LONG before the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations in September 2015, the government of Oyo State in the South West geo-political zone of Nigeria had pledged its preparedness towards reducing poverty, providing quality education, enhancing peace and promoting environmental sustainability.
Indeed, the state government had made some efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before world leaders adopted the SDGs to sustain the momentum in building a sustainable world.
Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Governor of Oyo State, had on assumption of office on May 29, 2011 resolved to implement the MDGs with vigour in order to make the state a better place to live in and ensure that no citizen are left behind. A review of the sectoral performance of Oyo State MDGs indicates that it achieved a measure of success in alleviating poverty, improving healthcare delivery and enhancing quality education.
As part of measures to alleviate poverty, the government had implemented the Conditional Grants Scheme (CGS) and about 450 households benefitted in each of the 33 local government areas of the state.
In the education sector, the Oyo State MDGs had constructed some classrooms and procured textbooks in core subjects.
Transition to SDGs
There was a seamless transition from the MDGs to the SDGs in 2015 as the Oyo State government effectively integrated the new global goals into its long and medium term plans. Engr. Temitope Fajana, Special Adviser to the Governor on SDGs was mandated to coordinate the SDGs implementation strategies in the state.
To drive the SDGs, the Oyo State government released the sum of N600 million for the implementation the Conditional Grant Scheme (CGS). Mr. Abimbola Adekanmbi, who serves as both the Commissioner for Finance and Budget, and the Chairman of the State Implementation Committee on the Conditional Grants Scheme (CGS), said that the accessibility of the fund has fast-tracked the implementation of the SDGs. “The uniqueness of the scheme allows state government, local governments, and communities the freedom to identify their own priorities, design their own solutions and demonstrate their ability to effectively implement projects,” Adekanmbi added.
He promised that the state government will ensure that all projects and programmes of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) are targeted towards the actualization of the SDGs in the state.
In order to enlighten the legislative arm of government on the SDGs, the University of Ibadan Centre for Sustainable Development (CESDEV) organised a workshop for members of the Oyo State House of Assembly in October 2016.
Professor Olanrewaju Olaniyan, Director of UI Centre for Sustainable Development said that the workshop was meant to build capacity, promote partnerships and foster parliamentary engagement with the SDGs and stimulate their roles in contributing to the process of domestication, institutionalisation, implementation and monitoring of the SDGs.
Michael Adesina Adeyemo, Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, attended the workshop. He observed that Oyo State as the pace-setter state in the South West, possesses enormous potential towards achieving the SDGs and pledged legislative support towards actualising the global goals.
The United Nations report on Nigeria's Poverty Index conducted in 2014 accessed the poverty rate of Oyo State to be 29.40%. This is a clear indication that the challenges of hunger and poverty are far from being conquered in the state.
However, the Oyo State government has initiated a plethora of poverty reduction programmes to tackle the problem. One of such poverty reduction programmes is its partnership with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). Governor Ajimobi's administration is leveraging on the opportunities offered by (SMEDAN) programmes to address the challenges of unemployment and poverty in the state.
Through the partnership, SMEDAN's training and capacity building team has organised training programmes in some communities in Oyo State aimed at promoting enterprise development and empowerment of the people.
The state government has also keyed into the Social Investment Programme of the Federal Government, including the N-Power job creation initiative, the Cash Transfer Scheme, the Enterprise & Empowerment Programme for Financial inclusion and access to credit for market women cooperatives, traders, farmers and the youths.
When the N-Power programme started in the state in January 2017, more than 34,700 candidates applied for it. Mrs Atinuke Osunkoya, Commissioner for Women Affairs, Community Development, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation, is also the focal person of the programme. She said that with the figure, Oyo State has the fifth largest applicants in the country.
By August 2017, about 120,573 people from Oyo state had benefited from the Social Investment programme. Out of this number, 9,573 benefited from the N-Power project and 3,017 have enjoyed the Cash Transfer Scheme meant for vulnerable households.
In 2015, after securing his second term mandate, Governor Ajimobi reiterated his commitment towards improving the educational system in the state. “We will take seriously the upgrade of schools to functional, modern models of learning. Their physical infrastructure will be ensured and our commitment to the mental development of our children, as well as an upgrade of their teachers, will be irrevocable," he said.
In fulfilment of his promise, Ajimobi announced in July 2017 that approximately N5 billion will be disbursed for the repair of the dilapidated structures in primary and secondary schools in the state.
