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OH NO, NOT AGAIN!

MDGs to SDGs: Nigerians cries over failure to achieve developmental goals

…… govt, experts proffer solutionspecial-report

AYODELE OLALERE

 

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recently rated Nigeria low in the implementation of the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report followed a study connected by UNESCO in the last one year on the extent Nigeria had gone in achieving developmental goals.

According to UNESCO representative in Nigeria, Dr. Osuji Otu, while delivering a five year UNESCO report on Development in Science, Technology and Innovation at the 2016 World Science Day Celebration for Peace and Development in Abuja, he said though Nigeria has beautiful programmes to attain the SDG goals, lack of funding has hampered the progress of attaining the set goals by 2030.

The report stated that Nigeria so far has spends only 0.26 per cent of her GDP on research and development, which is far less than the 0.41 average GDP allocations to R&D in the Sub-Sahara Africa.

Sadly, the report came at a time the country failed to achieve the concluded Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) which began globally which ended in May 2015. Nigeria was among 189 countries that were signatories to those goals.

At that time, Nigeria government led by the then President Goodluck Jonathan had promised that Nigeria  was going to pursue the achievement of the goals  vigorously which primarily focused on children in the area of provision of  food, water, and healthcare services as children are always the first victims of poor health services. As such, six of the eight goals related directly to children.

MDGs

The eight goals the MDGs was meant to achieve were eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, Improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

Analysis on the performance of Nigeria within the period the project lasted shows that Nigeria failed to achieve these goals.

For instance, in the area of eradication of poverty, as at February 2014, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated that a staggering 112,519 million Nigerians were living in abject poverty, a total of 69 percent of the country’s total population. Many Nigerians lived and still lives below $1 per day.

In many households, to get three meals a day was a herculean task. In urban areas, it was a regular sight to see children as little as five years old picking food left-overs from waste-bins, while some resorted to begging at major bus stops and terminals. More worrisome is the fact these children were encouraged by their parents to engage in street begging as they could not provide them with life necessities.

The NBS report also indicated that areas such as the North-West and the North-East were the worst hit as poverty rates in such areas stood at 77.7 per cent and 76.3 per cent respectively. However, the South-West geo-political zone recorded the lowest at 59.1 per cent. While Sokoto had the highest poverty rate at 86.4 per cent, Niger State had the lowest at 43.6 per cent.

In the area of Primary education, there is also evidence that Nigeria failed to achieve the provision of education especially for children. In many primary schools, there were no enough classrooms and furniture for the pupils. Some sat on the floor while in some parts of the country, classes were held under the trees.

There were no teaching aid materials while the ration of teachers to pupils stood at 1 to 80 as there were fewer teachers.  The few teachers available were not well remunerated making them to lack the motivation to teach. Rather than go to school, many children took to hawking as they lacked the financial assistance to acquire education. This is as a result of the government’s refusal to fund education and poor economy.

Statistics also showed that some 1.5 million Nigerian children between the ages of 6-14 (8.1%) are currently not in school.

While commenting on the issue, a Professor of Law, Joseph Abugu from the University of Lagos had said: “The problems of the primary education sector over the years are cyclical, ever the same: dearth of infrastructures; funding; inadequate curriculum and management of personnel amidst a growing school age population.

These inadequacies dwarf the efforts of successive governments in addressing the problems of the sector, hence the apparent decline in the quality of primary education since in the 1970s. The introduction of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) aimed at making education accessible and making all citizens literate by the year 2010 is still a mirage. It is my humble view that the rationale and tenets of the UPE policy are still valid and the need dire.”

The gender equality goal was also not achieved to satisfaction.  Women and girls are still discriminated against by the men’s folks. In many states, female children are not sent to school unlike their male counterparts. Although more women were given political role within the period in review, yet investigation revealed that women are still relegated to the background. Little has been done in the empowerment of women

Between 1990 and 2015, the child mortality rate has not improved.  There was a little reduction in under-five mortality, from 301 deaths per 1000 live births in 2003 to 201 death per 1000 live births in 2008. Infant mortality also shows a significant reduction from 100 per 1000 live births. Slow progress was recorded in the area of maternal health. This was caused by poor medical facilities, lack of qualified doctors as well the problem of fake drugs, thereby posing challenge to women.

