Winjobi: Poverty Cannot be Eradicated in Nigeria or Even Africa
As the second year since the adoption of the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals at the September 2015 landmark 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York approaches, the National Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development,
How did Nigeria fare in realising the previous eight MDGs and what hitches did you identify during that process, both from state and non-state actors…and what is your assessment of the current efforts of the three tiers of government to deliver good governance and desired development to the electorate?
Nigeria failed to attain MDGs just like many other African countries. As a matter of fact, it was Goal 3 on the issue of gender that Nigeria first missed because it was the only goal that had some of its targets set at meeting in 2005. Indeed, Nigeria started the implementation of MDGs late as it was the negotiation of the Paris Club debt refund of 2006 that raised the consciousness of Nigerian government to MDGs. By the end of 2015, it was obvious that Nigeria had completely derailed from attaining Goal 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger); Goal 4 (Reduce child mortality); and Goal 5 (Improve maternal health), and eventually missed all the MDGs. Ab initio, the process leading to the crafting of MDGs up to the signing stage was devoid of inclusion of critical stakeholders in many countries including Nigeria. Worse still, institutional stakeholders such as ministries, departments, agencies, including the parliament, CSOs and private sector were excluded. The problem was largely government’s own. At a point, MDGs became a matter of political patronage while the conditional cash transfer scheme was not transparent enough and many state governments failed in putting down their own counterpart funds though the civil society did all they could to ensure monitoring.
There is no way the current political actors can deliver good governance and desired development to the electorate if they continue the business as usual. Is it three tiers of government we really have or two tiers; local government in Nigeria is just an extension of the office of the executive in states. Nothing has really changed from the change mantra. People are still hungry while poverty is still staring about 100 million Nigerians in the face with majority in rural community while women constitute not less than 70 per cent of the poor. Inequality is growing by the day as the rich are becoming richer and poor poorer. Inequality is also noticeable between the urban and rural communities as the latter is suffering from decades of neglect by various governments whereas these rural centres are the food baskets of our nation. Nothing has changed except from bad to worse as the political actors are self-centred lots who are milking our economy dry without sympathy for the electorate. Not less than three quarters of the 36 state governments owe their workers several months of salary arrears whereas the governors have become insolent emperors feeding fat on the states’ allocations. Both the constituted authorities and their legislators are living in opulence while their workers including legislative aides are starving. Has anything changed? ASUU was on strike for 9 months in 2009 and still on strike in 2017 and government cannot do anything about it. Medical and educational tourism by the political leadership and their children has been the order of the day while poor Nigerian citizens are dying in their numbers as a result of infrastructural deficiency and decay that government doesn’t care about since theirs don’t patronise them. If this business as usual continues, SDGs will suffer the same fate that befell MDGs.
It is almost two years since the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in New York, USA in September 2015, and Nigeria was one of the 195 UN Membercountries which signed onto the agenda…how well has the present government responded to the development challenges captured in the Goals?
There are 17 Goals and 169 targets in all and I am not sure Nigerian government is prioritising the implementation of them so as to see those they can easily work on which will impact on the people. However, the federal government has put some mechanisms in place to ensure hitch free implementation of the SDGs. There is the establishment of the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs which is a carry-over from the former MDGs under the presidency. There is also a House Committee on SDGs at the lower legislative house of assembly; of recent there seems to be a Senate Committee counterpart too to play oversight function and appropriate appropriation to SDGs. There is also an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the SDGs established to guide the coordinated engagement with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) though there has never been a replica of this at the state level. There is also a Private Sector Consultative Group which, hopefully Nigerian government thinks, would bring financial leverage to SDGs implementation. Putting these mechanisms in place is not a measure of the progress of SDGs implementation but evidence-based result of the implementation which we don’t have. What does all this translate to in terms of reduction in the number of people going hungry daily, suffering from poverty, death as a result of poor road networks, decayed hospital facilities coupled with wrong diagnosis, unemployment, unpaid salary arrears and pensions, insecurity especially in the hands of armed robbers, violent extremists, kidnappers and ritualists? Can we say the government is doing well in moving towards attaining SDGs by 2030 in the face of all these calamities befalling our citizens? Worse still, the National Assembly has not been helping matters despite their oversight function as they not only indulge in budget padding but they also delay with impunity the passage of the budget. For example the 2017 Appropriation Act was not passed till almost half of year 2017.
One needs to praise the federal government for being involved in the recently concluded High Level Political Forum, National Voluntary Review (HLPF NVR) of the SDGs July 2017 in New York. HLPF is desirable as it was an opportunity for countries involved in VNR to showcase their efforts in implementing SDGs in the past couple of months. It was also an opportunity for NGOs from these countries to hear directly from their political leaders some “lies” being told about the implementation of SDGs. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for NGOs to rebuff some of these “insincere” implementation commentaries because NGOs were preselected to make comments. However, HLPF though political in nature is good as NGOs can still hold their governments accountable back home. Something that stood out cutting across the NVR presentations in developing countries was the fact that many of them were really passionate about implementing SDGs in their countries but they shied away from the major challenges facing them; two of which are insecurity and corruption. For example, countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia and even Somaliland are still battling with violent extremism as evident in the antics of Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, Al-Queda, etc. destroying lives and property which ossifies smooth implementation and attainment of SDGs. Corruption has also become a dreaded disease seeping through the pores of the fabrics of Nigeria and ravaging it beyond repair. For example, the leadership of the Senate is enmeshed in high level corruption to the extent that they refused to confirm the appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Magu the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) because the latter already has their graft case files with him.
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