Cover Interview We're Fast-tracking SDGs Implementation in Nigeria – Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire

HomePublicationsCover Interview We're Fast-tracking SDGs Implementation in Nigeria – Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire
HomePublicationsCover Interview We're Fast-tracking SDGs Implementation in Nigeria – Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire
Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SSAP-SDGs) is a thoroughbred administrator, social worker and politician imbued with the passion for dedicated service to humanity. Before her appointment as SSAP-SDGs in 2016, she had served diligently as Deputy Governor of Lagos State between the 2011 and 2015. She had also served as Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in Lagos State and effectively used her position to tackle an array of issues under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that included slashing poverty, hunger, disease and gender inequality.

adejoke3Quietly focused and hardworking, Orelope-Adefulire is building partnerships with stakeholders as her office coordinates the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria. In this exclusive interview with SDGs Monitor, she provides an insight into the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria, especially the plans being implemented to ensure that the largest black nation achieves the SDGs targets by 2030. Excerpts:

On September 25, 2015, the United Nations adopted the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). How would you appraise the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari?

It is important to situate the implementation of the SDGs within the context of the strong political will at the highest level of government. You will recall that His Excellency the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria joined other Heads of State and Government at the UN Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda in New York in 2015 to affirm the SDGs Declaration. This action was a strong show of the President's commitment to deploy the SDGs in a timely and effective way.

This commitment has been backed by action as Government is making concerted efforts to establish the policy, institutional and financial frameworks needed for the successful implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria. His Excellency the President appointed me as the Senior Special Assistant on SDGs, designating my Office to coordinate the implementation of the SDGs across Nigeria.

A quick appraisal shows that there is substantial progress with SDGs implementation in Nigeria. We have made progress in the area of tracking and reporting the SDGs by compiling and disseminating the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) End-Point Report that details the various key implementation milestones and achievements, notable policy drivers, main challenges and key lessons learnt at both the national and sub-national levels during the implementation of the MDGs. We have also concluded a SDGs Data Mapping which is a mapping of data requirements for SDGs tracking and reporting against the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and highlights a data supply framework which assigns responsibility to various MDAs, thus holding them accountable for data production. MDAs will be signing a 'Data Bond' to ensure they commit to the supply of reliable administrative and other types of data in a timely and efficient way.

Importantly, we have determined Baseline SDGs Statistics for Nigeria, using a combination of the System of Administrative Statistics, Surveys and other methods. This output will help us benchmark SDGs progress as Nigeria implements the Agenda.

In terms of the strategy for implementation, we have developed a Country Transition Strategy from MDGs to SDGs, together with an Action Plan, which proposes key strategic options that best support effective transitioning and implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria, structured around eight thematic areas that are at the heart of the SDGs. The Strategy and Action Plan currently guide the SDGs implementation process in Nigeria.

In cognizance of the need to ensure that the SDGs are adequately mainstreamed and integrated into Nigeria's medium and long-term National and State Development Plans, the SDGs Office is working with diverse stakeholders. A number of SDGs have been mainstreamed into the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan recently launched by the President. To date, a number of State Governments have also completed the process of integrating the SDGs into their long and medium-term plans.

There is a need for citizens' engagement for the successful implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria. As a result, high-level advocacy and sensitization activities have been undertaken in various parts of the country and with various stakeholders. These include visits to state governments and other stakeholders, including lawmakers, traditional institutions, the academia, youth, civil society, faith-based organizations, vulnerable population groups and the organized private sector in all the six geo-political zones.

The SDGs Office is also collaborating with the National Youth Service Corps and the National Orientation Agency to improve sensitization and advocacy by leveraging the structures and wide reach of these agencies in the 774 Local Government Areas across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Additionally, each of the SDGs has been translated into the main local languages as part of the sensitization and advocacy efforts.

These are just a few of early efforts by this Administration targeted at ensuring that the implementation of the SDGs is successful.

How much has been allocated to the SDGs in the 2017 budget and how does your office intend to ensure that it is effectively utilized to attain the goals encapsulated in the SDGs?

We are making efforts to ensure that adequate resources are mobilized for the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria. As you are aware, a key aspect to the attainment of the SDGs is the deployment of a robust financing framework as laid out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), the outcome of the third International Conference on Financing Development. The AAAA stipulates that Official Development Assistance (ODA) should complement other funding sources such as Domestic Resource Mobilization, Foreign Direct Investment, Corporate Social Responsibility and other innovative sources of financing. In mobilizing resources locally, we have made deliberate efforts to ensure that adequate budgeting is dedicated for SDGs implementation. We are positive that the 2017 Budget, still being discussed at the National Assembly, will contain substantial sums for SDGs activities.

