Over the last few years, especially since the launch of Universal Basic Education Act (UBEA 2004), a number of old and dilapidated schools have been rehabilitated and new ones constructed. However, 50% of schools in Nigeria do not have any water facility and 52% lack access to toilet facilities (WHO/UNICEF 2018). Without doubts, poor learning environment is one of the factors driving out of school syndrome.
For the girl child, inability to access basic services like water and sanitation has deterred some to maintain school attendance. For those young girls enrolled, they turn to open defecation in nearby bushes when nature calls. When open defecation is the norm, school children, especially girls, incur risk and vulnerability to physical and sexual attacks on their way to isolated bushes and pathways. At other times, girls spend quality time looking for and fetching water for household consumption thereby loosing productive time that would have been spent in schools learning.
Despite political commitments to reverse these discrepancies and combat Nigeria’s overwhelming out-of-school syndrome, investments in education is still low compared to other Sub-Saharan countries. In Kano State, government is struggling to contain her over 3 million children who are currently not enrolled in any form of formal education.
Children under the age of 15 account for about 45% of the total population in Nigeria. For national development, it is important to ensure that these groups of children are provided with quality education.
It is against this background that Comrade Adnan Mukhtar Tudunwada accepted the challenge to represent his constituents, Nasarawa Constituency, in Kano State House of Assembly. Being the youngest person running for a political position in the State, Comrade Tudunwada has vowed to concern himself with quality representation upon electoral victory.
Accordingly, on February 08, 2019; during a High-Level Courtesy Call by Connected Development on the need to prioritize access to water, sanitation and hygiene in line with Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 6 in particular; Comrade Tudunwada restated his commitment to quality representation and signed a pledge card that will have him prioritize or support water programmes, projects and policies in the parliament through his motions, votes and bills. The pledge card is a tool for accountability and civic engagement when Tudunwada finds his way to Kano State House of Assembly.
In the last quarter of 2018, WaterAid Nigeria in partnership with Connected Development launched a national campaign – #Vote4WASH, calling on the political class to increase budgetary allocation and releases to rural and urban water schemes. This is in realization that poor access to potable water and poor sanitation keep people in poverty. No country in the world has ever achieved modernity without good water, sanitation and hygiene. #Vote4WASH enjoins citizens to vote for candidates who publicly pledge to prioritize water programmes, projects and interventions in their states or constituencies.
About 25% of Nigerians defecate openly, placing Nigeria No. 2 in the global rating on open defecation. According to Federal Ministry of Water Resources in Nigeria, access to improved sanitation has decreased from 38% in 1990 to 29% in 2015. In the rural areas, 46% of all water schemes are non-functional and the statistics is similar in the urban areas.
More disturbing is the fact that annually, about 60,000 Nigerian children, under the age of five, die of WASH-related diseases. This connotes a full-blown crisis situation and implies that water supply has deteriorated and degenerated in successive governments or administrations.
Launched in November 2018, #Vote4WASH is a national campaign rooted in Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals which calls for transformative budgetary provisions, funding and investment in WASH-related projects in schools and communities. #Vote4WASH wants water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to dominate 2019 election campaigns and political conversations especially at sub-national levels of government.
However, since Nigerian government had declared a “State of Emergency on Nigeria’s Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector,’’ it is therefore a national concern for all stakeholders. With the National Action Plan for Revitalization of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene; all stakeholders are called to action.
On this basis, our team reached out to five presidential candidates under the historic #ReadyToRun platform. The movement had organized a town hall meeting at Channels TV, Abuja on February 10, 2019, for engagement and in-depth interaction with electorates. After due diligence and engagement, we secured overwhelming support from the five candidates as they signed up to the accountability tool (Pledge Cards) – publicly declaring to support and prioritize water programmes, projects and interventions if elected into office.
The five presidential candidates include: Mr. Chike Ukagbu (Advanced Allied Party), Mr. Babatunde Ademola (Nigeria Community Movement Party), Mr. Emmanuel Ishie Etim (Change Nigeria Party) Mrs Eunice Atuejide of (National Interest Party) and Ahmed Buhari of (Sustainable National Party).
Water is life and lack of it means death. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are crucial for good outcomes in health, nutrition, education and livelihood standards. When water and sanitation facilities are available and accessible to citizens, they act as primary barriers against disease transmission. Personal hygiene, particularly hand washing with soap and running water, has been identified as the most cost-effective disease control mechanism.
