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Nigeria, SDGs and burden of responsibility

By the end of this year, 2023, the period for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals would have crossed its half line. Set to…

By the end of this year, 2023, the period for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals would have crossed its half line. Set to run from 2015 to 2030, these lofty goals were designed to continue the work started under the Millennium Development Goals, which had the singular objective of lifting the quality of human life through coordinated global and national action plans.

The poster face of these 17 goals is the target, in SDG number one, which aims to end poverty in all its forms by the expiration date. That means ending poverty as measured by monetary values, and poverty measured multi-dimensionally.

If this were a game, it would be appropriate, if not imperative, for us to know how far we have come from our baseline at the start of the race as we cross the half-line mark. So, where is Nigeria today in terms of these goals? Where are we with regard to ending poverty, even as we transit from one administration to another as a country?

The transition from the MDGs to SDGs showed some improvement in the fight against poverty and deprivation, globally. For instance, under the MDGs, there was a special emphasis on poverty and slums, which are really twin brothers.  Appropriately, the number Number 1 Goal was the eradication of poverty in all its forms. It also had Goal Number 7: “By 2020 to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers”. This is a tall order and significant efforts must be put to the target by all stakeholders if the desired results are to be achieved within the stipulated time frame.

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So, from 1990 to 2015, the drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals was at the centre of all global efforts to tackle these challenges. These efforts paid off, such that by the year 2015, the UNDP announced that as many as one billion people had been removed from extreme poverty, while child mortality dropped by more than half. Both of these achievements were recorded from 1990, with remarkable successes recorded in the other goals as well.

Subsequently, the UNDP said the achievements made in the fight against poverty and other social issues had laid a good foundation to pursue further the problems that are clear indications of poverty: the eradication of hunger, achievement of complete gender equality, making health services accessible, and ensuring that children attain more than primary education. This gave rise to what the UN called the Sustainable Development Goals, which are to run for 15 years to the year 2030. The Number One of the 17 SDGs, as under the MDGs, is to end poverty in all its forms.

There is in the National Assembly a House Committee on Poverty Alleviation. There is no such committee in the Senate, and I have always wondered why? Are they saying that the Senate, the upper chamber of our legislation, is too busy to concern itself with an issue as serious as getting Nigerians out of poverty?

As the chase for the leadership positions in the Assembly heats up, I have wondered if there is someone who is chasing the leadership of this committee. Whoever occupies that post or hustles for it must, in my opinion, be a good Nigerian, who is really out to solve perhaps the most serious problem confronting us as a nation currently.

There is also in the presidency an Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the SDGs. One would wonder what their handover notes would be, both the outgoing Chairman of the House Committee on the Alleviation of Poverty and the SSA to our President on the SDGs.

One recalls that on June 7, 2021, almost two years ago, that office in Abuja at a glittering event, launched what it called Nigeria Sustainable Development Goals Implementation Plan 2020-2030. As part of the transition, Nigerians would want to know what has happened with respect to the action plan launched that day.

The tragedy of our nation is that we design and implement our lofty national plans at events held at the coziest of our 5-star hotels in the nation’s capital or any of the regional centres. Our government officials rise one after the other and make high-sounding speeches to which the captive audiences clap endlessly. One after the other, the speeches are made, and subsequent speakers rise to describe the speeches and those who gave them as the best things to have happened in recent times. Then everyone departs. And that would be the end of the matter.

One of the agencies of government represented at that event was the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Figures released by this agency are supposed to guide the design and implementation of sound economic policies. In fact, the work of this agency is such that it would be impossible for the country to make any meaningful progress without good data from it.

In 2016, as Nigeria was beginning to implement the SDGs, NBS issued what it called Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals Baseline Report, as the country began the implementation of the SDG Goal. NBS indicated that the proportion of Nigerians living below both the international and country’s poverty lines was 62.6 per cent (for national). By geographical location, 51.2 per cent of urban residents, and 69 per cent of rural dwellers lived below the poverty line, according to the report.

However, the NBS did not indicate the population of Nigeria’s slum population, despite the attention that slums are receiving.  The outgoing administration was new in office at the time these figures were released.

Nigerians today know that our situation has definitely worsened from those baseline figures given by the NBS. We have regressed to a point where our multidimensional poverty level has risen as high as 63 per cent, holding as many as 163 million Nigerians in its claws.

Since that year of NBS’s baseline figures, Nigeria has gone ahead to become the poverty capital of the world, despite the promises by the outgoing government to pull as many as 10 million of our citizens out of poverty each year. As we cross another milestone, it would be interesting to know what our poverty baselines are, on the eve of a new administration.  Over to you NBS. 


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