Professor Adeniyi Olowofela, Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, said that in addition to the funds earmarked for the repair of dilapidated structures in the schools, government had received 70,000 books covering different subject areas such as mathematics, english, literature, physics, biology, economics, algebra, and chemistry among others from a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in United States known as the Jewels of Africa.
In an effort to raise requisite funding to enable the government to achieve its quality education goal; the Ajimobi administration had on November 21, 2017 launched its Education Trust Fund (Oyo ETF). The Oyo ETF is an avenue for the administration to seek and pool funds from government, corporate bodies, associations, donor organisations and philanthropists in a bid to leverage the funding of education.
Chief (Mrs) Onikepo Akande, Chairman of the Oyo ETF described the fund as a viable solution to the malaise of the education sector in the state. She promised that the fund would be used judiciously to provide infrastructure and capacity building for teachers and students to improve the quality of education.
The Oyo State government has also unveiled a model education system intervention agenda code-named 'OYOMESI.' Dr. Bisi Akin-Alabi, Special Adviser to the Governor on Education and initiator of the agenda, said the goal of OYOMESI is to use technology to create a participative, transparent and responsive learning environment and improve the quality of basic education in the state.
To improve the competencies of teachers, OYOMESI has made provision for select teachers across the state to embark on capacity trainings.
In furtherance of administration's interest in ensuring that education in the state is ICT-based, the Oyo State government is partnering with Microsoft and Signal Alliance on its digital literacy programme. Dr. Akin-Alabi, Special Adviser to the Governor on Education said that every student is expected to benefit from the digital literacy, noting that Microsoft has promised to give the state 700 computers every year to complement the state government's efforts until each school in the state is covered. “This digital literacy project was put on ground in order to ensure wholesome offerings for all and to demonstrate government's commitment to delivery of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG-4),” Dr. Akin-Alabi said.
It is remarkable that Oyo is one of the states in Nigeria which has benefited from National Home-grown School Feeding Programme. According to the Presidency, a total of N490, 296,800 was released to Oyo State by the Federal Government for the feeding of 107,983 children, with 1,372 cooks engaged.
However, in terms of promoting quality education at the tertiary level of education, the Oyo State government has not lived up to expectations. The Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Ogbomosho was crisis-ridden due to the protracted strike by lecturers of the institution. The university is jointly owned by the Oyo and Osun State governments and was shut for several months following the management's inability to pay workers for 10 months.
However, professor Olowofela, Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, said that in January, 2017 the two state governments had committed N292million each to address problem of the school. He also explained that between 2011 and 2017, the Oyo State government single-handedly spent N10.2 billion on LAUTECH, N8.3 billion on LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso and N3.7 billion on LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Oshogbo in Osun State. Olowofela noted that if the state government was not serious about issue of LAUTECH, it would not have spent a whopping N22 billion on the institution.
Students of LAUTECH, heaved sighs of relief on September 25, 2017 when the institution was reopened following the agreement reached between Governor Ajimobi and Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State to support the university with necessary funds to reinvigorate its latent capacities for sustainable growth and development.
Gender equality and economic empowerment
The Oyo State government is making conscious efforts to improve the status and well-being of the female gender through economic empowerment of women and elimination of all social vices against them.
In February 2016, the state government distributed over 200 grinding machines, cassava grinders, deep freezers and N20,000 each to 200 indigent widows under the state Widowhood Support Scheme. Mrs Florence Ajimobi, wife of the Governor said the gesture was in keeping with the state government's promise of making the womenfolk self-reliant. She added that the state government decided to assist them through the Widowhood Support Scheme to alleviate their suffering as many of them pass through psychological and emotional trauma at the demise of their respective husbands and breadwinners.
The state government is equally collaborating with the banks which have granted soft loans to women involved in Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs).
In terms of elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women, the Oyo State government has acquitted itself creditably as it ensured the speedy passage of the Prohibition of Violence against Women (VAW) Law 2016.
Mrs Florence Ajimobi, wife of the Oyo State Governor, has been collaborating with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Development, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation to ensure that the rights of females in the state are respected. Mrs Ajimobi renewed her commitment to promoting the cause of women during a courtesy visit to her office at Agodi, Ibadan by officials of the British High Commission in August 2017. She explained that she has initiated many women-centred programmes to guard against the abuse of women.
Mrs Ajimobi also revealed her intention to begin a vocational training centre for girls who dropped out of school aimed at enabling them to gain financial independence.