Nevertheless, Nigeria parades embarrassing statistics as highlighted above in relation to WASH. The implication of signing up to #Vote4WASH Pledge Cards is acceptance to be held accountable in terms of support and investment towards universal access to safe water and improved sanitation in our communities (urban and rural) in line with the SDGs, National Open Defecation Free Roadmap (ODF), Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) and a State of Emergency in Nigeria’s WASH Sector.
In addition, signatories to the Pledge Cards mean support and investment to ensure that all public institutions especially schools, health centres, markets and parks have inclusive WASH facilities and/or services. And because poor sanitation keeps people in poverty, WASH would form components of poverty alleviation schemes and social welfare programmes.
We are reaching out to electoral stakeholders – political parties and their candidates for Gubernatorial, National Assembly and House of Assembly positions; community-based organisations; civil societies; and electorates, to recognize; influence and demand for remarkable budgetary attention and funding for WASH in the grassroots.
Citizens are enjoined to vote for candidates who have to upgrade and prioritize WASH sector. With evidences, we ascertain that increasing access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) aids economic development, poverty reduction, education, good health and general well-being.
Running 21st century governments by the “old rules” is reinforcing information asymmetry, inefficiency, inequality and ultimately poverty. In 2016, the eight richest people in the world had as much money as the bottom 50 per cent of humanity – that’s three-and-a-half billion people. And of those eight, six were infotech billionaires. The world can no longer feign indifference on the pricelessness of public data in this age. Like these infotech billionaires, governments are stewards of public data and money. Their responsibility is allocating same to priority sectors in the society for policy-making. If data is so priceless, why then is the unsustainable concentration of power and wealth (data) in the hands of few individuals and government?
Technological advancement such as computer, internet and airplane has not only demystified global challenges (e.g. transportation) to the point that one could fly from New York to London in six hours or less; technology has made governance and public policy increasingly participatory and interactive. It is believed that such interaction will ultimately result in more democratization of decision-making and getting citizens more involved in the allocation of state resources for public good. Democracy requires transparent decisions; so that citizens are aware of what is decided and how much money is being spent on which purposes.
In developing economies, e.g. Nigeria, one phenomenon driving political instability and economic stagnation is corruption. Stakeholders are unanimous that the incidence of corruption is unacceptably high and that open government – opening up government data and public processes, is the antidote. The importance of data-driven transparency is indisputable in combating corruption because corruption thrives in atmospheres of opaqueness and secrecy. Incontestably, transparency counteracts corruption and sharp practices in government circles.
A fundamental concept for understanding open government is information asymmetry. Information asymmetry is a situation in which one party has more information than another, for instance, when a government has more information than its constituents. One of the reasons why governments open their data is to reduce information asymmetry, but completely overcoming this is often not realistic. Somebody who is inside the system on a daily basis will always have more knowledge than outsiders do. However, easy access and a clear presentation of information are often necessary. By that, citizens can see a clearer picture, but completely bridging the information asymmetry is virtually impossible.
The second point why we should open up government data is civic participation and engagement. Among other forms of centralized governments, one distinctive characteristic of democracy is citizens’ voice or civic participation. Citizens can never be able to properly engage their elected or public officials without data or information about what is happening inside government institutions. World over, a military dictator can always build roads; primary healthcare centres; potable water supply; etc., but at any instance, military dictators lack legitimacy because they rule by the barrel of a gun. Ruling by the barrel of a gun is a measure of primitiveness.
Article 21 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads that: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Fundamentally, access to relevant public data inevitably guide electorates during elections, guaranteeing credible electoral outcomes among nations. Undoubtedly, under democracies where voices are present, human rights are best protected.
So there is relationship between open government, legitimacy of governments and trust. The importance of easy access to public data as a way of building trust is captured in open government ambitions. Commitments to open government should show that governments are not hiding anything from citizens. In the circumstance, the public can see how the government is functioning, and influence its working where necessary. For example, viewing how budget is spent and thereafter suggesting alternative ways of spending the budget better.
Challenging the status quo
For five decades (1962–2011), Nigeria operated a horrible law – Official Secret Act, which provided for the protection of official information from public interaction or scrutiny. The Act imposed restrictions upon public servants concerning disclosure of certain “privileged” information. Thus, for 50 years, Nigerian political environment was more or less a “black box” – citizens living in information blackout.