Though efforts have been made by government to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases through provision of antiretroviral drugs, yet these diseases still poses challenge to the well-being of Nigerians. Few HIV positive individual had access to drugs and the ones available are expensive.

Therefore, following the introduction of the SDGs 17 points agenda last year, Nigerians had high hopes that having failed to achieve the MDGs, efforts would be put in place to make the SDGs a reality within a short period.

SDGSs 17 goals

The 17 goals the SDGs plans to achieve are to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, reduce inequality within and among countries, make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss, promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, and strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Hope dashed

However, one year after the SDGs took off all over the world; the recent UNESCO earlier report earlier quoted seems to have dashed high hope of Nigerians. To many people, Nigerians are back to square one as the present situation in the country does not show any sign that the country is on the right track to achieving these goals.

This has generated various negative reactions from people, many of whom are lamenting the current situation. Those who spoke with TAKE A BREAK PAPER are of the view that not again should government watch on and allow Nigeria to fail in achieving the SDGs.

Reactions

Mr Dipo Adegoke, a bank official with a new generation bank told TAKE A BREAK PAPER that failure of the government to provide basic amenities for the citizens in the last one year is responsible for the low rate by UNESCO.  He added that this is an indication that more work need to be done if the government is to bring smiles to the face of the citizenry.

He further said having failed to meet up with the Millennium goals; he expected government to have put more efforts in making the SDGs a reality.

“The UNESCO report is a reflection of what has been happening in the last one year since the SDGs was formed. It is also a reflection of the present state of our economy. One would have expected that since Nigeria did not perform well in achieving the Millennium  goals, by now, government would have pay more attention to the SDGs.  What we are witnessing is not what we expected,” he lamented.

He added: Nigerians are still living in abject poverty; it is even worse now than before. The health sector is still in shambles. The hospitals are not well equipped and even the nurses and doctors who works there are not well motivated to work.

The education sector is not showing any sign of improvement. Many public schools are dilapidated and the teachers are reluctant to work. Private schools have taken over and the prices of these schools are not within the reach of the common man.  No improvement in security as insecurity has increased. Domestic violence is now the order of the day.”

He further lamented that while other countries, who are signatories to the project, have made giant leap in the last one year, Nigeria is lagging behind.

“If we want to meet up with other countries by the time the project ends in 2030, now is the time for us to start. We cannot afford to remain on the same spot. We failed in achieving the MDGs; we cannot afford to fail in achieving the SDGs.

While proffering solutions, Adegoke said conscious efforts must be made by government to remedy the current economic situation.

“The latest report by UNESCO is an indication that more works needs to be done if the government is to bring smiles to the faces of the citizenry. Already, many Nigerians are lamenting the failure of government to achieve the goals in the last one year, raising fears that by the end of 2030, the country again would have failed in meeting up with other countries of the world. People are apprehensive which is why this requires urgent attention.”

An economist, Mr Segun Bello also told TAKE A BREAK PAPER that the level of poverty in Nigeria seems to have increased in the last one year.

“I expected that having failed to achieve the Millennium goals, government would have made every effort to begin the implementation of the SDGs on a front footing. What I have seen in the last one year has not shown that we learnt anything from our failure in the past. The poverty level has increased and hunger in the land is now at alarming rate. Cost of food items has increased drastically. It is not what we have looked forward too. Goals are meant to be achieved and where one fails to achieve them, it means one has failed.

The economy is not well doing well at the moment which has contributed largely to the low rate by UNESCO. Not again should government allow the country to fail in achieving these objectives. Other countries are recording improvement but when are we going to achieve ours,” he asked rhetorically.

He advised government to partner with private sectors and provide conducive business environment for them to thrive so they could contribute to the realization of these goals.

“Private sectors are the drivers of the economy as they contribute a lot to the growth of the GDP. They provide jobs. So our realization of these goals within a short time will depend largely on the part the private sectors plays but at the same time, there must be friendly business environment and good policies that will make them succeed,” he said.

Mr Prince Okechukwu, of Emmabel Properties said for government to realize the goal of providing affordable housing for all by 2030 as one of the SDGs, an average citizen must be able to buy building materials at affordable rates. He also advised that private investors must be brought into the picture.

