World leaders at the just concluded United Nations General Assembly renews their efforts toward alleviating the plight of the poor in the society as Nigeria receives a thumbs up for her unflinching commitment.
The side event held at the on-going 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, 28, September was designed to enable African countries implementing the UN Millennium Development Goals framework to share experiences of their best practices, identify areas of weaknesses and device strategies that will help the member countries accelerate their efforts towards effectively attaining the goals.
Titled: Transformative agenda for sustainable development in Nigeria and Africa: Lessons, actions and emerging perspectives, the event pulled together participants from different strata of the United Nations and Presidents of some African countries. In attendance were the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon represented by the UN Assistant Secretary and Advisor on post 2015, Amina Mohammed, President Goodluck Jonathan, President of Ghana, John Mohama, President of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, President Macky Sall of Senegal, Ministers, Heads of Mission, Diplomats amongst others.
With less than 1000 days remaining to the 2015 target date, world leaders are racing against time in the final push to attain MDGs. Indeed, deliberations on a post 2015 development framework is already at top gear and the side event therefore provided a platform for peer review of the efforts of the various leaders of African countries towards achieving the MDGs.
The leaders also seized the opportunity to highlight their desired inputs to the succession framework post 2015. All the leaders of African countries present at the side event agreed that alleviation of poverty should be the major focus of the post MDGs agenda with measures aimed at poverty reduction, improved healthcare, jobs creation, as well as energy also included in the agenda
While speaking at the event, President Mohama noted that experience of the last 13 years has largely shown that a lot can be done to improve the cause of humanity when the world come together to set common targets as it was done with the MDGs in year 2000. The Ghanaian President who stated that the successes that has so far been recorded by some African countries in alleviating the plight of the most vulnerable in their societies singled out Nigeria’s Social protection scheme (Conditional Cash transfer) for commendation, describing it as an effective way of reaching the poor and under-privileged in the society.
“Going forward, I must commend the social protection scheme President Goodluck Jonathan is running because I believe that we must redistribute wealth and distribute the fruits of growth so that the whole of society can benefit and those who are at the bottom of the society can be afforded the opportunity to live a decent live.” Mohama stated.
Ahead of the 2015, deadline, Nigeria, as revealed by recent NBS statistics as reeled out by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Dr Precious Gbeneol, has met goals three and six as well as the Hunger target of goal one.
The country’s Maternal Mortality Ratio, which was estimated that 1,000 mothers died per 100,000 live births in 1990, dropped to 545 in 2008 and to 350 in 2012. Nigeria has also recorded 65 per cent reduction in maternal mortality between 2000 and 2013 and increased skilled birth attendants from 17 per cent in 2000 to 60 per cent 2013.
There has also been a reduction from the 2008 NDHS figure for the under-five mortality rate of 157 deaths per 1,000 live births, to 94 deaths.
Nigeria’s latest statistics indicated that infant mortality has dropped from 100/1,000 live births as recently as 2003 to 61/1,000 live births.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon who spoke through the UN Assistant Secretary and Advisor on post 2015, Amina Mohammed stated that the MDGs Acceleration Framework (MAF) introduced by the Nigeria and supported by the UN as well as other policies of Government attest to the commitment of Nigeria in addressing the plight of the very vulnerable poor in the country as defined in the MDGs framework.
He hailed the leadership and coordinating role of the government of Nigeria in attaining the MDGs not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa.
“The commitment of President Jonathan to MDGs in Nigeria and indeed across Africa will help us more in our quest to meet the peoples’ need at national, regional and global level. In turn, this will contribute to more effective multilateral system and one that is fit for purpose to deliver not only on the MDGs but the post 2015 development agenda” Ban stated.
The Coordinator of the UNDP Helen Clark, speaking through Regional Director of Africa Bureau, Abdoulaye Mar dieye stated that the concerted efforts of Nigeria have produced significant results especially on the MDGs target on the proportion of undernourished people, on gender parity in primary education, reversal of HIV/AIDS, reduction of under 5 mortality and maternal mortality rate.
Ban’s position was re-echoed by the Special Adviser to the Secretary General and head of the Earth Institute of the Columbia University, Professor Jeffrey Sachs.
“Nigeria deserves our great gratitude for its leadership right from the start of the MDGs.
Nigeria has been in the lead with new concepts and new initiatives that have really proven the way and has turned all the cynicism and pessimism that surrounded the debt relief in 2005 into a solid and effective investment in poverty reduction in the country. For that we have the government to commend. I am very proud of the huge successes so far recorded by Nigeria in the effort to attain the goals. I expect Nigeria to continue to lead in the post 2015 efforts.” Sachs said.
According to the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, the efforts of Nigeria and the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan is notable and very key as the continent joins the global community in the new quest to frame a post 2015 successive framework.
On her part, President Ellen Sirleaf stated that she was particularly impressed by Nigeria’s MDGs implementation mechanism, institution and structures put in place to achieve the development agenda as well as the independent monitoring and evaluation mechanism which she described as world class and laudable.
“We in Liberia do not have that. I am not sure how many of our countries in Africa have that. To see an office wholly devoted to MDGs is very impressive.”
She stated that she was therefore not surprised that Nigeria was making remarkable progress in her quest to attain the global agenda.
“I would urge all our countries in Africa to within the remaining two years of the MDGs emulate the efforts and focus on selected goals in a bid to achieve the goals especially those with greater prospects.” Sirleaf stated.
Yet this is not the first time the efforts of Nigeria towards the attainment of the MDGs is receiving global commendation.
About a year ago, the Midwives’ Service Scheme funded by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals, OSSAP-MDGs and implemented by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency won the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) award on Innovations in Government Services and Programmes in New Delhi.