In the same year (2011) that Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched, Nigerian government enacted a revolutionary law – Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), providing for free access of public information to citizens. The act also provides for the protection of personal privacy, protection of serving public officers from adverse consequences when they disclose certain kinds of official information without authorization. The Nigerian FOIA is considered a game-changer in the country’s long push for openness, transparency and accountability.
Global efforts at opening up government-controlled data for public participation and engagement birthed a multilateral initiative – OGP. In September 2011, on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting, Heads of State from 8 founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States) endorsed the Open Government Declaration. The OGP aims to secure concrete commitments from national and sub-national governments to open up government data and processes, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance among member states.
How civic organisations are disrupting service delivery using FOIA and OGP
For many years in Nigeria, corruption and cultures of opacity meant that resources meant for development were frittered away. According to a UN report, roughly $4.6bn is spent on bribes in Nigeria each year. Poor transparency and accountability have allowed corruption to flourish, but these civil society groups are trying to change the opaque environment.
Empowered by the provisions of OGP and FIOA, governments are under intense pressure to intensify fights against corruption; sharing more information about the way federal ministers or commissioners are managing public resources and increasing civil participation in public decision-making. A host of civic organisations: Follow The Money, Tracka, PPDC, SERAP etc are harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance especially at the grassroots. The activities of these above-named organisations are examples of how citizens (activists) can be part of the solution of nation building in a fragile or failing democracy. Therefore to increase civic participation, promote transparency, and strengthen accountability; governments must open up public data – hitherto administered in secrecy, for public perusal, consumption and ownership.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene; health and education; reduce inequality; and spur economic growth, among other transformations. In the 17 set of goals, people are central and foundational. There are people around the world who are still in need of the most basic necessities of life – everything from clean water to food, and healthy lives and well-being.
More than any other goal, Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, is one of the most interconnected goals. Undoubtedly, increasing access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) aids economic development, poverty reduction, education (particularly for girls), health and many more. As we speak, it is estimated that 60 million Nigerians live without clean water, 120 million lack access to decent toilet facilities and 46 million practice open defecation.
More disturbing is the fact that annually, about 60,000 Nigerian children, under the age of five, die of WASH-related diseases. This implies that with 12 years left to the attainment of Vision 2030, Nigeria will find it difficult to achieve #SDGs Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all, if nothing is done urgently.
Rising to the challenge, WaterAid in partnership with Connected Development (CODE) are prepared to challenge the status quo especially at the grassroots in Nigeria. Launched in November 2018, #VoteWASH seeks to mainstream WASH in 2019 electioneering campaigns and political conversations at sub-national levels of government where grassroots populations reside.
Through #Vote4WASH, we are reaching out to electoral stakeholders – political parties and their candidates for Gubernatorial, Senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly positions; community-based organisations; civil societies; and electorates, to recognize; influence and demand for remarkable budgetary attention and funding for WASH in the grassroots. This is can be achieved by conscientizing electorates to cast their votes only on candidates/political parties who sign up unto Pledge Cards and publicly commit to prioritize programmes, projects and interventions that are pro-WASH (SDGs Goal 6).
On implementation, the sequence of activities include:
Pre campaign press conference: Here we would strive to secure buy-in of the media on robust reportage on campaign activities through the life span of the campaign.
Mapping of communities affected by severe WASH crisis and preliminary visits: Across the geopolitical zones, selected communities with severe water-related crisis would be mapped and visited for human angle stories and perfection of community penetration processes.
Community Outreach: At this stage, we would conduct in-depth interviews with families who are victims of WASH crisis and sensitize/empower community stakeholders on #Vote4WASH. The communities would be armed with accountability tools with which to engage elected officials and track campaign promises post-election wise.
High-Level Courtesy Calls: We would map key House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates of leading political parties in Edo, Lagos and Kano states and through strategic engagement, we would have them sign pledge cards – committing to transformative budgetary appropriations and funding for WASH in rural communities upon assumption of offices.
Media Engagements – Social Media, offline and online: We would deploy routine and targeted radio programmes, newspaper publications and other applicable media, to drive engagement and conversations among stakeholders in the selected states.