Laure Beaufils, British Deputy High Commissioner expressed the willingness of the British High Commission to partner with the state government and Office of the Governor's wife in impacting the lives of womenfolk.
While the Ajimobi administration has performed fairly well in terms of empowerment of women, it has not ensured gender balance in terms of appointments into key public offices. Female members of the Oyo State House of Assembly had in April 2017 kicked against the apparent reluctance of the state government to bridge the huge gender imbalance in political appointments when the list of nominees for Caretaker Chairmen of Local Governments was presented to the House by Governor Ajimobi. They lamented that there was no woman among the 57 nominees for appointment as caretaker chairmen for 28 local councils and 29 local council development areas in the state.
Bimbo Oladeji, a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly representing Ogbomoso North state constituency, and Chairman of the House’s Committee on Women Affairs, wondered why the governor deliberately closed his eyes to the Affirmative Action mandate which stipulates that at least 35 percent slots should be reserved for women in any elective or non-elective position.
Oladeji noted that the few women who have been given the opportunity to serve in Oyo State in the current political dispensation have acquitted themselves creditably and that is thus a need for the state governor to be gender sensitive in subsequent appointments. “In this House, we have two female lawmakers and we are doing well. Also, at the executive, we have two female commissioners and they are doing well and are never found wanting in the discharge of their duties. So, I want to urge the executive to ensure that subsequent names should have the female gender,” she said.
Similarly, Bolanle Agbaje, a member representing Ibadan North 1 drew the attention of her colleagues to the “gender-biased” list. She said it was wrong that no single woman was nominated to head the council areas.
Michael Adeyemo, Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly while responding, said the feelings of the lawmakers would be conveyed to the executive for action.
Decent work and economic growth
A major thrust of the SDGs is the need for national and sub-national governments to empower individuals through decent work. Basically, SDG-8 targets the build-up of decent work and economic growth in the society through the promotion of development-oriented policies that support productive activities and entrepreneurship.
Although the Ajimobi administration had pledged to devise strategies that will enable it to meet its obligations to workers of the state, Oyo State is one of the sub-national governments in Nigeria that has not been paying their workers regularly.
As part of measures to address the problem, the state government has embarked on the restructuring of the civil service.
In 2016, workers in Oyo State embarked on strike which lasted for seven weeks over a backlog of unpaid salaries. When the strike was called off in July, 2016, Ajimobi charged the labour leaders in the state to always embrace dialogue and help the government to seek ways to meet its obligations to workers, instead of being confrontational with the government.
However, in November 2017, retired primary school teachers in Oyo State, numbering about 3,000 staged a protest over their unpaid 56 months pension arrears. The retirees, under the aegis of the National Union of Pensioners, Oyo State Chapter said they could no longer bear the pangs of hunger after several months of unfulfilled promises by the State government.
Due to its topology, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital is prone to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. Mid-way into the wet season, residents of low-lying areas of Ibadan often experience the hazards of perennial flooding. This has led to loss of lives, homes and properties.
Mr. Isaac Ishola, Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, blamed the perennial flooding on residents who often abuse the state's environmental laws by building houses on water channels. To tackle flooding, Ishola said that the Oyo State government has been proactively dredging rivers and streams.
Peace, justice and strong institutions
The Oyo State government recognises that it is only through the enthronement of peace, security and pursuit of the rule of law that it could achieve the much desired sustainable development.
In line with the dictates of SDG-16, the Ajimobi administration has been working relentlessly to significantly reduce all forms of violence and insecurity to ensure that peace and justice reign.
The administration has been collaborating with the relevant security agencies in order to reduce criminal activities in Oyo State to the barest minimum. For instance, the government has set up the Oyo State Joint Security Patrol Squad code-named 'Operation Burst' to wage war against criminals. 'Operation Burst' has been fortified with officers and men of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Special Response Squad of the Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). To ensure that the security squad is adequately funded for effective operations, the state government also instituted the Oyo State Security Trust Fund (OYSSTF). Through these measures, the security operatives have been able to significantly stem the tide of armed robberies and brigandage in the state.
To ensure speedy dispensation of justice, the Oyo State Judiciary, government has been motivating judicial offices to ensure speedy dispensation of justice. Justice Munta Abimbola, Chief Judge of Oyo State, stated that based on the support the Judiciary has been receiving from the state government; judges in the state will always uphold courage and diligence which remain fundamental in dispensing justice in any ideal society.