NEC, Governors Forum Synergise to Accelerate Human Capital Devt

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Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige

If the steps taken by the federal and governments to accelerate Human Capital Development in the country are vigorously pursued, it could produce 24 million healthy educated and employable people by 2030, Davidson Iriekpen writes

That the federal government has since realised the deficit in human capital and Nigeria has been making deliberate efforts to mitigate that slide, is no longer in doubt. The country’s action came as a response to its ranking as one of those with very low ratings in Human Capital Development (HCD). This gave birth to the constitution of the Core Working Group (CWG), which essentially is domiciled in the office of the Vice President. The CWG was birthed based on a strict mandate to articulate a vision for the country and to drive the vision in conjunction with the various subnational entities that constitute the states leg of the HCD agenda.

Last year, the CWG visited four states, in line with the demands of the states’ governors who had bought into the idea and already began executing the HCD agenda in the domains. There were visits to Kaduna, Ekiti, Ogun and Akwa Ibom States running to the tail end of 2019.

To many analysts, those visits were quite revealing. There was enthusiasm just as there was despondency. Enthusiasm in the sense that the average Nigerian remains hopeful that government programmes would be inclusive.

People in the rural areas want express inclusion in whatever the government was putting on ground in the name of development. Despondency sets in when the grammar in which the activities of government activities are couched to elude them. So by way of inclusion, all messages need to be relayed in all different languages that specifically touch on the core of the country’s grassroots population.

The CWG of the Human Capital Development project of the National Economic Council (NEC), last week, in conjunction with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum engaged with the North-west, South-south and North-central geo-political zones of the country to ramp up the HCD indicators of the country.

This indication was given when the coordinator of the CWG, Ms. Yosola Akinbi, addressed the states’ Focal Persons of the programme, in two different virtual conferences, involving the North-west and South-south geo-political zones last Tuesday and Thursday. The coordinator disclosed that this had become imperative because of the rating of the country on the HCD indicators when compared to other countries.

“The Nigerian Government”, according to Akinbi, “recognises the critical role that HCD plays in driving sustained economic growth, boosting productivity and reducing poverty.”

This, according to Akinbi, strongly supports the need to invest in people through healthcare, education and the labour force, which led to the setting up of the CWG with the view to accelerating human capital and development in Nigeria.

In one of the virtual conferences, the Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Mr. Asishana Bayo Okauru, emphasised the need for all states to take full ownership of the programme because, according to him, the programme has become a critical component of skill development and the growth of small and medium scale enterprises in the country, which in themselves create wealth and development for all nations.

Since it was set up, the HCD drivers had emphasised three thematic areas and six outcome areas as the fulcrum of HCD growth in the country. They include healthcare and nutrition, education and the labour force. These choices are deliberate. They would each respectively provide equitable access to decent healthcare to every Nigerian, a quality, inclusive and functional education system and empower the nation’s youth with the capacity and skills to create or seek employment anywhere.

The NEC comprising all the governors and the vice president established the CWG to drive the actualisation of the human capital development agenda of the country. This group also draws inspiration from the support of government, the private sector and international donor organisations. These include the Ministries of Health, Finance, Budget and National Planning, Education and Labour and Employment and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the Aliko Dangote Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the DFID, UNDP, UNICEF on the part of the international donor organisations.

The CWG in collaboration with State Focal Persons, Development Partners and Other Key Stakeholders have articulated a long-term vision for HCD in the country. In similar vein, the states are expected to develop a vision that is tailor-made for their peculiar environments.

However, all the various aspirations would eventually align with the national vision of improving nutrition and reducing childhood stunting by half from 44 per cent to 22 per cent by 2030 reducing under five mortality by half and also reducing maternal mortality by half as well, all under the health and nutrition thematic objective.

Under education, the objective is to double school enrolment, double girl-child enrolment as well as double secondary school completion from 42 per cent to 80 per cent by 2030. The cumulative effect of this is to drop the number of out of school children by at least 70 per cent while raising the number of those who obtain good grades in reading and mathematics substantially.

The last thematic outcome is expectedly the result of the first two. By this, the CWG envisions that the rate of youth employment would have risen from 23 per cent to 46 per cent and the female labour force would have doubled from 21 per cent to 41 per cent.

Once vigorously pursued and meticulously calibrated between the federal and subnational governments and down to the local government structures, it is expected that the nation would have produced 24 million healthy educated and employable people by 2030.

The target of the year 2030 is also deliberate, the coordinator of the CWG explained because it corresponds with the year in which all global development aspirations would terminate. Nigeria wouldn’t be an exception.

It is with this ambition that the Core Working Group has developed State Level Engagement Strategies to ensure ownership and the buy-in of all States of the Federation in the HCD agenda.

Furthermore, on what the CWG has been working at is to put on ground a transformational process that would ensure that all states take ownership of the programme, set their priorities and targets across HCD outcome areas, put in place an implementation structure as well as a robust monitoring and evaluation framework. It is important to mention too that the state governors have fully bought into the HCD agenda and have thrown their weight behind the transformation of the human capital capacity of all Nigerians from an unemployable citizenry to a healthy and competitive one.

Before the COVID-19 Challenge, the CWG conducted visits to some states of the federation including Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Ogun and Ekiti States towards ensuring a nationwide buy-in by state governments and key stakeholders in every state of the federation.

It is in the light of the COVID-19 challenge that the Core Working Group reverted to conducting online Regional HCD engagement sessions to facilitate peer learning, experience sharing amongst states and provide implementation support to State Teams towards driving the HCD agenda. The regional engagement specifies steps states need to take to accelerate HCD in their respective states.

State focal persons, who have been attending these regional engagements are expected to further the HCD agenda by organising their own activities at the subnational level to sensitise their people and ensure that the messages and mandates of the HCD plan deep-dives into the grassroots and is internalised and domesticated. One state that showed great acceptability in all that has been happening virtually this year is Nasarawa State which attended the meeting with its Deputy Governor, Dr. Akabe, who reeled out the state’s efforts in internalising the principles of the programme in his state.

Last year, the CWG was received by the Governors of Kaduna State, Nasiru el-Rufai, Ekiti State, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun and the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Moses Frank Ekpo, all of whom expressed the desire to promote a firm handshake between their states and the HCD programme for the advancement of the areas.