“Since our admission as a member state of the United Nations in 1960, we have always participated in all efforts to bring about global peace, security and development. Nigeria will continue to support the UN in all its efforts, including the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
These were the final words of the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, at the United Nations General Assembly’s 72nd debate session on Wednesday, September 20, 2017. The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is projected to bring an end to extreme poverty, inequality and the threat of climate change globally. Therefore, the attention of world leaders and indeed every country has constantly been drawn to the initiation of acts capable of hitting the bull’s eye on the global goals.
Today, September 25, 2017, the SDGs is two years. It is another time for a reflection on progress and a review and cross-examination of activities by all the 193 country signatories. For Nigeria, even though the speech of the president at the General Assembly centred more on international happenings than on local activities, it did not fail to hint on some of the major concerns of this administration, which can be speculated to be the government’s major SDG concern areas – security, corruption, and inequality (Goals 11, 16, and 10).
Nigeria is said to have assisted countries and communities in the Sahel and the Lake Chad regions to contain threats by Al Qaida and Boko Haram. Also, the country is said to be providing relief and humanitarian assistance to those displaced by insecurity. In addition, it is fighting corruption and challenged by inequality. Aside the president’s speech, the progress report on the goals as delivered at the 2017 High Level Political Forum reveals that the country has integrated them into national, state and sectorial policies, plan, and budget.
Notwithstanding these articulated commitments, actions and efforts, our priorities and performance must be questioned. In reality, which aspects of the goals are of utmost concern to the average Nigerian, considering current economic harshness, poor state of education (over 10 million children out of school), health, sanitation (57 million Nigerians lack safe water, over 130 million lack adequate sanitation – (OXFAM 2017) and infrastructure? Nigeria’s peculiar and urgent developmental needs seem to be beyond the trio of security, corruption and inequality. However, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on the SDGs – Princess Adejoke Orelope–Adefulire, at the presentation of a national voluntary report on the progress of the SDGs during the last United Nations High Level Political Forum (July, 2017) disclosed that economic recession and insecurity have been the major threats to the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, there has been no exponential progress made with the clamp on insecurity, corruption and inequality as the unity of the country remains threatened by rising agitating groups and terrorists. Corruption is seemingly still at its peak as new discoveries of recovered loots evolving regularly have not translated to any visible economic boost. Moreover, economic inequality has reached extreme levels in the country as five million still face hunger. The combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men – $29.9 billion – could end extreme poverty at a national level when the amount of money that the richest Nigerian man can earn annually from his wealth is sufficient to lift two million people out of poverty for one year (OXFAM 2017).
Clearly, beyond the speech of the president and the official progress report, the progress of Nigeria towards the SDGs is slower than needed to meet the 2030 target and our commitment can be disputed.
For Nigeria’s commitment to be applauded and for the SDGs to register significant progress, specific goals must be prioritised according to obvious realities and needs, while the thrust of the country’s socio-economic development strategy should be the SDGs. Most importantly, voluntary and active participation of every sector (public, private, non-governmental, and international) is imperative before any phenomenal results can be achieved with the goals in Nigeria.
As the Global Goals Week 2017 paralleled with the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly – September 16-23, 2017 and as the world marks another year of the SDGs, Nigeria should remember that commitment can only be acknowledged when the common man begins to experience sustainable development, first hand.