SENATOR Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning is an exceptional Nigerian who has earned his place of honour based on the fact that he is a strong-willed, highly focused and deeply principled personality.
Prior to his appointment as Minister of Budget and National Planning in 2015, he had served Nigeria assiduously as a distinguished Senator between 1999 and 2007. While in the Senate, Udoma served variously as Chief Whip, Chairman of the Committee on National Planning, Revenue Mobilisation and Poverty Alleviation and Chairman of the Appropriation Committee. It is remarkable that as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Planning, Revenue Mobilisation and Poverty Alleviation, he effectively utilised his position to initiate brilliant ideas which have helped to drive inclusive growth that will lift millions out of poverty.
With his vast experience as a lawyer, administrator, former legislator, an institutional investor and board room guru, Udoma is currently working relentlessly with his team in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs to ensure effective implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to drive social inclusion and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the ensuing interview with the SDGs Monitor, Senator Udoma sheds light on how all tiers of government in Nigeria are collaborating with the private sector to achieve the SDGs targets by 2030. Excerpts:
What would you say has been the progress made by Nigeria on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Nigeria has made tremendous efforts in the area of monitoring and evaluation of SDG programmes. Already, two strategic reports have been published in this direction: a National Voluntary Review Report which was presented at the United Nations High Level Multinational Forum in July 2017 and Nigeria's SDGs Indicators Baseline Report of 2016 produced by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Both reports lay a solid foundation for monitoring and evaluating the progress of the SDGs in Nigeria.
To what extent would you say that the 36 states in Nigeria have keyed into the implementation of the SDGs as endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari?
Even though Nigeria operates a Federal system, there is a shared understanding that multi-level, cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder partnerships are vital for the achievement of national goals. We have only one economy, therefore the component parts of the country and different arms of government must work together for the benefit of the people. The participation of all tiers of government is vital for the achievement of success in the SDGs programme. The United Nations clearly stipulates that the attainment of the SDGs is contingent on grassroots mobilization and participation. The United Nations' Agenda 21 suggests that a bottom-up approach is required and outlines the essential elements required for success.
This is also the position from which the programme is being implemented in Nigeria. The Federal Government collaborates with sub-national Governments to ensure seamless implementation of the programme at the national and sub-national levels. It supports state and local governments in critical implementation areas such as the integration of the SDGs 2030 Agenda into development plans and strategies. Mainstreaming, sensitization, advocacy and replication of SDGs' best practice are also supported at the sub-national level.
These are channeled through the monthly meetings of the National Economic Council (NEC) which membership includes Governors of all States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and has the Vice President as the Chair. The Joint Planning Board (JPB) and the National Council on Development Planning (NCDP) are two other bodies through which the Federal Government collaborates with the Federating Units. The JPB is a meeting of all Permanent Secretaries and Directors of Planning Ministries in the country while the NCPD involves all the Commissioners of Planning in the Federation, chaired by the Hon. Minister of Budget and Planning at which overall national development issues are discussed and agreed to.
Resulting from the above, many States have made significant progress in rolling-out their SDG programmes. Benue State, for instance, has successfully integrated the programme into the State Development Plan and the document is ready and available to policymakers and implementers to guide development activities in the State. Kaduna State, in addition to taking a similar step, has strengthened the State's statistical capacity to generate data to improve implementation of the SDG programmes. The state has also projected its gross domestic product (GDP) and is the first to produce a State Report on the SDGs programme. The report was presented to the global community on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, 2017.
Poverty reduction is goal number one of the SDGs. How would you rate the efforts of the states in Nigeria towards achieving the target of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030?
I would say, encouraging, but more work needs to be done. Eradication of extreme poverty can best be achieved if the people are empowered: empowered in specific skills, in trade, in agriculture, technically, entrepreneurial skills, etc., to be able to provide goods and services and earn a living from these.
