The global community is marking year 2020 as an important milestone in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders in September 2015 as a successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals. Iyobosa Uwugiaren examines the federal government’s strategic intervention
The global call to action to end poverty, safeguard the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity in the next decade – as contains in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is facing many challenges in Nigeria; but the federal government is said to be making strategic interventions.
Nigeria has started implementing the SDGs almost instantaneously, following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, by creating institutional frameworks at the national and sub-national levels to support active implementation. But just as the federal government started what it described as “Decade of Action’’ for the Goals at the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out – when Nigeria recorded its first index case on February 27, 2020.
But, in spite of the huge impact of COVID-19 on every sector, especially the nation’s economy and health sector that disrupted the smooth implementation of the SDGs, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Princess Adejoke Orelope- Adefulire, is convinced that there is much the Nigerian media could do to help navigate across the turbulent-period.
Soliciting the media’s support at a retreat for journalists in Abuja recently, the presidential aide said the support of the media is crucial because by their training, journalists have the capacity to engage energetically with the public and private sectors towards the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria.
While noting that the 17 SDGs are a universal call to end ‘’poverty, safeguard the planet and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by the year 2030’’, Princess Orelope-Adefulire argued that SDG-16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provides access to justice for all and build operative, accountable and all-encompassing institutions at all levels, concisely captures the ‘’strategic roles’’ of journalists.
She noted specifically that Goal16-10 provides that countries should ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the national legislation and international agreements. And urged journalists to see themselves as part of a larger team committed to the transformative promise of SDGs to lift humanity and ‘’leave no one behind.’’
The presidential aide, however, argued that despite the challenges confronting the country, Nigeria has made progress since President Muhammadu Buhari joined other world leaders during the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2015 to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The federal government, the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory had established institutional mechanisms for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda some years ago, which envisions the present and future that is economically sustainable, social inclusive and environmentally resilient. And the federal government has created the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the SDGs (OSSAP-SDGs) in 2016 to provide ‘’horizontal and vertical’’ inter-governmental coordination, multi-stakeholders’ partnership and resource mobilisation, as well as healthy advocacy and communications for the SDGs in the country.
Strategic Interventions By OSSAP-SDGs
Explaining what her office has done and is doing to fulfil its mandate, the presidential aide said the OSSAP-SDGs, through its ‘’Conditional Grant Programme’’ had in the past five years supported governments at the sub-national levels and other stakeholders on projects and initiatives aimed at achieving the 17 goals of the SDGs.
She celebrated the 100-bed Mother and Child Hospital in Ifon, Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State, to address the high prevalence of maternal and child mortalities in Nigeria, adding that the gesture was part of Buhari’s commitment to improve the healthcare and other sectors as well as life-skills development across the country.
“This three-floor facility has two operating theatres, recovery rooms, sterilisation room, delivery room, consultation rooms, private and general wards, scanning room, side laboratory rooms, reception area, lounge, nurses room and station, doctors’ call rooms, scrub room and a boardroom’’, she said.
The facility, she told journalists, also boasts of ultra-modern equipment that will aid the prompt delivery of maternal and child care services, which include: patient monitors with ECO2; suction machine double jar; Ultra-scan machines; Oxygen Generating machine; Vacuum Extractor Delivery Set; Anaesthetic Machine and Diathermy Machine.
She added, “It also has an emergency cart with a defibrillator; baby incubators; photo therapy lamps; paediatric ventilators; multi-parameter monitors for mothers and babies; crash cart; Theatre Monitor; defibrillators and fetal-doppler.”
She explained that the federal government had remained committed to the accomplishment of the global agenda, “which also aligns perfectly with the cardinal objectives of Buhari’s administration.
According to her, similar facilities have been established in Lagos, Kwara, Kano, Kaduna, Adamawa, Yobe, Benue, Abia, and Kogi States which are complemented by other 80-bed prototype hospitals established in other states across the country.
Orelope-Adefulire said with COVID -19 pandemic challenging the heath system, there was urgent need to scale-up investment in the sector, explaining that strategic intervention was directly linked to the achievement of SDG-3 on ‘’Quality Health and Well-being for all’’ and other cross-cutting SDGs. The SSA stressed that the SDGs could not be achieved with stand-alone programmes, stressing that projects could be carefully mainstreamed into the policies and plans of the national government.
“It is, therefore, imperative that the state government owns these strategic interventions and ensures their sustainability for the benefit of our people.
“As we continue to work together to achieve the transformative promise to ‘Leave no one behind’, I would like to call on corporate organisations, philanthropists and foundations to continue to partner the government for this type of initiatives’’, she advised.
As enshrined in Goal 4, quality education is seen as one of the cross cutting goals of sustainable development –believing that the achievement of the goal can have a multiplier effect on the achievement of all the other goals. In realisation of its importance, OSSAP-SDGs is said to have through its Conditional Grants Scheme and by direct funding, been intervening in efforts to improve the education process since 2016.
Aside the intervention at the states, OSSAP-SDGs had in conjunction with other partners in 2019 celebrated the first International Day of Education in Nigeria in commemoration of the role of education in peace and development.
The event, celebrated globally under the theme ‘’Education: A Key Driver for Inclusion and Empowerment’’ was celebrated in Nigeria with a panel session that had a conversation on the centrality of education in the achievement of all the other 16 SDGs with key stakeholders in the Nigerian education sector in attendance.
