NIGERIA AND MDGS ACTION PLAN
By 2015, nations of the world are expected to meet the first target of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing, by half, the proportion of its people living in extreme poverty. On paper, this is good news. But accelerating progress on the MDGs needs to be well-thought out. It also requires focusing on actions and priorities that must be effective.
In that regard, the preparedness of governments around the world in meeting these goals have become essential.
At a recent forum at the United Nations (UN) in New York, reporters covering the UN wanted to know what the Nigerian government was doing to meet the top priorities contained in the MDGs within the target year of 2015. Representing the Nigerian government at the occasion was the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Dr. Precious Gbeneol.
She stated that Nigeria has adopted a one-year cash transfer programme to alleviate the plight of poor families in the country. She did not elaborate on the details or manner of cash transfer policy government is proposing. She also did not disclose the amount each of the indigent families is expected to get. She, however, hinted that the cash transfer policy was only a temporary, stop-gap intervention arrangement.
Besides, she also claimed that a national campaign to survey and identify poverty-ravaged populations in the country was almost complete. That presupposes that the campaign had long started. According to her, the survey will inform and direct strategies for addressing poverty within each segment of Nigeria's population, including the elderly, women, children and persons with disabilities. A UN news release also quoted Dr. Gbeneol to have said that the one year cash transfer policy for poor families in Nigeria is one of the success stories of President Jonathan's administration, with 113 Local governments in the country as beneficiaries.
Nigerians must be surprised by the astonishing claims made by the Presidential aide on MDGs, as nothing is visible on ground to justify such claims. Her approach to the matter, and the wide claims, were completely off the mark. The ambivalence of Dr. Gbeneol on the issue of poverty reduction as it relates to the MDGs, clearly shows that such a policy, if at all it exists, is not well-thought through. It was therefore no surprise that she could not give specific details on the policy.
We are therefore amazed by her delivery. A policy enunciation should be able to say something concrete, something specific, leaving no doubts or grey areas on how it can be achieved. The so-called cash policy for poor families, as far as Nigerians are concerned, is not an entertainment script to excite foreign audiences. Government should come out clearly and tell Nigerians what this is all about for poor families. It is even disturbing that government's policy in this regard is being disclosed to a foreign audience when Nigerians are completely ignorant of it. It is therefore little wonder that her presentation was out of tune with the reality in Nigeria.
It must be stated that commitment to achieving the MDGs target, whether in the area of poverty, health, or water can only be meaningful and achievable by prioritizing the necessary investment and support to improve the conditions of the people they are meant for. Investing in the target areas must go beyond prorating policies, to access to the expected benefits by the people.
This is one of the surest ways that the MDGs, in particular, by reducing poverty by half, by 2015 can have a proven multiplier effect of progress across all the MDGs. It is instructive that poverty remains a time bomb in every economy and failure to tackle it can lead to horrendous consequences. This should not be lost on government. As a result, the MDGs Action plan as enunciated by the United Nations should be implemented with all sincerity of purpose.
It should be placed at the heart of all government efforts so that equitable and sustainable human development can be achieved. That is the right way to go, not the half-hearted and confusing approach by Dr. Gbeneol.