Bamidele Omotola is a public health expert and development consultant. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Nike Adebowale, he talks about the Sustainable Development Goals and the efforts required if Nigeria is to meet the 17 goals by 2030.
PT: Do you think Nigeria can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030?
Omotola: From my own perception, we may not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We still have 10 years to plan, but, unfortunately, Nigeria does not plan. If you plan and implement your plan, we are likely to get there. We are in a country where people just wake up and whatever happens is what we do.
We have a national population policy (of) four children per family. Unfortunately, one of our senators recently said he had 27 children and still counting but we laughed and clapped for him. What are the status of those children? What kind of provision has he kept in place for those children, not to talk of his wives?
We are in (a) country where a governor said meningitis is due to people’s promiscuity. Are we serious? Look at Coronavirus now, what have we done apart from praying? We are talking about quality education for all, opportunities for all ages at all times but we do not know the number of teachers or classrooms needed. I was in a part of this country, where I saw in one classroom, 280 registered pupils.
We know what to do but we are not doing it. Mind you, the SDGs are global targets, so how much of those global targets align with Nigeria’s target? We just developed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) by 2017 while the SDG has been on since 2016. The discussion started from 2012 yet when we were doing ERGP we didn’t factor in the SDGs except we now begin to realign the ERGP into the SDGs. Remember, the SDG is about leaving no one behind, whether a child or an adult.
The thing we need to do to achieve these goals is simple but we must learn to plan.
PT: Are there reasons, in relation to the recently released Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), why Nigeria may not achieve the goals?
Omotola: All the NDHS data points to this answer. It took us several years, yet we did not attain mortality figures for Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and even now, we (do) not.
Our health coverage is very low, despite the SDG goals of leaving no one behind. We still have stunting rate of 37 per cent and we are supposed to bring it down to less than five per cent. Look at the number of years it took us to get to this level. The change is so small that by the end of 2030, we will not be there. It is just like the cheetah and the tortoise running a race. Nigeria is the tortoise and the rest of the developing countries are the cheetahs. They will get there and we will still be running. We are talking about universal education; we are not there. We still have 10 million children out of school. Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa with over $398 billion.
PT: How much does Nigeria need to meet the goals?
Omotola: Given the current data we have, if we have to achieve Universal Health Coverage for all, education for all, zero hunger for all by 2030, the country needs about $350billion. Our total income in 2018 was $398billon, so, it means we should just spend all that money to achieve (the) SDGs.
The president said he wanted to lift 100 million people out of poverty. As of 2019, we have 98 million people and we know where 70 percent of them are. So what program are we putting in place? All these small interventions won’t help us. We must have policies that are effective, policies that are implemented, effective and of wide coverage. It’s not to do a small thing in one corner of Nigeria.
PT: What plan do you think can be put in place to meet these goals?
Omotola: We must have policies that are effective, policies that are implemented and of wide coverage. The former minister of health said he wanted to achieve Universal Health Coverage but where are we today? We have been talking about National Health Insurance Scheme and as at 2018, only three per cent of Nigerians are covered. That means people are left to access health services out of pockets. Unfortunately, our leaders are not accountable. They must be accountable for what they do and be held accountable (for) what they fail to do.
We have had Boko Haram in the North since 2009, so what are the states affected doing with their monthly allocation. Donors are putting money on a regular basis, the whole state is putting money to solve insurgency, so what are they doing with it? They also have high numbers of Internally Displaced Persons, how much of the money have they used to help them?
PT: What are the implications of not meeting the goals by 2030?
Omotola: You know (how) Nigeria is being rated amongst other countries. Nigeria will continue to be at the bottom of the ladder.