Poverty reduction is goal number one of the SDGs. How would you rate the efforts of Nigeria in achieving the target of eradicatingadejoke4 poverty by 2030?

The multi-dimensional nature of poverty requires that cross-sectorial actions and synergies be built to improve the lives of Nigerians. It is my considered view that one of the best ways to significantly reduce poverty is to galvanize multiple stakeholders working in different sectors to pool resources for the fight against poverty. In this regard, I refer to the complementarity that the efforts of various actors can have on one another. For instance, the recent improvement in the Nigerian economy was due mainly to growth in non-oil sectors like agriculture. As you are aware, this Administration recently laid significant emphasis on diversification of the economy away from oil. I should like to state, however, that growth in one sector ought to complement growth in another. The improvement in GDP occasioned by agriculture will be better if the agricultural value chain is improved. The agriculture value chain will not improve if other sectors of the economy such as energy, roads and other infrastructure are not improved.

This Administration is therefore working conscientiously to ensure that all the critical sectors work together for national development and poverty eradication. This is evidenced in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan that highlights the need to ensure that areas such as agriculture and food security, energy, other infrastructure, and industry are integrated in a stable and predictable macroeconomic environment.

To answer your question directly, therefore, I would like to assert that we are making progress in the right direction to tackle poverty as we are addressing the essential ingredients needed for success. Success will be contingent on focus and sustained efforts.

Could you give us some insight into the implementation of some the social interventions of the administration of President Buhari that are aimed at reducing poverty?

Prior to the inception of this Administration, the implementation of social interventions took mostly a fragmented uncoordinated approach with inadequate monitoring and evaluation frameworks. That has since changed in that His Excellency the President established a Social Investment Office with an annual budget of N500 billion to ensure that Government's efforts reaches the people in a timely manner. The social investment programmes are designed to ensure social protection for the core poor and reduce inequality among the Nigerian populace. The scheme is already being implemented with particular focus at the sub-national levels. A National Social Safety Net Coordination office coordinates and ensures a uniform reporting platform, Monitoring and Evaluation as well as a suitable payment system for the cash transfers. In order to reach those who are actually in need, a community-based targeting approach has been adopted in building up a National Social Register that will identify the poor and vulnerable population groups.

There are five schemes under the Social Investment Programme, namely:

N-power for job creation initiatives for teachers, artisans which targets 500,000 graduates and 100,000 non-graduates.

A Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF) which is a free school feeding scheme for primary school pupils across the country targeting 5.5 million primary school pupils in the first instance.

A Cash Transfer Scheme with transfer of N5,000 monthly directly to 1 million caregivers in targeted poor and vulnerable households.

An Enterprise & Empowerment Programme for financial inclusion and access to credit for market women cooperatives, traders, farmers, and the youths which targets 1.66 million beneficiaries.

We also have a STEM Bursary Programme, which is a form of financial support for tertiary students studying Education, Science and Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Insurgency has worsened poverty among the people of the North-east with many living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. What is government's plan to reduce the level of poverty there?

There is a need to first be thankful that peace has returned to the North-east. Peace is an enabler of development. As you areaware, previous Human Development Reports clearly established the link between poverty and conflicts providing empirical evidence that showed that conflict-ridden societies are the least developed in the world. Government is cognizant of these facts and is mobilizing stakeholders for the necessary support needed to reduce the poverty level in Nigeria's North-east.

The Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) is one of the major responses of Government not only to the poverty but as well as to several other challenges facing the North-east.

PINE details the initiatives, strategies, frameworks that will enhance the long-term economic reconstruction and redevelopment of the North-east. It is an intervention designed specifically to mobilize resources to revitalize the economies of the North eastern states of Nigeria. It targets infrastructural development, agricultural revitalization, health sector reforms, educational transformation, job creation for women and youth, good governance and peace, among others.

While PINE has been well designed and will make the much-needed impact when fully implemented, it is important that all stakeholders work together to improve the lives of citizens who have been devastated in the region.

Recently, the Senate passed a Bill for an act for the establishment of the National Poverty Eradication Commission (NAPEC)? Do you think that the establishment of such a commission will tackle the high rate of poverty in Nigeria?

Addressing the challenges that poverty presents requires that multiple stakeholders work in synergy. As highlighted earlier, no single agency of Government can single-handedly eradicate poverty. The establishment of the National Poverty Eradication Commission will contribute to the efforts to tackle poverty. There is, however, a need to ensure that programmes speak to one another and that proper coordination is put in place to obviate project duplication.

What gives you the confidence that the Buhari administration has demonstrated strong political will towards implementing the SDGs?