The CAPAM International Innovations Awards are adjudicated by an international panel of esteemed public service professionals typically representing at least 10 different Commonwealth countries. Nigeria defeated developed countries like Australia with the Regional Youth Justice Services; Canada, which showcased an Innovation Commercialization Program to clinch the award.
The midwives scheme operates in over 250 clusters covering 1000 primary health care centres nationwide. The scheme gives maternal and newborn child health a much-needed impetus by offering babies a good start in life and improving the wellbeing of mothers.
At the week-long 38th session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO’s highest governing body in Rome, Italy earlier in the year, which was designed to review the state of hunger and food security in the world, Nigeria was honoured along with 37 developing countries, institutions and individuals for outstanding action against hunger.
In presenting the award, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva praised the country for having used agriculture as a solution for the crisis: “As a result of these and other efforts, agriculture and food security are once more seen as entry points for growth and development strategies in many countries, and increasingly designated as priorities for international development assistance.”
The FAO Director-General added: “I want to say that you are living proof that when societies decide to put an end to hunger, and when there is political commitment from governments, we can transform that will into concrete action and results. FAO is proud to work with all our member nations, developed and developing, to reach our common vision of a hunger-free and sustainable world.”
Nigeria reportedly got the award because the number of Nigerians suffering from hunger reduced from 19.31 million in 1990 and 1992 to 13.38 in 2010 and 2012. It was also reported that there has been a decline in the prevalence of under-nourishment in the country from 19.3 per cent in 1990/1991 to 8.5 per cent by 2010/2012. This is below the MDG target of 9.7 per cent that was set for 2015.
The progress recorded by Nigeria in reducing hunger has been attributed to the commitment of federal government to the fight against hunger through a multi-sectoral approach which has the Agricultural Transformation Agenda at its centre.
The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs has also played a central role in the success of the agricultural transformation agenda through interventions aimed at enhancing food security such as Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme under the Conditional Grants Scheme.
The CCT programme which was scaled up as part of the 2012 DRGs budget, adopts a multi-faceted approach in its engagement with issues of hunger and poverty reduction and engages 56,000 low-income households across 24 states of the federation. At the end of their involvement in the csheme, participants are given the sum of N100, 000 as principal capital for startup an agricultural enterprise. The condition for the release of this sum is the completion of 3-month training in an agro-business. Households are supported to invest in poultry, fishery, backyard vegetable production, amongst other areas.
OSSAP-MDGs has also supported various initiatives of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development aimed at enhancing Nigeria’s food security. In the vein, the MDGs office made the sum of N541 million, N5.1 billion and N4.73 billion appropriated in the Federal Budget to the ministry in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. The increased allocation in 2012 and 2013 was done to support Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
The support was aimed at enhancing the capacity of Federal Ministry of Agriculture in three principal areas which include training of youth and women in agricultural practices, funding of extension services, and construction of rural feeder roads. With the support, Federal Ministry of Agriculture has been able to train 5,000 youths in ten different value chains and provide start-up packages for 6,000 youths including access to credit and other inputs through the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES); training of 2,500 women in poultry, bull fattening, sheep and goat production, bee keeping, crop value chains and extension.
Also, loans were provided to trainees to purchase starter packs, access GES and other necessary inputs; re-invigorate Extension Support Services through the training of 22,500 farmers, procurement of 5,000 portable pesticide sprayers, amongst other activities; construction of surface dressed roads to staple crop-processing zones, and the rehabilitation of rural feeder roads in crop production clusters.
Through the 2013 DRGs Budget, OSSAP-MDGs is supporting the Federal Ministry of Youth Development to train youths to start agricultural enterprises. These enterprises span the areas of aquaculture, livestock rearing, fabrication, repair and maintenance of agro-equipment and crop value chains. In addition to this training, startup capital is being provided with access to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture’s GES, to increase fertilizer provision, amongst other avenues of input support.
Under the 2013 DRGs-CGS line item of the Federal Budget, an agricultural component has been included in the Local Government track. This component will engage agricultural cooperatives in 250 LGAs across the country, as part of the third round of the CGS to Local Governments. The intervention is structured to address the parts of the respective targeted value chains in the different regions that demonstrate the greatest marginal return in both output of produce and monetary value. The execution of this intervention will likely be through an on-going credit scheme within this area. The aim of this new area of intervention is to create capacity at the local government level to maximize the productive capacity of local cooperatives, to augment the interventions made by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development,” it was added in the statement.
While acknowledging the commendations over Nigeria’s achievements in the realization of MDGs, President Jonathan stated that the commitment of his government to the development goals is as result of the premium the government places on the lives of the vulnerable poor in the country, which he described as a mission. The Nigerian President particularly noted that his commitment was also informed by his personal experience.
“The issues of MDGs touch me directly, having lost seven of my eight siblings before their first birthdays and we are taking the issues of the MDGs as a mission. We are committed to taking people out of poverty, ensure that mothers and babies stay alive in good health and households enjoys improve standard of living.” President Jonathan stated.
The President’s remarks at the side event was a further amplification his earlier pledge of greater commitment to the MDGs during his address to the UN General Assembly. The President also during the address harped on the importance of peace as the bedrock of all developmental efforts.
“There have been several conflicts with devastating consequences in virtually all regions of the world, as global citizens; we have a sacred duty to free our world of wars, rivalries, ethnic conflicts and religious division. Our collective efforts in our drive for a better world will continue to bind us together.”
Realising the need to sustain peace in Nigeria beyond the year 2015, Jonathan said he is committed to building systems that will see that the conflicts and insecurity confronting the nation doesn’t pull it apart.
“Mr. President, Nigeria continues to support the efforts of the United Nations in addressing the global initiatives to combat the menace of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.” President Jonathan stated.