Robert Auta, Co-coordinator, Nigerian Youth SDG Group, Daniel Nwaeze, Nsikan Ekaette, Director, United Nations Information Centre, Ronald Kayanja, Chioma Ileka, Winifred Imoyera and Mojisola

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Development Plans for 2030, the Director, United Nations Information Centre, Ronald Kayanja and other speakers at the 2017 Nigerian Youth SDG Group summit in Lagos, have said that Nigerian youths are key actors and their participation in the SDGs implementation is inevitable, Peace Obi reports

The Nigerian SDG Group, a youth–led civil society organisation has as part of its programmes marking the 2017 International Youth Day recently organised a summit in Lagos to create more awareness for youths’ participation in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria. Tagged ‘Nigerian Youths SDGs Summit’, the event which attracted youths from different parts of the country was aimed at building a common understanding of the transformational opportunities the SDGs presents to Nigerian youths. And to fashion out innovative strategies for the successful realisation of the development goals. According to the organisers, part of the recommended strategies for its realisation includes domestication of the goals as well as the involvement of youths from different.

Speaking at the event, the Director, United Nations Information Centre, Ronald Kayanja who commended the organisers, said that Nigerian youths are critical stakeholders in the implementation of the SDGs in the country. He noted that the development goals which target to achieve a better society and good living condition in and around the world, is about the future and about the youths. And that in addition to working with the private sector, civil society organisations and development partners, the United Nations also wants to have a coalition of young people in Nigeria working with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Director hinted that the SDGs is about the youths and achieving a youth coalition which is critical in the process. He advised that more summits should hold in different parts of the country for a wide spread of the message. And that considering the fact that Nigeria, Africa blessed with huge youth population, the participation of the Nigerian youths has become inevitable. “And I hope that at the end of the day, we are going to have the desired coalition and the nucleus of that coalition is to support SDGs in Nigeria. This is because we cannot achieve sustainable development in Nigeria without the involvement of the youths. The youths are more than 60 per cent of this country and the goals are about them.”

Linking youth restiveness and violence to poor management of youth population, the UN official said that adequate engagement of youths in productive activities would serve as a preventive measure. “We are talking about transforming our world by 2030. The youths are stakeholders. One of the challenges we have, not only in Nigeria but the whole of Africa is the youth population. If the youth population is not engaged in productive activities, we will have revolution that we don’t want.

“So, that is why sustainable development goals is one of those preventive actions to stop violence so that we can have peace. And the key group we need in this sense is the young people. That is why today is very important and this is the starting point to having more youth summits around the country on SDGs,” he said.

Stating that budgetary provisions are made by governments for SDGs implementation, Kayanja however said that governments in addition to partnering NGOs, Civil Society Organisations and development partners, also work with organised youth groups. Adding that with a strong coalition and strong voice, youths can get funding from government towards the attainment of the set goals. “We want the youths to come together as a coalition and make sure that they understand and participate in implementing the agenda 2030 in Nigeria.

“They are the ones going to be leading this country in the future. And when young people have a strong coalition and they come together with one voice, they will get the funding. The federal government has some money they are setting apart every year in the budget through which the private sector partner with the government on the SDGs and other development partners. The funding is not really so much a problem, the issue is how we get involve. And we want the young people to get involve. If there is any country that can achieve agenda 2030 and SDGs, it’s Nigeria. The country has the money, she has the human resources to do it. All we need is to mobilize this group of people in this country to make sure we achieve this blueprint,” Kayanja posited.

In his keynote address, Mr. Olusuen Onigbinde commended government’s efforts towards the SDGs especially for appointing a Special Adviser on SDGs. The Team Lead BudgIT, however said that the goals can be best achieved if government and citizenry can change their approach to public resources and imbibe the principles of accountability. According to him, the SDGs are not solutions in themselves but “an output of a working system. So, let’s do much more to get that system effectively working with right application of public resources.

“We need to change our approach to public resources. The SDGs will be met using public resources and that is why conversations are on how to optimise public revenues while reducing the current expenditure.”

On young people’s role, Onigbinde said that massive awareness was needed to actually get them actively involved. And that since the SDGs are globally accepted goals that actually define the well-being of a country. “We must do much more in terms of awareness. And after awareness the next thing we should to do is to track public resources that are tied to the SDGs. What are the projects that are tied to education, poverty reduction, environment, etc. Track these projects and effectively give feedback on them. Accountability is critical but we don’t do enough it,” Onigbinde said.

And for one of the coordinators of the Nigerian SDG Group, Daniel Nwaeze, said the group’s major target was to bring young people working on different goals in their various smaller spaces together to work as a team. According him, it will among others enable them share ideas, attain visibility, partnership, cut down on the resources and make greater impact in achieving the SDGs and the agenda 2030 in Nigeria. “We believe working independently will definitely not achieve anything unlike when we come together as young people and work as a team, we will achieve more. We want to bring young people together, build enough and qualitative data on how young people are working towards SDG and how we can transform those data and positive energy of young people towards pushing for the agenda of the SDGs in Nigeria.

“This is because we stand to achieve massive impact, visibility, partnership. Because one of the key issues on the SDGs is young people being able to build partnership and visibility with the work that they are doing. So, by bringing everybody together, we work as s team, we can ride on each other’s platform and ultimately achieve these goals.”

The Co-founder, Climate Wednesday, Mr. Olumide Idowu whose team is working on health, education and environment said the best way to realising the goals was for the SDGs to be localised. And by doing that, “we can translate it to our personal realities.”

He said, “what we are doing is to make sure that the voice of Nigerian youths are heard. We also want to see what we can do as a group without necessarily monetary involvement towards realising these goals. How we can collaborate instead of working independently and replicate it in different states. That is going to go a long way in our drive to achieve the SDG. It is also going to give us the strong platform to generate more funds to make it happen,” Idowu said.