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By NBF News

As the stage is set for a three day public hearing to assess the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),beginning from tomorrow in the House of Representatives, tongues are wagging as to what would be revealed over the execution of projects that are dear to members of the National Assembly.Specifically,  the House at her sitting of Thursday, November 5, 2009, mandated the House Committee on Millennium Development Goals to conduct a public hearing to assess the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) programmes in Nigeria from 2000-2010.

Members have expressed deep concern over the slow implementation of MGDs projects in their constituencies, and this could be understood with elections around the corner. The idea of ceding Constituency projects to the MDGs scheme was to bring dividends of democracy to the grassroots and this was why the projects were restricted to specific areas which have direct impact on the lives of the people at the grassroots level.

Beginning from 2008, provisions were made in the Appropriation Act for direct funding of MDGs projects. Under the sub head of MDGs Quickwin projects, all projects captured were to be funded from the Paris Club Debt Relief Gains (DRG).

Being an intervention to achieve a quick win, the projects were restricted to health, education and water sectors.

For the health sector, allocations were made for the construction of Emergency maternal Obstetric Care Unit (EMCC), Primary Health Care Centre (PHC]), supply of medical equipment to EMCC, PHC and of basic drugs and rehabilitation of PHC.

In education sector, focus was on the construction of blocks of three classrooms, Libraries, Computer centres, supply of school, Library, Computer furniture, books to schools and Libraries, accessories to computer centres and Libraries. And in the Water sector, attention was geared towards the construction of motorised boreholes, solar powered boreholes, and hand pump boreholes.

On the whole, MDGs reports showed that in the 2008 MDGs Quick win intervention projects, 2,596 projects were spread across 6,504 locations nationwide. Provision was equally made in the 2009 budget for MDGs Quick win projects to further deepen the dividends of democracy, more so that the execution of the 2008 projects had not achieved much.

Still maintaining the 2008 profile, additional 2,404 projects were initiated and spread across 5,732 locations nominated by members of the National Assembly, according to their preferences.  Many of the lawmakers want to flaunt these projects they influenced to their constituencies to add value to their electoral values for the 2011 elections.

The level of completion of these projects or otherwise is what is worrying the lawmakers, hence the need to let their constituents know where the problems of non-completion of the projects lies. Non of the lawmakers wanted to return home and be welcomed by abandoned projects in their constituencies, and without a concrete answer for questions that will be thrown up by their constituents.

Consequently, the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Millennium Development Goals, Mrs Saudatu Sani has invited all the stakeholders in the MDGs to a three-day public hearing on the matter.

According to the letter of invitation sent to the office of the Senior Special Adviser to the President on MDGs,  the public hearing was to fast-track the completion of projects captured under the MDGs in all the 774 Local Government Areas in the country, as well as considering the Conditional grants Scheme (CGS).

The origin of MDGs was premised on an eight time-bound inter-dependent goals born at the largest gathering of world leaders at the Millennium summit in September 2000, Among the eight MDGs included the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.

It was to realize the goals of the MDGs scheme that the idea of Quick win Projects was conceptualized for execution in Federal constituencies and Senatorial districts. Members were given the privilege to nominate projects and locations in their constituencies, while the award of contracts and monitoring were left in the hands of the Senior Special Assistant to the President of MDGs.

Is the Quick Win intervention the panacea to redress the gap in the implementation of the MDGs?

Documents made available ahead of the Public hearing showed that the scheme was facing challenges, but which are not insurmountable. The MDGs had listed the challenges, especially on 2009 projects to include delay occasioned by the global economic meltdown, adoption of innovative procurement process, end of financial year mopping up of funds, delay in processing payment and problems with E-payment system.

Available records confirmed that under the 2009 MDGs constituency project, projects were located in 5,732 locations but arranged in 2,404 contracts. Although the 2008 and 2009 projects shared some similarities in term of challenges, but there was a considerable improvement in the 2009 projects especially in the area of organisation and implementation which was less troublesome.

The 2008 MDGs Quick wink Projects are interventions in the Health, Education and Water sectors, aimed at accelerating the attainment of the goal. A check has revealed that 2596 contracts in 6504 locations across the country are being executed under the programme. The projects have achieved varying degrees of success and many projects have indeed been completed and handed over.

Earlier projection had fixed June 30 of 2010 as the exit date for the projects, but it was later discovered that some of the projects have been re-awarded, and the review of contracts for Niger Delta projects. With the acceptance of the review, a new date to exit Quick Win projects was put forward to  30th December, 2010 for all 2008 projects.

Specifically in 2008, the MDGs encountered problems such as CBN's inability to handle the volume of transaction, site identification/site possession, change of request and change in site, paucity of found to meet advance payment requirement, Challenges of Niger Delta contracts and challenges of supply contract.

The challenges of the MDGs Quick win projects in the 9 Niger Delta States have been relatively poor in 2008 and this is largely due to unattractive cost of the contracts occasioned by grave environmental, community and security challenges in the area.

Projects in the Niger Delta have been split into two, based on distinct environmental conditions into upland and riverside  locations. The main challenges of the riverside locations are transport logistics, access difficulty, community interference, high cost of labour and security.

Most riverside locations cannot be reached by road transport; contractors therefore have to travel by motor boat or by ferries. These challenges made the costing adopted for the Quick win projects generally unattractive to contractors.  The consequence was a high rate of project abandonment and general poor performance. Reviews of rates were therefore sought and this took quite a while to be approved.

More than the expectations of the lawmakers to shoot down MDGs, the public hearing will reveal that the managers of the Debt Relief Gains (DRG) have other sectors of the society to contend with, because after a review of the entire scheme as a catalyst to spread development to other sectors, the Police and the Military were included in the scheme's areas of coverage .

The Presidential Committee on Barracks Rehabilitation (PCBR) was brought on board to execute rehabilitation of Medical Receptive Centres and Primary Schools in Military Barracks. A sum of N4.5 billion was set aside for the rehabilitation in the  2008-2009 MDGs budget envelope. The Police Command got N1billion under the DRG Fund for the rehabilitation of 12 police primary schools (2 per geo-political zone) and Police Academy Wudil.

In all, 12 police primary schools in Kaduna, Minna, Jos, Yola, Bauchi, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Owerri, Lagos and Ibadan have benefited from the MDGs.

This was in addition to rehabilitation and provision of recreational facilities and upgrading of Police Academy, now upgraded to a Degree awarding institution located in Wudil, Kano. With respect to gender issue, MDGs disbursed over N400 billion under the DRGs out of which investments in Women Affairs are in excess of N4.2 billion.  The DRG constitutes the $1 billion released as saving from the Paris Club Debt Deal in 2005, out of which $750 million accrued to the Federal Government of Nigeria, while $250 million accrued to the states.