Nigeria and other African nations have been told to rise up to the urgent need of addressing the problems of poverty and inequality even as the global community focuses on its new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The call was made on Saturday by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at a side event hosted by the President of Ghana, Mr. John Mahama on Africa and the SDGs at the African Union (AU) meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
Osinbajo, who led the Nigerian delegation to the continent-wide meeting told the breakfast event attended by a number of presidents and several heads of delegations to the AU meeting that the whole idea of the SDGs “is really about addressing inequality and poverty.”
Continuing, he observed that “the problems are so obvious that however we describe the programme, we really must do something and something urgently.”
The Vice President then cited the example of the N500 billion social investment programme of the Buhari presidency, in a release issued yesterday by the Senior Special Assistant-Media & Publicity in the Office of the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande.
According to him, “In Nigeria, in the current budget cycle we have the largest social protection programme in the history of the country. It’s a N500 billion programme- (worth over $2.5 billion as at the time budget was signed.) Basically we are looking at lifting many out of poverty, of course many are familiar with the size of the Nigerian state and we have close to 110 million people who are poor and about two-tenth are in extreme poverty.
“So it is a very huge problem and part of what we are trying to do is to look at how not just to empower people but also to ensure that what they are given is sustainable. For the women, we are doing a programme, micro-credit programme for a million market women and artisans.
“All would be given facilities, training facilities as well to enable them to be able to do some work for themselves and to continue to be able to live. And we think that giving this micro-credit loan to women is to make sure that they handle money better and do a much better work on the whole. So l think that with what we have done already, we have seen that they are certainly going to work”, Osinbajo said.
“In the case of Conditional Cash Transfer, again we are handing these to women. We are giving (this to) another million, to the poorest of the poor. In determining who the poorest is, we had problems on that, but we have very good assistance from the World Bank and the Bill Gates Foundation. They helped in trying to map the really poor.
“We had to get inside the communities looking for the poorest of the poor with the small sum of money which is about N5000 (which is roughly about $25 dollars or there about) which is a sum of money that would be given to the poorest every month, which may enable them feed themselves and find something that they may do and on the condition that they send their children to school and participate in immunisation.
“So we are really excited about some of the works we are trying to do around the SDGs and we are hopeful that we’ll be able to get the Social Protection Programme working. We just recently appointed a Senior Special Assistant on SDGs. “
We also have a full SDG Implementation office which is fully equipped and we hope to be able to carry out all of the proposals we made and effect them within the shortest possible time” he added.
The main summit meeting of the AU holds today Sunday, July 17, when over 30 African leaders at the level of presidents, vice presidents, and prime ministers are expected, besides foreign minister-level representations. Other events yesterday included a close-door retreat of the AU leaders discussing the financing options for the union going forward.