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Orelope-Adefulire: SDG Projects are Executed in Collaboration with States, LGs

todayAugust 18, 2022

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Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Sustainable Development Goals, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, in this interview with newsmen, said SDP projects located in all the states are executed in conjunction with states and local government councils and that it is premature to do an impaction evaluation of the interventionist agency now. Deji Elumoye brings excerpts:

What notable strategy have you put in place to accelerate health and well being goals in Nigeria?

 SDG cannot be achieved by a stand-alone program, process and budgets of the federal government. We all know that we have the subnational governments: the states and the local governments. And that’s where the problem lies. So if you don’t support the sub national governments, with our plan, program and integrate and domesticate SDG into their plans, we cannot achieve SDGs. So, I used to develop the policy, the framework for the sub national government to use in their daily plan programs. If their yearly budget does not speak to the goals and indicators of SDGs, then we’re nowhere to be found. And that’s exactly what we do. I said the SDGs model that we developed that was launched at the margins of General Assembly by Mr. President is a document that we’re using. We’ve successfully implemented that at national level to the ministry, agency and department (MDAs) of government. So we’re now domesticating and mainstreaming that document into their plans, programs and budgets so that we have to be on the same page to achieve SDGs.

On Goal 8, let me say that we have 15 years to go. We should be mindful of the fact that from the 15 years we’re still battling with the effect of COVID-19 from 2020 to date. So, approximately three years gone into pandemic. Some of the goals will be achieved in 2030 and so we will monitor the progress as we go. Between 2018-19, modest achievements have been made before COVID-19 came. We’re out of recession and our economy was going on well before COVID came. Don’t forget that the United Nations is also talking about Agenda 2050 and 2075 is under consideration. So they know fully that no country will achieve, with the global pandemic, even the developed countries. So we are talking about additional years for us to get these done.

 Where does Nigeria stand in terms of peer review on SDGs against other countries?

When world leaders adopted the 2030 agenda in September 2015, they set up a follow up and review mechanism, which we now know as the high level political forum. The world leaders recognize that the SDGs cannot be achieved today or tomorrow, but it has to be within the timeframe. It is early to do an impact evaluation. In fact, no country has done an impact evaluation on the SDGs. You can do impact evaluation on micro projects, before and after. But on the SDGs it’s a policy evaluation. The world leaders are cognizant of the fact that you can’t do impact evaluation on the SDGs and that’s why they call for the voluntary national reviews. We are committed to doing that every two years and every year that we don’t do VNR we’ll do a progress report based on the fact that we have successfully realigned our nationals statistical system. Going forward by December every year, National Bureau of Statistics should be able to tell Nigerians where we stand on the 230 key performance indicators. We are the first African country that has successfully realigned our national statistical system on the independent evaluation, which we have the first in the global south to have conducted a country led independent evaluation of priority SDGs 3 and 4. Nigeria is the first from the global south to have conducted country led evaluation. And that experience is there to show that leadership; we are working closely with the permanent mission of Nigeria in New York to ensure that we get that resolution by September during the 77th Session of the General Assembly.

What are you doing to ensure that MDGs projects are not abandoned after inauguration and how will you make your website functional?

There’s none of our projects that is abandoned. There are some that were done under MDGs, we have written letters to the National Assembly to give us those projects that are not completed or that are not in use to give it to us to adopt so that we can make it functional and hand it over to the community. We’re doing that just that the list is endless.

For example schools, we have 8000 of these and there’s no local government we don’t have these schools and when you see the schools, you see furniture there.When you see the hospital, it’s fully equipped. 23 of these hospitals that we have built across Nigeria, 140-bed, 120-bed, are fully equipped. Those not equipped are yet to be completed. What you need to do is to put manpower there and they are all intervention programs. Interventions from local governments, from civil societies; from community leaders; from civil societies and private sectors. There is an officer from my office that monitors abandoned or unutilized projects.

On our website, I have that information just a few days ago and I promise you that we’ll update it.

How have you been able to bring to bear your experience in youth development first as a Commissioner and later as Deputy Governor in Lagos state?