Report writing: Among other elements of the campaign, a comprehensive report would be authored on implementation and published for public consumption and it would assume the status of a tool for accountability.
Achieving the SDGs is non-negotiable. Goal 6: Ensuring access to WASH for all is a universal, integrated, and human rights based agenda for the prosperity for people and future of our planet. In your community, support #Vote4WASH to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and deprivations occasioned by WASH-related crisis.
Nigeria has had a checkered political and economic history Like many other African countries, it won its independence in 1960, and went on to install a parliamentary democracy akin to Britain’s. This era, known as the first republic, lasted from 1960 to 1966 and was marked by ethnic tensions, poor governance and corruption.
Plotters used corruption as a reason to justify military coups in 1966 and 1967, whose aftermath threw the country into a civil war. Both the coups and the war paved way for almost three decades of military rule, interrupted only briefly from 1979 to 1983 when General Olusegun Obasanjo returned the country to civilian rule. Shortly after, the 1983 coup of General Muhammadu Buhari ensured that the military stayed in control of political power until 1999, when democracy returned to Nigeria.
The years of military rule were politically and economically disastrous for Nigeria. Corruption, already swelling under the early politicians, became entrenched under military rule, and a class of anti-intellectual politicians came into being. The impression is that military era squandered every amount of fiscal responsibility left by the British colonialists at the wake of independence in 1960.
One of the widely referenced international scale on the “purity” of countries is the yearly corruption perception index (CPI) published by Transparency International. Over a 18-year record, Nigeria hasn’t performed well. From this, it would be either self-serving or narcissistic to deny the claim by the former Prime minister of United Kingdom, David Cameron that: Nigeria is fantastically corrupt. Though harsh, the evidence is consistent that Nigeria is convincingly corrupt. So, who will bell the cat?
By the 2017 estimations of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC): after the high cost of living and unemployment, Nigerians consider corruption to be the third most important problem facing their country, well ahead of the state of the country’s infrastructure and health service. As Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala showed in her recent work, billions of dollars have gone missing under several administrations since as far back as 1978. What an iniquitous record of corruption!
Does corruption impede development?
Not only in developing nations, the extent to which corrupt practices affect markets and governments is difficult to ascertain. Nonetheless, the consequences of corrupt practices cannot be overemphasised. Corruption skews public investment away from service delivery and social amenities toward “lucrative areas” such as gigantic construction projects — dams, road construction, etc. It is an open secret that perceptions of rampant corruption contribute to public disillusionment and undermine both the legitimacy and effectiveness of governments. Corruption further degrades democratic values of accountability, justice and fairness.
The task of cleaning up the stench of corruption in Nigeria is monumental
A new report by the World Poverty Clock shows Nigeria as the capital of extreme poverty in the world. The failure to lift citizens out of poverty is an indictment on successive Nigerian governments which have mismanaged the country’s vast oil riches through incompetence and corruption. The 86.9 million Nigerians now living in extreme poverty represent nearly 50% of the entire population. In a related development, Nigeria also doubles as the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world — a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
It is outrageous that Nigeria, a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the fifteenth-largest oil producer in 2016, with the world’s eleventh-largest oil reserves and the ninth-largest natural gas reserves, is one of the most difficult places to support shared prosperity.
Will Nigeria survive the corruption hurricane?
Nigeria’s natural resource wealth has not delivered the dividends of democracy because key institutions remain weak or non-existent. It is believed that kleptocratic politicians are hell-bent on exploiting institutional vacuums.
Drawing from abundance of diagnostics, for Nigeria to fight corruption successfully, concerted efforts must be made to build institutions, systems and processes that enhance transparency and make corrupt practices more difficult in the first place. It must block revenue leakages while adopting appropriate budget processes and mechanisms that permit transparency and inclusiveness. Political will must be seen and mobilized against pervasive corruption and lawlessness before the country slips permanently into irreversible coma or anarchy. The task of cleaning up the stench of corruption in Nigeria is monumental, not unlike the challenge of Hercules cleaning the Augean stables.
Due to size and economic importance, Nigeria matters, not just for West Africa or even Africa, but the world. This is why good political and economic governance is essential and why the world must lend its support to ensure that Nigeria moves onto the right development path. Domestically, Nigeria must pursue its unfinished economic reforms and, thereafter, commit to investments in critical infrastructure and human capital development. There must also be investor-friendly policies that will attract foreign direct investment, add value to primary products for export and drive economic diversification. These and many others are prerequisites for sustained growth and economic development.