Almost all States have realized the need to work within the framework of a development plan and to use their annual budgets to implement the Plan Projects and Programmes which most of the time are aligned with the SDG goals. Issues of poverty, hunger, health, education, water & sanitation, gender equality, infrastructure, etc., occupy priority positions in these Plans. Furthermore, the states have also realized that partnership with the private sector is critical to developing their economies, particularly in the face of dwindling resources of governments. Hence, the rejuvenated drive to improve the enabling environment for the private sector. These have to be complemented with programmes to address the dearth of skilled manpower by revitalizing and/or building skill/entrepreneurial development centres.
Success stories of collaborative ventures abound nation-wide. The partnership between Lagos and Kebbi States on rice, readily comes to mind. In addition a number of states are supporting the development and expansion of business enterprises such as the fish pond and shrimp businesses in Lagos State and the new Syringe Manufacturing Plant in Akwa-Ibom State. These will create direct jobs for those working in the businesses, as well as indirect jobs from suppliers, distributors and food vendors. There is no doubt that all these would bring positive externalities to both indigenes and non-indigenes of those States and help to reduce extreme poverty and hunger. The development of the agriculture food chain is also helping to create jobs, and we are happy to note that many States are providing incentives to get their citizens back to the farms. However, much more still needs to be done to make land accessible to people who are willing to farm.
What is the level of implementation of the Conditional Grants Scheme at the state and local government levels?
Implementation of the Conditional Grants Scheme (CGS) is guided by results of a nationwide needs assessment and facility inventory which maps out where needs are most urgent. The SDGs Office, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, United Nations Development Programme, as well as other partners are currently carrying out a needs assessment and costing exercise whose outcomes will be used for both SDGs resourcing as well as the implementation of the CGS.
Admittedly, given the current budgetary constraints, there are funding constraints which has slowed down the pace of implementation of the CGS, but efforts are ongoing to ensure that the scheme continues to make impact at the sub-national level. In the 2017 Budget, some funds were appropriated for CGS implementation and we plan to continue to make provision in the annual budget for funding of the Scheme.
The United Nations has in the past applauded the CGS as an evidence-based approach for domesticating global policy at the local level. This is especially so because the Scheme has been useful in galvanizing stakeholders at the sub-national level to focus on the implementation of Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADGs).
The CGS is a counterpart contributory mechanism which incentivizes sub-national governments to streamline development activities where they are needed most. Evidence abound from studies conducted by organizations such as the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID) underscoring the impact of the CGS.
To date, the programme has been rolled out in 21 States covering 120,000 households. By December 2017, more States are expected to be covered with intervention reaching about 190,000 households in view of the increasing interest from the remaining States.
Some months ago the Donor's Partnership for the SDGs was inaugurated in Abuja. What has been the response of the UN agencies and the private sector in terms of pooling funds to anchor the work of the forum?
The relevant groups under Donor's Partnership Forum on SDGs have commenced duties in accordance with their mandate. They have already mapped out responsibilities along thematic lines and clusters, pooling resources for interventions in the mapped out areas. This exercise will improve the efficiency of resources and limit duplication and waste. The United Nations Development Programme serves as the anchor secretariat for the Forum and conducts the daily activities of the group. The Private Sector Advisory Group has also been in the forefront of SDGs implementation.
Is the Donor's Partnership for SDGs being replicated in the states?
State governments are being encouraged to replicate this practice by leveraging the support of the private sector and International Development Partners to fast-track SDGs programme implementation. A number of states have signified interest to go into collaborations and the Federal Government is giving them the necessary support. Development Partners are also lending their support by aligning intervention programmes with the development aspirations of the states as espoused in the various state development plans. With greater levels of harmonization among development partners and the policy of delivering-as-one by the United Nations Development System we are positive that greater progress will be made by states towards the realization of the SDGs.
How confident are you that the Federal Government and the 36 states of the federation would work together to ensure that the country attains the SDGs by 2030?
From our discussions so far and the interests shown as a result, it can be said that the Federal and the sub-national governments are already working together to accelerate the attainment of the programme's goals. Collaborative synergies are being built with state and local governments. We are determined to address the challenges that impede progress and will continue to ensure we strengthen the institutional, policy and financial capacities of different tiers and arms of Government for the achievement of the goals of the programme.