I have some model contributions when I was the Commissioner for Women Affairs in Lagos and I remember that all of these empowerment program were initiated by me in 2003. Even when I was a Deputy Governor I still hold my ministry dearly because of the little and modest contributions that we’re able to do. Of course they are still working with the Ministry of Labour and Employment. So far we have built 69 vocational centres; we are just showing one-one here not that it’s only one we did. For example we did 23 hospitals and some are still ongoing and we have primary health centers, almost 400 across the country. We’re also working with the NYSC to build Entrepreneurship centres in NYSC camps. So we’re working with DG NYSC now to do another 12. I started the vocational model where they learn to make beads, sewing and even make-ups that have now become a big industry. I started it in 2004 and people from all over the country came to Lagos to learn and I’m sure that it’s helping some young people that left school that cannot continue their education; even the graduates. It’s really for young guys that are vulnerable. So we’ll continue to do that and I’m doing it and just that we cannot just go to people; we want them to take ownership and utilize that’s why we wait for them to send requests to us through our website, through letters, through calls to different platforms

How has bureaucracy at the sub national levels and insecurity slowed down the achievements of the 2030 SDGs goals?

Achievements of SDGs is in process at different levels as being canvassed by the United Nations. As we’re working at the national level, we’re working with the sub national government and that was why each of the state at the sub national level appointed a focal person to connect with us to the government. When you look at the 17 goals, you will see all the activities of government there and in every state you have ministry of Employment, Women Affairs, Education, Housing, Innovation, or whatever. Those are the goals, individual goals of most of the SDGs. So it is already established in the governance structure. But what SDG seems to do is to accelerate government activities so that we can benchmark ourselves that this is where we want to be in 20 years. So something is pushing us to get to that place. So SDG is not a new project that we adopted from somewhere, we just adopted acceleration for the benefit of our people, and of course to ensure that people at the riverine community, rural community, people living with disability are not left behind.

There are a lot of factors that may affect the delivery of SDGs in each state. What is affecting the north is different from what is affecting the south. But all we need to do is to encourage our governments and sub national level, everybody has a role to play in SDGs. As the media, this your role now, disseminating information. And when you see people in your community that don’t  have water you can approach us you have done your bit. Okay, if there is violence in your community, you can intervene by persuading because if that is not checked, it will escalate to the local government and to the state and to the country.

Achieving the target is largely dependent on the ability of government to release funds. In view of the financial challenges confronting the nation, how have you been fairing and how many intervention projects have you delivered so far?

We have a lot of projects we are working on, we just pick one in each state. Some are not picked because for instant primary healthcare centers that we have built across the country are 400 and are well equipped and handed over. In addition to buildings we provided solar for electricity, ambulances,  water so that it can be useful to them and sustainable. So when you see all these hospitals that you see now with all the equipment, they have hybrid solar like 80, 90 KVA, depending on the size to support them. The hybrid solar also comes with inverters and generator in order to address goal 7 of the SDGs, that has to do with renewable energy. Everything is complete in the hospitals, what is left for the sub nations, governments to do is to provide manpower. The hospitals are computerized, we expect them to be doing e-health services. We are handling a lot of projects, for example we provide skill acquisition centers, community centers, water, solar power, boreholes, security challenges, transformer, we intervene based on the request that comes to us.

Most of these offices are believed to either embark  on phantom projects, or poor project implementation. What have you been doing in the area of deploying innovative means to track and monitor your project to ensure delivery of quality project?

On poor implementation of projects, I think that so far, every agency or government must be able to monitor their projects. The era of doing what you like is no more there. Everybody knows what is good. You can see the quality of what we delivered. We want to be seen as being reliable and responsible. So the quality that comes with our inspection when they invite us to come and inspect some of the projects from MDGs, we find out that they have high quality. There are different committees of government to inspect. There is presidential committee on federal government properties at the presidency. There is another body from the Office of the SDG, Auditor General, Budget Office and all of them aside from the federal auditors in each of the ministry. They go there unannounced and every quarter they ask for the information of your budget. When they ask, they go at their own time unannounced to see what we are doing. I think that things have improved to the glory of God and the benefit of Nigerians. So, nobody wants to be embarrassed with the project. The level of inspection has improved  because they know they will not be contacted before they go and inspect and the report of the inspection will come back to you.