To successfully overcome corruption in Nigeria and Africa at large, it requires the careful, determined, civic-minded and collective action of many members of the community.
*This article was originally published on Apolitical. Apolitical is a global network for government, helping public servants find the ideas, people and partners they need to solve the hardest challenges facing our societies.
It has often been said that corruption is the bane of any progressive society as it stifles development, good governance, professionalism, as well as entrepreneurship. Corruption erodes the values of hard work and honesty. Prior to the 2015 general elections, Nigerians perceived President Buhari and Prof Osibanjo as incorruptible leaders whom the country desperately needed. Three years after winning a popular election, to what extent has this reputation been sustained?
Image: President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo [Photo Credit: Novo Isioro]
Upon assumption of office, the President declared that the tripod upon which his mandate was secured in 2015 was: anti-corruption, security and economy. Most Nigerians in euphoria of the peaceful transition of democratic leadership at the federal level looked forward to a surgical strike against pervasive corruption; endemic insecurity and a hemorrhaging economy.
To attack poverty and reduce the growing number of unemployed people, one obvious scheme or intervention the government has announced is Nigeria Social Investment Programme (NSIP). NSIP has four components: National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP); Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT); Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and N-power scheme. At the end of this year (2018), a total of NGR 1.5 trillion (One trillion, five hundred billion naira) would have been appropriated for NSIP according to the senate committee on appropriation. Between 2016 and 2017, NGR 1 trillion (one trillion naira only) was approved for NSIP. While N500 billion was appropriated for the NSIP in 2017, N100 billion was deducted from source for the Social Housing Scheme under the Federal Ministry of Finance. Having said that, N500 billion has survived as the yearly budget of the presidency for her ambitious social safety net programme as supported by development partners, notably the World Bank Group.
Available data suggests that the federal government has expressed unusual interest, at least budgetary wise, in taking millions of Nigerians out of poverty and vulnerability. How has social safety programmes worked in other climes? Any attempt to provide answers, sharply divides opinions along retentionists and abolitionists. Undoubtedly, this is not without heated-debates and controversies. A recent one being the government’s revelation that $322.5 million (N116.1 billion) recovered from Abacha’s Loot would be spent on the poor as conditional cash transfers under NSIP.
In a country with heavy burden of infrastructural deficit and majority of her population engulfed or stuck in poverty and lack, experts and public analysts have continued to provide alternative opinions on how this N116 billion could be best deployed. One of such genuine concerns among stakeholders is the absence of a national social registry. “Nigeria has no valid social register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians upon which selection of beneficiaries could be based” Seun has continued to contest. This is true. There is no comprehensive social register detailing the poor or vulnerable across the 774 Local Government Areas in the federation.
In the event that a whopping sum of N116 billion is deployed as CCT to poor Nigerians who usually reside in thick rural villages, how can this money be managed without corruption or abuse? Popular opinions suggest that a participatory, open and transparent targeting system and register would need to be agreed upon by stakeholders, of which the methodology must be stripped of partisanship, religion and ethnicity. This is even so as poverty has no respect for a victim’s social characteristics.
The Nigerian health sector is an area that government can either intervene or risk further decay and shame. The mistrust in our health sector is such that it is impossible for even the President to submit to Nigerian doctors for medical treatment. On occasions, the President had sought the attention of foreign doctors abroad even on mundane issues like ear infections. As a matter of fact, the President has spent time and resources overseas, seeking medical attention, in a manner unparalleled in Nigerian history. Clearly, our healthcare system, especially Primary Health Care (PHC), must be fixed for the benefit of every Nigerian. Who says that our PHCs cannot work again?
Talking about educational crisis, annually, uncountable Nigerians are forced out of the country in pursuit of secondary and tertiary education in foreign soils, particularly Europe. In terms of educational tourism, Nigeria’s profile is the highest in volume in the whole world. This is a discrepancy, a departure from the normal. How long shall we continue in this diseased trajectory? Education is the engine of any progressive economy. Can any leader neglect it and still deliver on substantive benefits of democracy? I doubt.
