Addressing Inequalities, Crucial To Sustainable Development Goals Attainment

BY ROSEMARY NWAEBUNI
TWO years down the line since the adoption of 17 Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) at the Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September, 2015 by United Nations Member States, including Nigeria, analysts have shown significant interest in assessing the level of commitment
by Member States to their early domestication.
The 17 Global Goals, which aim to end poverty, fight inequality
and justice, and tackle climate change for the period 2015-2030 include: No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Personal Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Peace and Justice, and Partnership
for the Goals. These Global Goals are expected to tee off from where the MDGs (2000-2015) ended, consolidate on their gains and finish uncompleted areas to ensure that no one is left out.
In the spirit of the 2030 Agenda, all signatory countries, Nigeria inclusive, are committed to work together to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, and environmental protection; ensure that every person fulfilled their potentials in dignity and quality in a healthy environment.
Pursuant to actualization of the development goals, theJoint Committee on the SDGs of the National Assembly in partnership
with the United Nations SDG Action Campaign organized a briefing session on addressing Inequalities in Nigeria. The meeting had in attendance, high-level stakeholders including
policy makers, civil society leaders, the United Nations System, international development community, the academia and media amongst others to discuss the challenges posed by multi-dimensional inequalities and the roles Parliaments and other stakeholders can play in addressing them under the SDGs framework.
The dialogue, was centered on Goal 10 – Reduced Inequality,
aimed to address the imperative of reducing inequality in Nigeria by redirecting the attention of policy makers and implementers of the SDGs to the core principles of strategic development.
In her Goodwill Message at the gathering, Princess AdejokeOrelope-
Adefulire, SSA to the President on SDGs, represented by Dr. IfeoluFalegan, disagreed with the positions held by many experts who lay emphasis on Goal 1 (No Poverty) as the most significant of the 17 Global Goals. She argued that Goal 10 – Reduce Inequality – is the most significant due to its crosscutting and transversal nature which make it crucial to the overall attainment of all the SDGs.
The inclusion of a stand-alone goal on addressing inequalities
means that the SDGs understand the multi-dimensional manifestations and implications of inequalities as a major development challenge of the 21st Century. Addressing inequality therefore, is a major step towards eradicating poverty, hunger, diseases and creating equal access to education,
healthcare and inclusive development for every human person.
To be effective in their roles as partners in driving the SDGs, the Legislature at various levels from the National Assembly to the Legislative Arm of the Local Government Councils need to be abreast with the causes, manifestations and impact of inequalities as well as current data, program and partnerships aimed at addressing inequalities in the country.
Princess Adefulire stated that although markets are inherently
designed to improve margins and generate wealth, without the right interventions and policy frameworks, such wealth is not evenly distributed to the disadvantage
youths, adding that the idle energy and intellect of our youths must be adequately and appropriately channeled in addition to ensuring that women and girls are viewed as having equal opportunities as their male counterparts.
She pledged the resolve of the SDGs Office at the Presidency
to continue to be at the centre of coordinating efforts at strengthening the policy, institutional and financial arrangements
needed for the successful implementation of the Agenda in Nigeria.
In his welcome address at the Parliamentary Briefing, Hon. TijaniAbdulkadirJobe, Chairman, House Committee on SDGs and Chairman of the African Network of Parliamentarians on the SDGs, stated that members of the National Assembly Joint Committees were at the gathering to brief and be briefed on inequalities in Nigeria as seen and experienced from different perspectives and efforts being made to address it.
He leveraged on Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution which prohibits any form of discrimination on grounds of gender, disability or otherwise to elucidate Nigeria’s recognition
of the inherent dangers of inequalities. He noted however, that in spite of these constitutional provisions, other international
conventions and protocols, the customary practices and religious laws in some climes continue to restraint women’s rights. He expressed optimism that given the array of experts and practitioners at the interactive forum, more lights would be thrown on international best practices towards addressing inequalities in all its ramifications in Nigeria.
