Nigeria, with an average score of 47.1 per cent, is 43rd out of the 52 ranked countries on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On the sub-continental level, Nigeria sits in 14th place of the 15 nations in West Africa. Only Guinea Bissau, the region’s only Portuguese speaking country, is ranked lower.
Launched in September 2015, the SDGs are 17 global goals and 169 targets, aimed at ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and tackling climate change by 2030.
The targets include No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth Industry.
Others are Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Peace and Justice, Strong Institutions, Partnerships to achieve the Goal.
But in the case of Nigeria, apart from its slow movement towards these goals and targets, awareness of the SDGs in the country is generally low.
Lawal Abdullateef, the founder of iDixcover, aims to bridge this gap for SDGs 1 and 8 through advocacy and building the capacity of northern Nigeria youth, women and people with disabilities on alternative means to reach the global targets. He has also translated the goals into different Nigerian languages.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Yusuf Akinpelu, he explains how Nigeria can move up in its quest to reach these global goals 1 and 8.
PT: What exactly is the content of the SDGs?
Abdullateef: To begin with, SDGs stands for Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 goals and 169 agendas in it. It contains aims for making the world a better place that were signed by world leaders in New York in 2015.
It encompasses all development objectives aimed at improving people, protecting our environment and planet, and safeguarding wildlife and marine life.
PT: Which of the goals should a country like Nigeria prioritise and why?
Abdullateef: Every one of these 17 goals should be a top priority for Nigeria, but if I have to choose, I would say we should focus on targets 1, 4, and 8. (No poverty, quality education, decent work and economic growth). I believe that if these three goals are fully realised, other goals will be realised unconsciously.
PT: Aren’t these goals, especially the SDGs 1 and 8, not too ambitious or overwhelming for a country like Nigeria?
Abdullateef: For a country like Nigeria, the 17 global goals, particularly targets 1 and 8, are not daunting or too ambitious. To succeed, we must think that we can. We have natural resources, human resources, and a friendly environment, as well as the full support of many international non-governmental organisations like the Gates Foundation, ONE, and Ford Foundation, as well as countries like the United States, the Netherlands, and England, and intergovernmental organisations like the United Nations, European Union and African Union.
If these goals are too difficult for Nigeria, they will be too difficult for most African countries. The objectives are attainable if we all work together to achieve them.
PT: What can be done to ensure that goals 1 and 8 are achieved in Nigeria?
Abdullateef: To attain goals 1 and 8, we must ensure that measures to combat poverty and unemployment are institutionalised in our communities, educational systems, and in the formation of government policy. Our media houses must devise free educational initiatives to help unemployed Nigerian youth, women, and persons with disabilities improve their capacities.
The government must address the root causes of poverty and unemployment, ensure that everyone has access to basic needs, and ensure that people in poverty, women and people with disabilities have equal access to productive resources such as grants, education, and training, as well as employment opportunities.
Community leaders, religious leaders, lecturers and teachers must also ensure that they use their sacred positions to develop long-term plans that will enable their followers or students to work or be self-employed.
Finally, governments and youth organisations should collaborate and help each other in order to eliminate poverty and youth unemployment in Nigeria.
PT: You have mentioned the roles of the government, what must individuals do to achieve SDGs 1 and 8?
Abdullateef: Individuals have a lot on their plates, which is why I founded iDixcover.com, a workforce development social enterprise that uses technology to empower youth, women, and people with disabilities in rural communities across northern Nigeria. We provide technology and vocational education to these underserved communities, as well as free access to mentors and career opportunities.
Individuals are supposed to be community builders and change agents. Individuals can help to alleviate poverty and unemployment in their communities in a variety of ways.
This can be accomplished by training rural farmers in best farming practices, providing job skills and leadership, educational resources and training to the unemployed, providing financial literacy to entrepreneurs, and forming or joining a network to advocate for policy change that will eradicate poverty and create long-term employment for women and people with disabilities, with a focus on those in rural communities.
There are a number of cultural norms that exclude women and social prejudice that prevents persons with disabilities from being economically included. Individuals can change these norms by leading by example and campaigning for change in their communities.
PT: What must Nigeria do to achieve SDGs 1 and 8 by 2030?
Abdullateef: In order for Nigeria to achieve SDGs 1 and 8 by 2030, all hands must be on deck. All essential parties, including the federal, state, and local governments, civil society, academics, community, religious, and political leaders, the media, and youths, must work together to achieve sustainable development.
We must denounce discriminatory societal norms, improve access to livelihood and entrepreneurial opportunities, provide equal access to economic opportunities to all, develop social programmes to assist those who cannot help themselves, and work with interested donors, local and international organisations to empower people living in poverty in a sustainable manner to increase resources allocation to the attainment of the goals
PT: What are the roles of the ministry of education in making SDGs a national mantra?
Abdullateef: Education is both a fundamental and facilitating human right. To realise this right, the ministry of education must ensure that everyone has equal access to inclusive and equitable quality education and learning, which should be free and mandatory so that no one is left behind. Education promotes mutual understanding, tolerance, friendship, and peace by promoting the full development of the human personality.
The ministry of education must institutionalise vocational education at all levels of education; we must transform our educational system from one that is “read to pass” to one that is economically productive, in which students are taught not only about literature reviews but also a mandatory job skill educational curriculum.
In order to build solid job skills and entrepreneurial training curriculum for all levels of schooling in Nigeria, the ministry of education must collaborate with the ministries of trade and investment, employment, agriculture, and government organisations such as the Industrial Training Fund.
PT: What do we stand to lose if these goals are not achieved?
Abdullateef: From last year, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 33.3 per cent, or some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world.
The number is rising, and our population is expanding dramatically, with 43.3 per cent of our people aged 0-14 years classified as out of job. Increased youth employment has resulted in a rise in criminal activities such as terrorism in northeastern Nigeria, banditry, and abduction in the north-west and north-central parts of the country.
Military activities alone will not alleviate the crisis caused by high youth unemployment; instead, sustainable jobs and policies will be needed to establish an enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem for youth, women, and persons with disabilities.
PT: What does Nigeria stand to gain if these goals are reached?
Abdullateef: When we eradicate poverty and reduce unemployment, we will see an improvement in societal consequences such as better access to food, education, and work opportunities, as well as a decrease in crime rates and the complete elimination of terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping for ramson.
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