COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF CISLAC SIDE EVENT DURING THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY 73RD SESSION IN NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 24TH 2018 AT 4 WEST 43RD NEW YORK.
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), on the 24th of September, 2018, held a parallel session during the United Nations General Assembly. The event drew participants from different sectors across the globe of notable repute and from different backgrounds including the Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Senator Olanrewaju Adeyemi Tejuosho, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna, Programme Specialist and coordinator Africa and middle East UN SDG Action Campaign, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande the Nigeria Permanent Representative to United Nations ably represented by Mr. Muyiwa Onifade, Representative of UNICEF- Mrs. Chizoba Steve-Edemba, civil society groups, development partners, the international community, private sector, Nigerians in the diaspora and the media. Ultimately the purpose for the side event was to provide Multi-Stakeholder Approach in Promoting Accountability and Investments in the SDGs.
In his opening remark, Mr. Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the Executive Director of CISLAC after welcoming participants, intimated all that the event aimed at proactively brainstorming, provoking critical discussions and harnessing potentials for what will ultimately lead to delivering on the goals of the SDGs. He stated that the meeting will be delving into some specific issues such as financing for health and nutrition and also looking into what key influencers can do to effectively aid implementation of the SDGs.
Rafsanjani noted that adequate and optimal health care delivery constitutes components of governance and national development. He however observed that in Nigeria, adequate access to Health care services is hindered by quite a number of factors including inadequate financing for health, dearth of healthcare personnel, poor maintenance culture, unethical attitude of health providers, ill-equipped and poor infrastructural services, which lead to high maternal and infant mortality rates, low life expectancy, lack of productivity and deepening of underdevelopment. He further observed that about one thousand Nigerian children die of malnutrition-related causes every day; a total of 361,000 each year. Approximately 2.1 million Nigerian children under the age of five are affected by malnutrition, which constitutes one tenth of the global total.
CISLAC Executive Director further observed that there is poor financial and political commitments towards addressing the health menace in the country. He remarked that there is crass lack of political will to seriously tackle the health challenges and in cases where there have been pronouncements, they have been partially or entirely not implemented. He further remarked that many interventions by development partners, government and civil society groups are currently on-going to tackle malnutrition but there are still strong indications of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in the country.
Driving his points home, he opined that CISLAC on her part has engaged several national and state legislators in the past especially on prioritizing funding for health. He observed that only through serious engagements with policy and legislative realms can this gory situation be overturned, hence the need to continuously engage all relevant stakeholders to draw political will necessary for prioritizing funding for health and specifically nutrition which impacts women and children.
Rafsanjani expressed concern on the slow implementation of the SDGs and the high level of corruption which inadvertently drags the implementation of the SDGs. He noted that while the country’s SDG implementing body – Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the SDG is bothered about paucity of funds to be used in executing the SDGs, the country on the other hand is bleeding from corruption, illicit financial flows and lack of transparency and accountably. He therefore called on all relevant financial institutions and government bodies to exhibit high level of seriousness in this fight against corruption and steer the ship of sustained development.
Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, ably represented by Mr. Muyiwa Onifade, in his welcome remark observed that promoting government’s anti-corruption efforts is the panacea towards solving Nigeria’s developmental issues including health. He noted that health is very important to the SDGs and that the Mission is very much aware of the health challenges in Nigeria. He observed that asset recovery and repatriation of funds to Nigeria would go a long way towards addressing and implementing the SDGs in Nigeria. He opined that asset recovery is long over-due in Nigeria and stressed the need for bilateral relationships with other nationals to fast-track the process of asset recovery in Nigeria.
He further noted some key health interventions by the Federal government to restore confidence in the health sector such as the scheme to revitalize over 10,000 primary healthcare centres (PHCs) across the country. The event, revitalization of PHCs for Universal Health Coverage, he said, took place at the renovated Kuchigoro model PHC, Kuchigoro village in Abuja, in 2017, that President Muhammad Buhari called on state governors to adopt the initiative by prioritizing revitalization of PHCs in their various state development agendas.
Mr. Onifade stressed the importance of civil society actions towards stemming the tide for sustainable development in Nigeria. He said that what CISLAC is doing is paramount to Nigeria as well as Africa. He remarked that the Permanent Mission counts on CISLAC as champions against corruption. He called for more stringent measures to be put in place in order to refocus the issue of illicit financial and arms flows in the country. He stressed that if the country can rid itself off corrupt practices, then there will be less need to focus on health issues in Nigeria anymore. He further urged civil society groups to continue with the struggle against corruption which he said will lead to achieving universal health coverage and sustainable development.