Earlier in his opening statement, Senator AttaiAidoko Ali Usman, Chairman, Senate Committee on SDGs explained that the concept of Parliamentary Briefing is a Special Tool which the National Assembly developed in partnership with the UN SDG Action Campaign to give Nigerian Parliamentary bodies, especially the Committees on the SDGs an opportunity
to interact with experts and the Nigerian development community across sectors on the various aspects of the SDGs and understand the current status, challenges, opportunities and the legislative actions required from the Legislature as an arm of government to actualize the goals and targets of the SDGs.
Members of Joint Committee on the SDGs of the national assembly.
access to basic social services, life expectancy among others. Across geo-political zones, states, population
and age groups, we see clear manifestations of social, economic and political inequalities.
He feared that inequalities which were gradually becoming a major
development barrier, particularly in Nigeria, could hamper the achievement of all the SDGs if not checke. ‘From statistics available to our Committees, Nigeria seems to be one of the most unequal societies in the world in terms of income, access to basic social services, life expectancy among others. Across geo-political zones, states, population and age groups, we see clear manifestations of social, economic and political inequalities. These should concern all Nigerians and must be addressed’, he stated.
He listed the objectives of the Parliamentary Briefing to include: Understanding the multi-dimensions of inequalities and their impact
on sustainable development in Nigeria; Providing partnerships between parliamentary bodies and other multi-stakeholders for addressing inequalities and assessing the implementation of the SDGs; Developing legislative actions and strategies for addressing inequalities at national and sub-national levels; Laying foundations for national level actions towards addressing inequalities through policy, research, advocacy and partnerships.
Senator Usman expressed enthusiasm that the SDGs have provided us as a nation with a once in a life time opportunity to address the myriads of developmental challenges facing the country. ‘As parliamentarians,
the SDGs offer us a road map to meet the challenges and expectations of our constituents and the Nigerian people in delivering the gains of democracy’.
He said the Briefing would give participants insight into: The general state of inequalities within given population or sector; the drivers of inequalities and their various manifestations; current policy, legislative, institutional and other mechanisms aimed at addressing
these inequalities in Nigeria; and proposals for legislative mechanisms and support necessary for addressing the identified and other forms of inequalities.
In his briefing, the United Nations Global Director of SDGs Action Campaign, Mitchell Toomey, commended Nigerian parliamentarians
for their outstanding leadership role exhibited in the African continent and efforts towards domestication of SDGs despite the challenges of insecurity faced in the country. ‘The Nigerian National Assembly has become a shining light in the engagement of efforts to achieve the SDGs in the world’.
He appreciated the efforts of the Nigerian Government in identifying
inequalities as a key challenge in achieving the SDGs and setting agenda in motion to address the challenge.
Toomey acknowledged Nigeria’s contributions to the ‘My World Survey’, which was used in developing the SDGs and commended the efforts of the National Assembly in making laws and enunciating
policies and programmes aimed at addressing inequalities in Nigeria. He pledged his organization’s continuous support in ensuring the adoption of global best practices in Nigeria’s efforts
to meet the Global Goals. A representative of the Federal Character Commission, D. ShetimmaBuka Abba, who spoke at the Parliamentary Briefing, lamented the huge gap between the rich few who corners 80 % of the country’s wealth and the majority poor in Nigeria, expressed fear that the consequences of such crass inequalities may spell doom for the country if not checked now. He said however, within the window of its mandate to ensure equity and improve the quality of life for the poor and vulnerable, the Federal Character Commission was already addressing socio-political and economic inequalities in the Federation.
He submitted that the achievement of the SDGs by Nigeria would be difficult if inequality in all its ramifications was not addressed. While attributing the insurgencies and agitations in different parts of the country to inequalities, he said ‘The 250 ethnic groups and 374 minorities were hardly taken into consideration during Federal
job placement and other opportunities. There is also gender imbalance in employment opportunities’.
The nexus between education and achievement of the SDGs by Nigeria was underscored by extant statistics which shows that more than 13 million Nigerian children are presently out of school. Representative of the Universal Basic Education, who drew attention to this disturbing statistics at the gathering, maintained that achieving the SDGs will be a mirage if these children were not brought back to school.
He said inequalities in the educational sector manifest in the form of male-female enrolment and urban-rural distribution of teachers, where more teachers are concentrated at the urban areas while most schools in the rural areas have little or no teachers.
