource model. So how does the state reposition, and how do publics react when taxation ‘comes back’ in after decades of neglect? This presentation draws on a comparative research project encompassing several of Nigeria’s states and combining ethnography and political economy


Olly’s research interests centre on political anthropology and the relations between governments and publics in West Africa, the configurations of material interests and experiential meanings construed in these encounters; as part of an anthropology of the state which ‘de-naturalises’ governmental institutions to look at them as social formations. His recent research has been an ethnographic examination of new transformations in revenue and fiscal governance in Nigeria, looking at taxation relationships between the state and citizens, and how questions of social contract and political accountability are popularly understood. Alongside this, he continues a focus on policing structures and practices in Nigeria, both engaging in comparative research on policing in the postcolonial world, and working with stakeholders in Nigeria to feed research into policy debates. His new research extends time horizons forward and backward, looking at the ways both future and past are imagined, for example through tropes such as infrastructure. He also continues other longstanding interests in politics and governance in the West African sub-region.

Olly has a particular interest in research engagements with policymakers and publics. Since 2017, Olly has been the Research Director of the Nigeria Tax Research Network. His research interest in Nigeria’s World War II veterans has resulted in a co-produced prizewinning short film with the Guardian newspaper, and an ongoing work with publics in Nigeria and the diaspora to showcase and interpret soldiers’ songs in the Imperial War Museum collections. In October 2018, jointly with Professor Wale Adebanwi, Olly was awarded a joint Social Science Knowledge Exchange Fellowship grant to work with Lagos-based heritage groups on public outreach and rail heritage in Nigeria. In 2015, he won an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize for his research on the Nigerian Police Force.