There has been serious decline in investment in education. What are your suggestions in improving this especially considering the fact that this particular sector will definitely affect your efforts to reduce inequality in the country?

 On the decline in investment in the educational sector, so many issues are responsible for the decline. Immediately this government came to power in 2015, we know the economic situation of Nigeria, we just entered into recession directly when we came in. And we came out in 2018 and we had just come out of the recession in 2019 and enjoyed few months of economic prosperity when COVID struck. And all over the world there was a lock-down. Don’t forget Nigerian business men who were supposed to pay taxes to government couldn’t travel, they couldn’t do their businesses because of the lock-down all over the world. So if you don’t do business, how would you pay taxes? And if there are no taxes, then where do you get money? And remember that year, the budget was not 100% as it used to be. So if no taxes are coming in, there will be less budgetary allocation. This is self explanatory.

And as we are still battling with the effect of COVID-19 and as we are working with the effect of COVID-19 now trying to get out of it, the Russian Ukraine war broke out. By November, December last year, nobody would have thought that Ukraine and Russia will be at this level. Can you see how the country has been messed up? Nobody will anticipate that this will happen to the two major economic giants. So they have to start from the beginning there to member states to achieve SDGs. All what they have achieved in the past have been eroded. So the whole world is in serious crisis. We just pray that God will help us and give us wisdom to be able to handle all of these things.

So what is going on is not limited to our country, But we have to work together in solidarity, to encourage the government to be able to do more. Let’s help in whatever way we can  help government to achieve on their promises. Don’t let us leave government alone. We have voted yes. But it does not end at voting alone. You have to monitor, support, encourage, provide solution, advise so that together, we can salvage our country.

So the Russia and Ukraine has affected oil prices not only in Nigeria. We know how much oil sells in UK, US and other European countries. The crisis in those two countries have messed up the world. The prices of wheat, vegetable oil and other domestic items have gone up and women and children are at the receiving end because the cost of food stuff have gone up.

What specific role does NGOs in development play in the attainment of the SDGs? And can you tell us what role your office is playing in the humanitarian response across the Federation given Nigeria is becoming a den for IDPs due to violent extremism?

The Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are also our eyes and nose in ensuring that no one is left behind. Like I said that we can’t be everywhere. And that’s why goal 17 is a stand alone goal for partnership. So their role is to partner with us. Partner with the government, both at the local government where they operate, or state government or connect with us. So they form part of the civil society, strategy group of SDGs. So they have a role to play. Academia have a role to play, women organization, youth organization, even the children themselves, have roles to play. This is a multi stakeholder engagement to ensure that every body is impacted by the achievement of SDGs. That was why the SDGs office encouraged and advised the federal government on the disability laws that was just passed. Without that instrument we will not be able to get to them. So that is when you are given an opportunity of how to deal with them. So the same goes for women organizations, youth organizations etc. So NGO, have a role to play through the goal 7 of the SDGs.

Many schools have been shut down and children displaced by insurgency and forced to drop out of school. Many of these children are currently living in IDP camps. What are you doing to ensure that Goal 4 is achieved in the country? We know that the the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management is handling the IDPs, the NorthEast commission Development Commission is also working with IDPs and in our own modest way, we built 300 units of two bedroom, just our intervention for the IDPs to support the Borno State Government, to ensure that the people displaced internally are accommodated. Each of the 300 units of two bedroom, there is water, hybrid solar to power  the houses situated in two senatorial districts in Borno state. So it’s ready for inauguration. We’re doing the internal road for them. Because of the temperature of the state, we planted trees in the houses for them. So we are not only addressing the housing deficits to the IDPs but we also touched goal 7: alternative sources of energy, the climate change and water and sanitation. We also monitor the relief materials given by humanitarian affairs and disaster

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todayAugust 18, 2022

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