He attributed the growing number of out of school children in Nigeria to lack of political will to sustain policies designed to keep children in school. For instance, there are penalties under the UBE for parents who refused to enroll their children in school but no parent has been punished so far. The policy prohibiting school fees in primary schools has also been flaunted by some state governments
which approved fees collection. He said although 2 % consolidated revenue was set aside to improve education in the states but some states are not accessing these funds.
discussion panel with some of the civil society Joint Committee on the SDGs in group photograph with participants at the meeting.
Representative of National Primary Healthcare Development
Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. OladimejiOlayinka averred that inequality cut across all the sectors in Nigeria and the health sector was not an exception. He identified Inequality in different health sectors, among group of person and individuals
with their negative concomitants on the citizenry. He suggested increase in budgetary allocation to NPHCDA to effectively carry out the national policy on immunization programs properly and effectively, noting that health is a key element in the achievement of the SDGs.
ChiomaOsuji of the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education
for All (CSACEFA) identified violence against girls in schools, poor gender distributions of school teachers, lack of toilet facilities in schools, forced marriage, educational policies
not being gender sensitive, stereotyped curriculum, non-conducive environment for children with disabilities, lack of skilled teachers for special children, lack of data on disability and discrimination against disable persons as impediments to the actualization of the SDGs.
She also berated the lopsided attention on universal basoc education to the neglect of senior secondary education and suggested that the education policy be reviewed to accommodate
the senior secondary schools and sanction states which failed to access their educational funds.
Adeoyi, National Association
of Persons with disabilities
lamented the absence
of a legal framework in the country for persons with disabilities, noting that this categories of persons were not only discriminated against by the society, there were no provisions to ensure that they are equipped with adequate skills, their human rights were being denied, they suffer impoverishment, denial of gainful employment
and lack of care from parents, society and government.
He recommended the enunciation and passage of disability laws to provide legal framework for addressing
challenges of persons with disabilities.
In the same vein, David Anyaele of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities requested the need for parliamentarians at all levels to strengthen oversight functions as regards addressing
challenges of persons with disabilities, build their capacities around disabilities, strengthen the law makers understanding and call on all states to domesticate disability law.
The National Coordinator of Civil Society Coalition on SDGs, Prof. David TolaWinjobi noted that whereas, the rural
areas were classified as the food basket for the nation, they remained grossly underdeveloped in all ramifications, a situation that made life in the rural areas a difficult one. He advised a holistic approach in entrenching proper infrastructural
development in the rural places especially when government is encouraging people to return to agriculture which has been neglected.
Senator Dino Melaye, who also spoke at the Parliamentary Briefing, admonished that the issue of inequality should be urgently addressed and called for support to help women achieve their given potentials.
He said inequalities loom large in various facets of development,
including health service delivery and education, added that Nigerians were too tribalized and ethnic conscious and this creates negativity in the nation.
Melaye equally identified regional imbalance in employment
distribution where the influential personalities and senators as well as those at the corridors of power take over the job opportunities than the talakawas.
He advocated the need to address inequality in the country and make the nation a country where job opportunities are given based on merit without notes from those at the corridors
of power and the influential members of the society.
He also advocated radical transformation where the citizen would rise up to hold their leaders accountable to ensure that the children of the President down to Counselors be made to attend public schools; when there is no power supply in any part of the country, there should be no light as well at the various government houses and Aso Rock. He insisted, ‘that will be the only way proper attention would be paid to equipping the education and power sector to deliver at the optimal standard’.
“The poor must begin to speak. The public should not swallow everything their leaders give to them”, he charged. Senator Ali Wakili in his remark identified two cardinal points, which were democracy and good governance. He stated that if the principle of democracy and good governance were entrenched, there will be no need for the retinue of
Participants at the ocassion.
complains. He noted that the elite have bastardized the country with their self centeredness’, amass wealth for personal aggrandizement,
built mansions even for generations unborn , at the detriments of the poor masses, adding that they are all guilty and need to purge themselves of all their wrong ways of doing things.
He noted that they have all lost their sense of humanity and became so individualistic,
adding, ‘that accounts for reason why we find ourselves where we are today