Millennium Development Goals: The Nigeria Situation
Abubakar Magaji Buba
The millennium development goals (MDGs) is a set of eight point agenda adopted by 149 World leaders on how to stem the problem of poverty and its attendant horrors in the Least Developed Countries (LDGs) of the world. The decisions to formulate a long term poverty reduction strategy was reached during the United Nations Millennium summit held in September 2000, in line with the International Development Targets (IDT’s) which aims at improving economic well being, social and human development and ensuring environmental sustainability and regeneration.
The outcome of the United Nations Millennium summit was a declaration committing all members states (including Nigeria) to strive and achieve the following Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal basic education
Goal 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop global partnership for development
As a constructive way of achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria, the past administration of president Olusegun-Obasanjo made concerted effort in the socio-economic and political spheres in order to move the country to greater heights.
The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDs) is a reform programme designed to consolidate the achievements between 1999-2003 and lay a foundation for sustainable poverty reduction, employment generation, wealth creation and value re-orientation. These coordinal consideration is perceived by economic analyst as the nations blue-print for development, and as such, represents the framework by which government, private sector, donor agencies and NGO’s hope to put Nigeria on the road to sustainable development.
Inline with the targets of the Millennium Development Goals, NEEDs seeks to fights against the many strands of poverty through job creation and empowerment of people to success. As a way of bringing the reform programme closer to Nigerians, each state government is expected to develop a State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDs). The implementation, monitoring and evaluation framework will be through the Natinal Economic Council and the National Council Development on Planning. Furthermore, local governments are being encouraged to develop benchmarks, targets, deliverables, timeliness and implementation guides. The institutional framework of NEEDs is meant to facilitate the process of interaction between stakeholders and to ensure synergy in the implementation process.
Indeed the home-grown reform programme called NEEDs is perceived in many quanters, as a carefully planned foundation for a better Nigeria. It highlights the major problems bedeviling the growth of Nigeria, and brings to fore ways of checking them. Infact, NEEDs is said to be all about the Nigerian people because it offers a holistic picture of the social and economic challenges facing the country and provides a multi-pronged approach to tackling them.
Having considered the economic reform programme of the country, one is likely to ask the extend to which Nigeria has been able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals seven years after it was adopted as an effective formula for sustainable development.
The United Nations Human Development Index, measures achievement in health and longevity (Life expectancy at birth), education (adult literacy and enrolment at primary school, secondary and tertiary institutions), and living standard (GDP per capital). As a composite indicator of development, countries index are measured by how close they have come to attaining a life expectancy of 85 years, 100% adult literacy and school enrolment and GDP per capital of $40,000 per year.
As a way of evaluating the likehood of the country to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, attention will be focused on each of the goals and how it relates, with the Nigerian situation.
Agenda 21 of the 1992 earth summit in Rio, recognizes combating poverty as a basic condition for ensuring socio-economic and environmental sustainability. Poverty reduction is coincidentally the first goal of the Millennium Development Goals, and also, the first cardinal consideration in the NEEDs document. The target under both frameworks is to reduce at least by half, the number of poor people before a specified time.
However, Nigeria is ranked the 17th least developed country of the world by the United Nations Human Development report of 2007. According to the international indicator for extreme poverty, 70.2% of Nigerians live on less than 1 dollar or N124 per day- and the proportion is still increasing. Moreso, it is estimated that over 20 million Nigerians do not have access to 20 litres of safe drinking water. Most often, up to 1.5 hours a day on average is spent by rural household to collect water and fuel wood, with household members walking an average of one kilometer each day to have access to these basic necessities of life. The current urban unemployment rate of 10.8% has greatly affected the Annual productivity of the country and has further driven it away from reducing poverty by 2015.
The second goal of the MDG’s which focuses on achieving universal basic education, still poses a startling revelation even with the incept of democratic rule in the country. It is estimated that about 51% of adult Nigerians are uneducated as at the last decades of the 20th century. Although 76% of children of primary school age attend school, participation dropped to 20% for secondary school age. Gender composition of primary school enrolment showed little or no change during the decades of the 1990s with the female share being consistently below 50%, though, modest improvement was recorded in 2000. Rural concentration of illiterate children accounts for 20.3% in 1980, and almost 70% in 2007. Despite spirited effort by government to reverse the ugly trend of event in the educational sector in consonance with the Millennium Development Goals, primary school completion rate still stood at 75.2% in 2006.
The country scores, high in the aspect of gender balance and ensuring equitable representation of women in the social, economic and political activities of the country. The proportion of seats held by women in the National parliament has increased from 3% in 2001 to 71% in 2007-and the figure is still on the increase, bearing in mind the reform policies of the past and present administration which aims at fully integrating women into the decision-making process of the country. Domestication of the UN convention on the Eliminating of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), have played a great role in ensuring that the rights of women are protected. Also, as one of the most vulnerable groups in the society, government recognizes the need to empower women educationally through value re-orientation of parent in order to ensure equal opportunity for the girl child. Infact, latest statistics have shown that about 84.0% of girls now enjoy equal chance of education as their male counterpart- an indicator that gender disparity in primary and secondary schools can be eliminated in the near future.
Reducing child mortality is the fourth goal of the MDG’s, which the country is still grabbling to achieve by 2015. Incidence of child mortality is still very high in Nigeria considering the unsatisfactory figure, which indicates that for every 1,000 live births, 201 die almost immediately. When compared with other countries in the sub-Saharan region, child mortality rate stands at 173.9 per 1,000 live births- a situation which prick the mind of a careful observer who will tend to consider the enormosity of our problems as more of man-made than natural. The multiple problem of poverty, Inadequate healthcare delivery system, malnutrition and low level of education in our society seems to account for the high prevalence of child mortality. Despite support from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against child killer diseases, Nigeria is one of the countries with highest prevalence of polio. Proportion of children fully immunized had dropped from 30% in 1990 to 17% in 1999 and 40% of children in the later years had never received any vaccination.
