Vice President Namadi Sambo
As the 2015 deadline year for realisation of the eight global Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draws nearer, the House of Representatives Committee on the MDGs, the United Nation Millennium Campaign (UNMC) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organised a two-day retreat recently in Abuja for members of the House Committee. Abimbola Akosile, who was at the event, captures the lessons and useful outcomes
The main objective of the House of Representatives Committee on MDGs retreat in Abuja was to expose members to the principles and national frameworks on the MDGs as well as the mandate of the Committee in their achievement.
The retreat was formally declared open by the Chair of the Committee, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, and had goodwill message from the United Nations System.
There were three technical sessions: Understanding the MDGs, the MDGs and Macroeconomic Issues, and Parliaments and the MDGs. There were presentations on institutional and policy frameworks from the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs and the roles of the Parliaments in advancing the MDGs by the UN Millennium Campaign.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was adopted as a global framework for driving development process. In FY 2000, world leaders of 186 countries, including Nigeria, met at the United Nations in New York to subscribe to the implementation of the framework.
The scope of coverage to be for 15 years: FY 2000 – 2015, while the implementation of the MDGs is in its final phase (last 5 years).
The eight MDGs include: Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger (Goal 1); Achievement of universal primary education (Goal 2); Promotion of Gender Equality & Women Empowerment (Goal 3); and Reduction of Child Mortality (Goal 4).
Others are Improvement in Maternal Health (Goal 5); Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria & other Diseases (Goal 6); Ensuring Environmental Sustainability (Goal 7); and Development of a global partnership for Development (Goal 8).
A presentation by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) was made for the legislators. The topic was ‘Countdown Strategy and the Role of the Legislature’, and the presentation was made by Muhammed Sanni, an economist.
Gaps and challenges in achieving the MDGs were identified. These include lack of a reliable system for collecting planning and development data; lack of skills and capacity to implement initiatives; poor coordination between different tiers and arms of government; and weak governance and accountability environment.
Identified Responses to Challenges
The presentation sought the strengthening of the capacity of all government data-gathering agencies at national and sub-national levels; harmonising of the production of data relating to MDGs in all agencies at federal, state and local government levels under the National Bureau of Statistics
Others, according to Sanni, include coordinating overseas development assistance under the National Planning Commission (NPC); ensure that budgets are MDG-compliant and investment programmes and projects derive from national development plans; get sub-national governments to participate effectively in the implementation of plans to achieve the MDGs.
The presentation also sought the implementation of a capacity building programme for federal, state and local government employees, and addressing of weak governance and accountability through multi-pronged initiatives that include, but are not limited to, the National Strategy for Public Service Reform.
Strategies for Achieving the MDGs
According to Muhammed, strategic imperatives that are critical to accelerating Nigeria’s progress towards achieving the MDGs by 2015 include improving governance and accountability environment; strengthening coordination and cooperation among the three tiers and arms of government; mobilising and committing all communities and key stakeholders to the MDGs; and ensuring effective mainstreaming of MDGs into overall national and sub-national development visions and plans.
Cost and Financing Strategy
The economist called for an investment plan emphasising investment in critical sectors through the Vision 20:2020 Implementation Plan; a structural shift to make the private sector the engine of growth; and a projected increase in the private sector share of investment from 28 per cent (2004-9) to 40 per cent (1010-13), providing sustained job creation.
Sanni also, in his presentation, canvassed increasing savings to boost growth to double-digits; public sector investments enabling private sector investment; investing in human resources as well as infrastructure; and mobilising the three tiers of government to meet the investment requirement.
Desired Devt Agenda
There was also a presentation for the Committee on MDGs by Director (Macroeconomic Analysis), National Planning Commission, The Presidency, Mr. Tunde Lawal.
According to him, “Evidence around the world has shown that the effective implementation of strategic development agenda or plans has implication for the realisation of MDGs. Most Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have faced difficulty in realising this objective.”
“The purpose of our gathering here today is to acquaint members of House Committee on MDGs on the key elements of the Country’s Development Agenda and its implication for the actualisation of the MDGs. There are several targets and indicators
“The 2010 report revealed that Nigeria is on track to achieving 3 goals namely Goals 2, 6 and 8, while steps are being taken to fast-track the implementation of Goals 1, 3, 4, 5 & 7”, Lawal added.
Speaking on the ‘Role of the National Assembly in Ensuring Effective Implementation of the Mandate of NPC’, he said, “The role of NASS is very critical to the effective implementation of the annual budgets and the realisation of the objectives of the Transformation Agenda, NV20:2020 and MDGs.
He said it was reassuring to note that the NASS has continued to provide tremendous support to NPC, OSSAP and FMF in the development & implementation of the various economic blueprints.
He called on the NASS to join hands with NPC, OSSAP and wider executive arm in sensitising the Federal MDAs and larger society on the importance of strategic planning and its role in actualising MDGs, and to insist that MDAs’ annual capital budgetary submissions be aligned with the medium term plans and MDGs.
“The NASS can help in cascading the effort to the sub-national level by sensitising the members of the State Houses of Assembly, and get the State Houses of Assembly to insist that State Governments mainstream MDGs in their budget processes”, he added.
To Lawal, “The relevance of strategic planning need not be over emphasised; effective implementation of NN20:2020 and Transformation Agenda is a prerequisite for the actualisation of MDGs; while there is need to mainstream the MDGs into the budget and planning process.
“OSSAP, NPC, FMF are all committed to working closely with NASS; steps are being taken to address the outstanding challenges; but the support of NASS is very critical” he added.
At the end of the retreat a communiqué was drafted and signed by the trio of Hon Bilyaminu Shinkafi, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo, and Hon Friday Itulah, which contained different resolutions.
The Committee appreciated the efforts of the UNMC and the CISLAC in partnering it to organise the retreat. It also called on UNMC and the United Nations System to continue to support the Committee to achieve its parliamentary, national and regional mandates.
“The Committee sees its mandate as being crucial to the attainment of the MDGs particularly given its role in appropriation, oversight and advocacy on MDGs in Nigeria. It is fully committed to sharing its experience to State Houses of Assembly in the establishment of Committees on the MDGs and also the provision of capacity for the Committees to achieve their respective mandates”, the communiqué noted.
The Committee called on the UNMC, headed by Mr. Hillary Ogbonna in Nigeria, and other development partners to continue to promote programmes that would build national awareness, improved implementation strategies and the knowledge base of the committee towards the attainment of its mandate.
It appreciated the work of the Campaign in facilitating the African Network of Parliamentarians on the MDGs including the setting up of a secretariat in Nigeria.
The Committee also calls on Ogbonna and his office to fast-track existing commitments and pending programmes for the Network to meet its vision and objectives. This include pending country visits and strategic meetings of the Network
It also called on all stakeholders including the Legislature to develop home grown strategies for human development post 2015.
The House Committee has taken a major step in building needed capacity on the issues of MDGs in Nigeria, to enable it perform its oversight function on the Executive and its various agencies. If this process is sustained, Nigeria may yet realise more goals than expected before the deadline year of 2015. That will do for a start.