OSSAP-SDGs had also early this year – with the support of other partners celebrated the International Day of Education under the theme, Learning for People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace. The event was used to rally stakeholders on the need to accelerate achievements of SDG 4, especially, the need to bring over 10 million out of school children roaming the streets in Nigeria back to classrooms.
To celebrate the 2020 day, OSSAP-SDGs took stakeholders to Pilot Science and Nursery, School, Abuja where the maiden initiative of its partnership with a Chinese company, NetDragon Websoft, to use digital technology for the advancement of education in Nigeria was implemented.
Ask the presidential aide on SDGs, her position is that the availability of secured and conducive environment for learning is very crucial. And that perhaps, explained why she has embarked on massive construction, rehabilitation and furnishing of some educational facilities.
So far, about 731 blocks of classroom are said to have been constructed and furnished with VIP toilets and external works across the country including Mussa Ward, Askira Uba LGA and kinranglam, Chibok LGA, Borno State. The projects were replicated in Katsina, Bauchi, Gombe, Nasarawa, Kano, Niger, Edo, Enugu, Kogi, Adamawa, Jigawa, Ogun amongst others.
The office has also completed a Library building in Mega School Dumurkol, Daura, Katsina State. The Library is expected to serve as knowledge and resource centre for students
Working with Subnational Governments, Other Stakeholders
The former deputy governor of Lagos State said her office is also working with the subnational governments, other stakeholders as well as its local and foreign partners OSSAP-SDGs and has established framework, processes and strategic initiatives designed to aid the success of the 2030 Agenda in Nigeria.
Orelope- Adefulire listed these to include the Development of a Country Transition Strategy – From MDGs to SDGs – 2016; SDGs Data Mapping and the Publication of Nigeria SDGs-Indicators Baseline Report -2017; Integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the SDGs into the Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan; Domestication and Customisation of the Nigeria Integrated Sustainable Development Goals (iSDGs) Policy Simulation Model -2019 as well as ongoing Re-alignment of the National Statistic System (NSS) with the requirements and Indicators of the SDGs.
She informed journalists that OSSAP-SDGs has started the design and implementation of the Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs) for the SDGs and presented Nigeria’s 2nd Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in July 2020.
While reiterating her commitment to the successful implementation of the SDGs Nigeria to navigate the ‘Decade of Action’ for the Global Goals, she noted that though there are challenges, they are not insurmountable if all Nigerians work together.
“The challenges we face in our efforts to achieve the SDGs are numerous, complex and multi-faceted. Nevertheless, with all stakeholders working together and in synergy – as exemplified in what we are doing here, we will certainly overcome,” she said.
The OSSAP-SDGs stated that between 2016 to date, a number of strategic initiatives have been implemented and some still ongoing. Some of these strategic initiatives, according her, include, the development of a Country Transition Strategy – From MDGs to SDGs – 2016; SDGs Data Mapping and the publication of Nigeria SDGs-Indicators Baseline Report -2017; integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the SDGs into the Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020; and domestication and customisation of the Nigeria Integrated Sustainable Development Goals (iSDGs) Policy Simulation Model -2019;
The initiatives also include, ongoing re-alignment of the National Statistic System (NSS) with the requirements and indicators of the SDGs – to be completed by March 2020; commencement of the design and implementation of the Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs) for the SDGs; and commencement of the process for independent evaluation of priority SDGs – SDGs 1; 3 and 4 in January 2019.
Nigeria presented its 1st and 2ndVoluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in 2017 and 2020 respectively. The 2020 Voluntary National Review (VNR), for instance, focused on seven priority reporting SDGs – 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 16 and 17. This prioritization, according OSSAP-SDGs, is based on the nation’s national development priorities as embedded in the Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 and the three cardinal objectives of President Buhari-led administration: economy, security and fight against corruption.
‘’Unfortunately, just as we commenced the ‘Decade of Action’ for the SDGs in January 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic across the world has now challenged the prospects of achieving the SDGs’’, the presidential aide argues.
Beyond Health Threats, Human Cost of COVID-19
Going by the analysis of the SDGs office, beyond the health threats and human costs of the pandemic, the socio-economic uncertainties and disruptions, came at a substantial cost to the Nigerian economy – which is mainly dependent on oil and gas revenues.
Nevertheless, some optimists believed that the fiscal and monetary measures taken by the federal government to avert the economy from going into a turmoil will help. The objective of the federal government along this line is to restore stability to the economy by providing assistance to individuals, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and businesses that had been severely affected by the pandemic and the lockdown measures.
Some of the federal government ear-splitting, much-talk-out measures, include, creation of N100 billion target credit facility for affected households and small and medium enterprises through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank; creation of a N100 billion intervention fund in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions. And creation of a research fund, which is designed to support the development of vaccines in Nigeria.
The federal government has also talked about a N1trillion facility in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors.
SDGs Recommendations for Economic Growth
Interestingly, in making recommendations for economic growth, the office of SDGs talked about areas to strengthen, which include: Implementation of a comprehensive reform of non-oil taxes/working with the states in improving tax compliance significantly; partnering with the private sector in the management of state-owned enterprises and the federal government’s infrastructure spending should be focused on improving the capacity and efficiency of the national grid and connecting all state capitals and the ports by modern rail system – as this will most likely boost non-oil exports.
Failure to act now, according to the office of SDGs, has huge consequences to Nigeria: If nothing is done to reform the economy, and Nigeria maintains its current pace of growth and unemployment levels, then it is expected that by 2030 the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty will increase by more 30 million. And Nigeria could account for 25 per cent of the world’s extremely poor population.