Maternal mortality rate stood at 704 per 100,000 as at 2004, and like other indicators of development, the figure is still increasing in Nigeria. In Europe, one in 2,400 women die during pregnancy; in parts of Africa (Nigeria inclusive), it is 1 in every 20 women. At 1 physician per 1,000 people, cases of maternal mortality may not be reduced before the end of the 21st century. On the causes of increased maternal mortality in Nigeria, one can safely conclude that low access by poor women to trained health personel and lack of education accounts for more than 60% of maternal mortality cases in Nigeria.
Tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDs, Malaria and other diseases is one of the daunting challenges most African countries have had to grabble with in the 21st century. Despite concerted effort by the government of Nigeria to curtail the spread of these killer diseases, the figure of people living with HIV/AIDS have been on the increase. In 2007, the number of children orphaned by the disease stood at more than 930,000 with another estimated 5 million Nigerians living with the disease. According to available statistics, malaria is one of the leading causes of death in people of all ages in Nigeria. It is said that children under 5 years and pregnant women are most vulnerable. Earlier, the Nigerian government in partnership with international development agencies began a campaign to “roll back” malaria through the introduction of insecticides and mosquito nets. These nets are supposedly available in primary healthcare centers across the country, but 70% of Nigerians do not have access to it due to cost. Furthermore, Nigeria is ranked amongst the top 20 countries shackled by tuberculosis. In spite of the near curable nature of the disease, only 19% of the T.B related cases are treated.
Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural and mineral resources which has been practically mismanaged over the years due to insufficient care for the livelihood and well being of future generation. The country occupies more than two third of central Africa’s mangrove stand and wetland – an important mangrove habitation in the World which is under threats from exploitation of timber, oil spill, gas flaring and impact of increased urban migration. In the 1980’s some 92,000 hectares a quarter of our land was once covered by forest. Today, just half of the green forest still remain, and the potential for their future exploitation is extremely limited. The situation may even get worse considering that over 90% of rural population depends on the forest for livelihood and domestic energy. The activities of oil prospecting companies and other mineral exploration corporations has led to a lot of environmental degradation in the Niger- Delta; a situation which creates a bleak picture for the future generation. Presently, more than 50 species of mammals including the Patas Monkey and Leopard are classified as endangered species and face the risk of extinction by the end of the 21st century.
If the Millennium Development Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability is to be achieved, our environmental laws need to be well designed and enforced to the latter.
The eighth goal specifies avenues through which the first seven goals can be achieved by way of joint partnership with international development agencies. With the incept of democratic rule in Nigeria, a lot has been done to create cordial relationship with the international community. The recent debt cancellation by the Paris club owed by Nigeria was seen as a landmark achievement. Moreso, Nigeria has proved to the World that it has strategic importance in Africa, and is a source of peace and stability in West Africa. It lead international peace-keeping role in the sub-region. In terms of international and regional integration, Nigeria is a founding member of the New partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The number of fixed lines and mobile phone subscribers has increased from 22% in 1990 to 79.1 in 2004 an unprecedented increase which fosters communication and creates more partnership with international development agencies.
In spite of the ugly picture painted above, and the near impossibility of the country in achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, much has been recorded in recent times. Nigeria produces 2 million barrels of oil per day and is ranked the sixth largest producers in the organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The country’s proven reserves of oil amounts to about 37 billion barrels, enough to last for 37 years at the current rate of production. It is estimated that our natural gas reserve amount to 174 trillion cubic feet, the equivalent of 30 billion barrels of crude oil. If fully utilized, our gas will last another 110 years.
At 924,768 square kilometer, Nigeria is larger than Sweden, Norway and Denmark put together. According to the UN food and Agriculture organization, cocoa and rubber accounts for 60% of our non-oil merchandise export. Of our 98 million hectares of land, 74 million is arable and can be of medium to good productivity if properly managed. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 should not be our primary focus as a country bearing in mind our rich human and natural potentials.
At an estimated 140 million people, a figure which amounts for nearly one quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, it beats the imagination of a careful observer on why the country still languish in poverty. Instead of focusing on delivering essential public services, some government officials chose to enrich themselves and their immediately family members through looting. Corruption, favorism and nepotism now strive in the country without regard for the needs of the common man. The problem is even compounded considering the negative value orientation and traditional practices inherent in our society that tends to relegate women to the background a situation which creates more poverty in the country. Other hindrances to the country achieving the Millennium Development Goals are: poor economic management, hostile environment for private sector growth, weak and inappropriate public sector etc.
With wise management, the country can still be Africa’s largest economy, and also play a significant role in the global economy. Be that as it may be, the present administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’adu should re-position the economy of the country through the formulation of effective policies and programmes meant to steer Nigeria to greater height. The principle of accountability, transparency and respect for the rule of law should be upheld and most importantly enforced. It should be able to pursue the millennium development goals with utmost zeal and seriousness.
Though a colossal task, there is need for the development of an independent anti-corruption organization without under government intervention in order to check the excesses of corrupt public office holders and also instill the virtue of discipline in civil service.
Empowerment of people toward success through job creation, provision of affordable houses and other basic amenities of life can also serve as an avenue for achieving the millennium development goals by 2015.
Abubakar Magaji Buba
Public Relations Unit