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Two years after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, those goals have never been more vital to the development of the 193 countries (including Nigeria) subscribing to the 17 goals and 169 specific targets.
Many Nigerians may not be aware of the SDGs and may think it is too technical. But they know firsthand what it means to go for days without food, they ride on bad roads and have at one point or the other witnessed the lack of social services, be it in the areas of health, access to good education or lack of portable water. Up NEPA! is our second national anthem.
Two years into the 15 years lifespan of the goals, Nigeria through the Office of the Senior Special Adviser to the President on SDGs (SSAP-SDGs) has taken national ownership of the SDGs and has worked to integrate the goals into the nations planning documents.
“The Government of Nigeria has embarked on an SDGs Needs Assessment and Policy Analysis exercise which should provide the nation with the much-needed baseline data and information to enable the forecast and planning for the subsequent public investments across sectors and regions and hence, more effective and efficient resource use as well as impact’’, we read in the opening statement of the President in the National Voluntary Report submitted by Nigeria to the “people and international community on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Federal Republic of Nigeria’’ in July 2017 in New York.
The above leaves no room for doubt or debate on whether Nigeria is taking steps to implement the SDGs. As with many of our plans and programmes, time is of essence. Nigeria has been in the development labour room for years, going through the pangs of development labour, yet its doctors have refused to send it to an emergency ward for necessary surgical operation. Overwhelming debt profile, recession, corruption and plummeting economy has greatly compounded our agony as a nation.
With the Presidential Council on the SDGs now in place, their role will be paramount in developing and implementing an urgent response in attaining the SDGs by 2030 and deflating the country’s poverty rate from the present 112 million Nigerians living below the poverty line as of 2016.
Before they are reduced to mere projects, the SDGs provide a basis for developing and implementing clear national development plans, set a good foundation for a carefully articulated political party manifesto and may even be a good agenda for discussing the much touted ‘restructuring’’. Our technical and political elites including grassroots mobilisers must now pay attention to the SDGs and what “its spirit is telling the congregation”.
The SDGs leave a whole new level of development agenda that needs scaling. The last time I checked, no one yet has estimated the full cost, however, allocation of resources to the right sectors of the economy will be the most critical factor, in the view of development specialists. They dare to hope that with the country now out of recession, the 2018 federal, state and local government budgets will be SDGs-based providing the spark for a long overdue accelerated implementation of the goals.
All Nigerians should rally forcefully behind their fellow citizens being left behind on the island of development as the country labours to develop using the SDGs as an accountability framework for holding all stakeholders accountable — government, private and civil society.
It is up to the private and civil society sector to partner government in ensuring that by 2030, we have a Nigeria that “Nigerians want” after all the 17 issues listed in the goals have been with us since independence and they are more Nigerian than foreign.
Oyebisi B. Oluseyi, Executive Director, Nigeria Network of NGOs writes in from Lagos,