Senator Olanrewaju Adeyemi Tejuosho in his presentation on “the Role of Parliament in improving domestic investment in nutrition”, during the technical session at the CISLAC event, narrated the effects of malnutrition such as impaired brain development and lower intelligence quotient (IQ), low productivity, increased healthcare cost, weakened immune system, high risk of diabetes, cancer, stroke among others. He noted that Nigeria has many nutrition policies but lack the will to implement them. He further stated that the reasons why we need to invest in nutrition are enormous. He opined that for every dollar spent on nutrition has a dividend of sixteen dollars! He further observed that everyday Nigeria losses about 2,300 children under the age of five and 145 women of childbearing age due to malnutrition. Investment in nutrition he said is crucial to the achievement of sustainable development goals, it is required for increased productivity, reduced cost for health, reduces child mortality and increases productivity and economic growth. He further lamented the poor state of budgetary allocation to nutrition which he tied to the Nutrition Global Report 2017 which recommends 4% of national budget to nutrition whereas Nigeria invests the meagre sum of 0.02% on nutrition.
Senator Tejuosho reflected that it was for the purpose of active involvement of legislators that the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage and Nutrition was adopted. Since its adoption the network has garnered some landmark achievement for the country among which is increased budget for nutrition in 2018, inclusion of nutrition services in the Basic Health Care Provision Funds, development of legislative monitoring frameworks to oversight healthcare facilities, among others.
Mr. Hilary Ogbonna deliberated on Citizens’ Perspectives in promoting accountability and investment on the SDGs using My World Survey. Mr. Hilary presented a survey held by millions of people across the globe to ascertain which of the sustainable development goals, SDGs, they require most. He opined that it was through this survey that the 17 goals of the SDGs emerged. He remarked that the reason why the SDGs are more acceptable than its predecessor millennium development goals is because it is people oriented. He observed that the SDG agenda is transformative, he said that most development agenda are not people driven development.
He opined that most development agenda are isolated and alienated development goals but the SDGs is about economies, about transparency and accountability. He observed that if the SDGs is properly implemented, it will lift millions of people from poverty. The SDGs he said is interested in resource mobilization through trade and for SDGs to be successful, it must invest in people using medium term plan. Like every other presenter, Mr. Hilary agreed that for the SDGs to thrive there must be proper investment in health, social security, access to water and sanitation and above all amplifying people’s voices. The SDGs he said is a product of peoples’ participation and multi-sectoral participation. The major outcome is that this survey can be presented to the parliament and other government bodies.
He concluded by saying that the accountability mechanisms embedded in the SDGs helped to ensure that such process is inclusive bringing stakeholders such as CSOs together to chart a course for the future in the spirit of leaving no one behind.
Finally, Mr. Okeke Anya, Programme Manager Democratic Governance, CISLAC, made a presentation on the challenges of implementation of the SDGs. He assessed the SDGs through some of the key milestone goals such as poverty, gender and affirmative action, access to justice, access to energy, cost of corruption etc and found that Nigeria is still lagging behind on most of these indices.
He explored the nexus between corruption and implementation of the SDGs and finds that there is a strong correlation between wastes of so much money by the government which would have been applied to better use in the implementation of the SDGs and providing quality health to the people.
He observed that the issue of money laundering is still a major setback in Nigeria, although he pointed out that there are some improvements in terms of conviction of politically exposed persons but that money laundry is the bane of our country’s development in that it drains the country of millions of useful dollars. On the issues of illicit financial flows, he said that about 50billion naira leaves Nigeria on regular basis that those are funds that would have been used to develop the country. He gave example with Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) reporting on financial institutions of Nigeria. Looking at the money laundry act since 2010, he observed that not until 2015 was there any prosecution on this. Financial intelligence unit (FIU), asset recovery, bribery, are all channels or financial pools that would have been used to finance the SDGs.
In conclusion, he added the importance of conscious collaborative efforts by all the arms of government to work together to curb corruption. He enjoined the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs to explore common ground to coordinate with other relevant ministries, departments and agencies for the achievement of the SDGs.
At the end of the event participants observed that:
• There is high prevalence of malnutrition in Nigeria.
• The gravity of malnutrition and its effect on economic growth and development in Nigeria is acknowledged
• Legislative arm of government has an enormous role to play in ensuring nutrition-secure Nigeria through enactment of relevant laws, adequate budgetary allocation and release of funds
• There seem to uncoordinated effort by Ministries, Departments and Agencies to work together which inhibits sustained development.
• Corruption is still pervasive at all the levels of government
Participants recommend the following:
• Advocacy from the perspective of political and investment case for nutrition needs to be intensified
• More coordinated and deliberate efforts are needed to mobilize and apply technical and financial resources domestically and globally;
• Partnership with Parliament and executives to institute transparency and accountability for each live lost.
• All arms of government including CSOs and media must work together to ensure implementation and proper coordination of the SDGs
• The international community to champion, Support and Promote efforts towards increased resources (Cash & in-kind) for scaling up implementation of National Nutrition Plan to improve nutrition outcomes in Nigeria.
• Media and civil society to leverage their legal mandate as watchdogs to monitor the implementation of the SDGs as well as utilizing all necessary media to address poor performance and lack of accountability and corruption.
In conclusion, participants commended CISLAC for galvanizing the voices of civil society, diaspora, legislators and government on the pressing issue of implementation of the SDGs and called for more conscious effort by the African region to be more proactive in the implementation of the SDGs and eschew encumbrances that will undermine effective implementation of the SDGs.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)