Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nigeria and the MDGs

Nigeria is one of the 189 countries that endorsed the Millennium Declaration in September 2000 in United States of America. The Declaration sets out eight goals to be reached by 2015. They are: Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty; Achieve universal primary education; Promote gender equality and empower women; Reduce child mortality; Improve maternal health; Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; Ensure environmental sustainability and, Develop a global partnership for development. These are to be fully achieved or met by half between 1990 and 2015. Is Nigeria any near achieving these goals in less than 6 years time?

Minister of Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi on July 15, 2008 said 64 of the 80 million youths in Nigeria are unemployed. He stated further at a 2-day stakeholders meeting on youth employment in Abuja that 1.6 million of the employed youths are underemployed and went on to inform that data made available by the National Manpower Board and Federal Bureau of Statistics indicated that only about 10 per cent of the graduates released into the labour market annually by universities and other tertiary institutions in the country were able to get paid employment. With this frightening statistics, any wonder that 300,000 people applied for a 7,000 job vacancies at the Nigeria Prison Service and Nigeria Immigration Service in 2008? During the recruitment exercise on July 12, 2008, Minister of Interior who oversees the two agencies said that 43 people were tentatively conformed dead. Again, with this mind boggling figures, is there any wonder that in the month of July 2008 alone, Nigeria lost 14 people who embarked on a dangerous sea crossing to Spain with the Spanish coastal guards saying that thousands of people die yearly in such escapade with Nigerians being the bulk of victims?

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that over one million infants die yearly in Nigeria while nearly a third of children less than five years of age are underweight. UNICEF, during the launch of its flagship publications on the situation of children throughout the world in Abuja, went further to say that Nigeria ranked amongst twelve countries in the entire world with the highest mortality rate of children below the age of five. The report quoted UNICEF Representative in Nigeria; Dr Robert Limlim as saying that half of Nigeria’s population lacked access to safe drinking water while the number of children crippled by polio has been on the rise. In fact, in the month of July 2008 alone, Nigeria records 52 new cases of wild polio according to Global Polio Eradication Initiative Weekly report because many parents still have the belief that vaccines contained birth control drugs. Nigeria also has high maternal mortality. To confirm the deplorable state of our health institutions, our dear President Yar’Adua has had to go abroad for medical attention. As the front horse is the one the back ones uses to pace, many of the current and former governors are also travelling out in droves for Medicare. If Nigeria’s health institutions were to be effective would there have been need for these people to go abroad for medical attention? The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi said his doctors in Nigeria could not appropriately diagnose his ailment until he traveled to Britain where he was properly diagnosed as having cancer of the lung. Yet, Cuba who has only sugarcane as its resource has had her president, Fidel Castro terminally sick for the past four years, yet I never read or heard that Fidel was flown abroad for medical attention.

The Punch of July 30, 2008 quoted the Assistant Country Representative of UNICEF, Mr. Karim Akadiri as saying that about 10 million school age children in both primary and secondary schools in Nigeria are not enrolled in any school, this comprised of 4.7 million children who were supposed to be in primary schools and 5.3 million others who are supposed to be in secondary schools but are currently idling away. Again, 15 million children are at present engaged in child labour with over 40 per cent of them at the risk of being trafficked yearly, both within and outside the country. Akadiri added that 1.8 million children have so far become orphans due to HIV/AIDS pandemic. As I write this, it’s been three months since labour unions in Nigerian universities went on strike while 19 States chapters of Nigerian Union of Teachers embarked on industrial action since September 1, 2009 due to State governments’ inability to pay them the salary increase they agreed on since 2008. Now with 10 million out of school despite the launch in December 1999 in Sokoto of Universal Basic Education and the protracted industrial disputes in the education sector, how do we hope to meet the Millennium Development Goals?

President Yar’Adua came up with 7 Point Agenda with many items in the agenda being linked to the achievement of the MDGs and the blurred Vision 20-20. However more than 2 years at the helms of affair, only the president and perhaps his cabinet know what the 7 Point Agenda means in real terms. The president has spent about 28 months planning and Nigerians await the implementation. Life expectancy in Nigeria is now 49, social infrastructures are in deplorable conditions, corruption is on the increase while culture of impunity pervades. Africa Peer Review Mechanism did its assessment on Nigeria in 2008 and here is what the report has to say about President Yar’Adua’s seven point agenda “It lacks specifications of the structural transformation to be taken”. The APRM report said further that: “One could categorize Yar’Adua’s seven point agenda as a political party-led government ambition that is even questionable in its realism. Although the document alludes to a Nigerian dream, it does not constitute a long-term vision”. Enough of sloganeering about the 7 Point Agenda. Where is the blueprint? Concrete action please!