Earlier on, I highlighted the efforts of Government aimed at ensuring the successful rollout of the SDGs in Nigeria. This Government has indeed shown strong political commitment to the SDGs. Apart from establishing the policy, institutional and financial arrangements for the implementation of the SDGs, the Administration is working assiduously to ensure that the SDGs do not just remain a mere policy framework that do not have impact on the people. Emphasis is being placed on the need to ensure that policy translates to action on the ground. This is being done by working with different stakeholders to ensure that best practices are taken to scale.

To what extent has the current economic recession in Nigeria and its attendant dwindling revenue generation from oil impacted negatively on the implementation of the SDGs, particularly in the areas of poverty reduction, gender equality and quality education?

Oil revenues fund development activities in Nigeria and as such, slower progress towards targets has been recorded in the drive to attain gender equality, poverty reduction and quality education. We are therefore glad that the economy is recovering and have begun the process of advocating that gender-responsive budgeting be accorded priority of place. We place emphasis on gender equality because the linkage among gender, poverty and education is well known. We are cautious to target women in our activities since they are disproportionately affected by poverty and poor access to quality education, health services and other social goods.

Can you tell us something about how your office is working with other government agencies to pursue critical goals of SDGs such as Climate Action, Gender Equality, Poverty Reduction and Quality Education?

The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs was established with a clear mandate to coordinate the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria. I am, however, cognizant of the need to build partnerships to successfully implement the Agenda as no single agency of Government can independently deploy the SDGs.

As such, we nurture our relationship with sister agencies by working with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to pool resources for SDGs interventions. We also have a vertical relationship with State and Local Governments to ensure that the SDGs count at the grassroots.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee on the SDGs has since been inaugurated to coordinate SDGs implementation efforts of Federal MDAs. In addition, a Coordination Compact setting out the operational guidelines to guide the activities of the MDAs was developed and disseminated at the inaugural meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on SDGs. There are also plans to reconstitute the Presidential Committee on the Assessment and Monitoring of the SDGs, made up of one Executive Governor per geo-political zone, representatives of International Development Partners, Civil Society, and Ministers from line MDAs, amongst others. The Committee sits at the apex of the SDGs Monitoring and Evaluation system in Nigeria and is chaired by His Excellency, Mr. President.

At the sub-national level, the Conditional Grants Scheme (CGS) is being used to incentivize the domestication of the SDGs – a global development mechanism – at the local level. Currently, the CGS manual is being reviewed to better guide the relationship among the Federal, State and Local Governments in this unique counterpart contributory arrangement.

The collaboration between the SDGs Office and other arms and tiers of Government ensures that high impact interventions in the social, economic and environmental aspects of development get delivered to our people.

How is the government partnering with the private sector in achieving the targets of the SDGs?

The role of the private sector in driving economic growth cannot be overemphasized. Business creates jobs, generates tax revenues and provides the engine that drives development. The SDGs explicitly acknowledge the interconnectedness of the prosperity of business, a flourishing society and the health of the environment.

As a result of the importance of the role of the Private Sector in the successful implementation of the SDGs, a National Framework and Strategy for Private Sector Engagement on the SDGs has been drafted. The Strategy underscores the imperative of leveraging the vast resources and efficiencies resident in the Private Sector for the implementation of the SDGs. A Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) comprising of businesses across main SDGs sectors has been constituted and was inaugurated about two months ago by His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

What are the prospects of SDGs implementation in the years ahead? Specifically, what plans are in place to ensure that Nigeria achieves the SDGs by 2030?

I am positive that the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria will gain the required traction to improve the lives of our people as envisaged. A number of activities have been lined up to ensure that we deliver results as planned.

Government is deploying the Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPS) tool in order to rapidly scale up the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria at both Federal and State levels. This will be preceded by a Rapid Integration Assessment (RIA) to assess the extent of SDGs integration across the nation.

Working in collaboration with International Development Partners, MDAs, sub-national governments, the SDGs Office has commenced the process of conducting a SDGs Needs Assessment and Costing exercise.

In addition, through a consultative process, Government is currently preparing the Nigeria National Voluntary Report (NVR) to be presented at the 2017 High Level Political Forum. This is to meet up with obligations to periodically track and report on SDGs implementation in Nigeria.

The SDGs Office is working with the National Bureau of Statistics to ensure that all the Ministers of SDGs line MDAs sign a 'Data Bond' that will commit them to produce SDGs data needed for the follow up and reporting on SDGs.

The SDGs Office is also developing a Communications Strategy as part of its advocacy efforts aimed at ensuring that many more Nigerians are aware of the SDGs and their roles in the implementation process.
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