Hear him: “Presently, it is difficult for people to purchase building materials because they are very expensive. How many people can afford them? The cost of cement is on the high side likewise other materials. So am not surprised the UNESCO report rated us low. However, since we know government cannot provide houses for every individual, it is imperative that private investors are allowed to complement government’s effort. It will be sad if after the end of the SDGs project in 2030, Nigeria will have nothing to show in terms of rapid improvement and development. We cannot aim to be among the top 20 economy in the world if we fail to pay attention to provision of basic amenities. We have the resources to achieve these goals. What we only need as a nation is determination, continuity and political will to realize them. Successive governments must ensure they build on whatever achievements of their predecessors.”

Other Nigerians who spoke with TAKE A BREAK PAPER equally expressed disappointment on the issue but urges government to expedite actions.

 Government’s reaction

In its reaction, government said it’s aware of its failure to meet up with the MDGs in the past but that measures are being put in place to fast track the implementation of the SDGs.

According to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, while speaking at a courtesy visit by members of the Alumni Association of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), at the State House, Abuja, government’s concern was how to implement the policies to address the need of the people.

“This is the main challenge. When you look at the economic and social policies, and you look at the level of illiteracy in parts of the country, some are extremely bad and some with cases of about 80% or 90% of children out of school, and other cases of unimaginable decayed infrastructure. Governments have not been accountable to the people,” he said.

In its report, UNICEF says that every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age.

“This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world,’’ the agency says.

However, the Federal Government said it’s working seriously on reducing ratio. At a recent 2016 National Summit on Advancing Reproductive, Maternal, New-born, Child and Adolescent Health held in Abuja by the Federal Ministry of Health, in conjunction with donor agencies, it was held that the mortality ratio of 576 per 100,000 live births from the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) was a far cry from the global target.

“The global target is 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030,” the Summit held.

The Minister for Health, Adewole, who was represented by Dr Wapada Balami, the Director of Family Health in Federal Ministry of Health, said there is need to reduce the ratio by a minimum of 88 per cent within the next 15 years.

“While new-born mortality needs to be reduced by at least 68 per cent and under-five mortality should be reduced by at least 80 per cent,” he said.

 

He promised the health ministry commitment to strengthening the health sector, while monitoring and evaluating health services regularly for improved accessibility in every setting.

 

“The ministry shall invest and encourage investment in and nurture the cycle of research, policy and programming. In Nigeria, the Integrated Maternal, New-born and Child Health Strategy was launched in 2007 to reduce maternal and child mortality.  We need to ensure health system resilience in providing good quality care and preparation for emergencies,” Adewole said.

The Minister said that the Maternal Death and Perinatal Review, Surveillance and Response would improve quality of health services during the critical period of childbirth and post-natal phase.

 

Also in her reaction, the Minister of Environment, Mrs Amina Mohammed, admitted Nigeria failed to achieve the MDGs which lasted for 15years, she noted that every year, not less than 16,000 children died from preventable diseases such as measles and tuberculosis.

 

“For Nigeria to attain the SDGs by 2030, it will have to quickly improve on economic growth, education and health system. At present, most Nigerians living in rural and hard-to-reach areas are still grappling with having to survive without basic health care facilities,” she said.

 

“There is an urgent need to incorporate the SDGs into the strategic plans of the federal, state and local governments. This should be followed with development of concrete policies and programmes to achieve the SDGs through effective information and awareness,” she said.

 

Mrs Margaret Bolaji, Associate Researcher, Centre for Girls Education (CGE), Zaria, lamented lack of sufficient investments in addressing factors limiting efforts of young Nigerians to demonstrate their maximum potential as key actors in achieving sustainable and equitable roles in the society.

“More than 43 per cent of girls are married off before the age of 18, while 17 per cent of the girls are forced into marriage before they turn 15,’’ she said.

 

“Many young people, especially girls, face uncertainties and insecurity; they are less likely to practice healthy and safe sexual behaviour; they cannot also make informed decisions about if and when to have children,’’ she said.

Likewise, as a way of promoting reproductive health in Nigeria, the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) stated that it has initiated a research to determine and evaluate maternal health indicators.

 

According to Mrs Onyeka Onwenu, the former Director-General of the centre, the research was one of the centre’s contributions to the effective implementation of the SDGs in the country.

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“Maternal mortality is a leading cause of premature death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries like Nigeria. Unfortunately, maternal health or women’s health, in general, has received very little strategic interventions and attention from gender, development and human rights workers,’’ she said.

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