Worrisomely, Nigeria is beginning to manifest symptoms and signs on possible untenability of Vision2030 – #SDGS. Consider for example, a report by Mr. Suleiman Adamu – Minister of Water Resources, more Nigerians had access to potable water in 1990 than 2017. In medicine, it is believed that the daily water requirement for an adult human is about 5 litres of clean water. In the open market, a 75cl of bottle water (Eva) costs about N100. Therefore, to satisfy the 5 litres daily requirement of water, about 7 bottles of water are required. This amounts to about N700 daily. With simple addition or multiplication, a Nigerian would need about N21, 000 per month if he or she is interested in potable water – Eva in this case. Recall that the minimum wage in Nigeria is N18, 000 (eighteen thousand naira only). Graphically, potable water is a luxury in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the SDGs (Goal 6) aim to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for ALL by 2030. With budgetary shortfalls and inconsistency in implementation, is there hope that #WaterForAll can be achieved in Nigeria?
In all sincerity, we believe that a large part of the recovered Abacha’s loot should be used for special intervention in our sickly health and education sectors; supporting the attainment of #SDGs, and financing technological startups. In the circumstances of scarce resources with competing needs, we beseech the Federal Government to ensure that recovered loots are not plundered. Deploying N116 billion without a comprehensive, valid and transparent social register of the poor and vulnerable class would amount to a damaging blow against the government’s anti-corruption posture or body language, in the case that anything goes wrong. For now, the anti-corruption efforts must succeed. The President has my support. There is no other way!
Would the President listen and realign his spending tendencies to synchronize with his government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP)? This is one thing Nigerians would be happy and celebrate the President for. Nigeria’s national and sub-national spending, for common good, must be retooled to reflect creative and deliberate investments in human capital development. On a daily basis, many households are confronted and brutalized by poverty. They cannot guarantee their daily bread. Governments must respond to these needs as a matter of obligation and responsibility. Social safety programmes are commendable but not at the detriment of investments in human capital and macroeconomic stabilization.
In recent times, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been struggling to contain her 8.6 million out-of-school children (high figure in the world) through various interventions. One of such interventions is the National Home Grown School Feeding Program (NHGSFP) which seeks to provide at least one very good meal per day, to the pupils. Cheerlessly, due to obvious reasons, insecurity, in the country, experts contend that the figure at 8.6 million is highly conservative.
CODE visits Out-of-school children in Maiduguri, Borno State
I purposely de-selected examples from the other five (5) geopolitical zones especially Northeast Nigeria where Boko Haram is proving stubborn against the armed forces, to highlight that our educational deficiency is widespread and endemic. Northeast has suffered a major setback in education and other dimensions of development on the account of Boko Haram which mounted a brazen campaign against Western education and later transformed to a terrorist network. Notwithstanding, every state have their own share of the problem. This has summed up to a measure of full-scale educational crisis at the national level.
The essence of Day of the African Child (commemorated on June 16, every year) is to honour hundreds of school children who were brutally mowed down by the Republic of South Africa. In 1976, school children had risen against a dysfunctional educational system in their country; demanding reforms and increased funding. What followed was a joint misbehaviour from the government and security agencies. Instead of heeding to calls for reforms which were dire (as we have in Nigeria today), the government resorted to violence – killing hundreds of school children who were “merely” exercising their fundamental human rights by calling on their government to reform for global competitiveness.
Consequently, on 16th June 1991, the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU) declared June 16 as Day of the African Child. It became a day for Member States to reconsider national educational policies and more comprehensively, commitments to the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The theme for 2018 is: Leave No Child Behind in Africa’s Development. As a continent, how have we fared on matters of child protection; basic education; universal health coverage; etc. Africa must move beyond the fanfare of June 16 and pursue social and economic development with every vigour and rigour. Africa is not lame!
Nigeria cannot conveniently shy away from the problem. Without minding that Nigeria’s population explosion has put pressure on the country’s resources; public services and infrastructure, I maintain “there is no way to run”. A possible consequence of our dysfunctional education is best captured when the President of the Senate – Senator (Dr.) Abubakar Bukola Saraki warned that the situation is not only alarming but also a ticking time bomb. How else can I describe this dangerous situation to sound more convincing?
The above security perspective by Senator Saraki cannot be digested in isolation. What about the ability to secure jobs or employment that can guarantee sustainable livelihoods. In the science of genetics, organisms reproduce after their kind. The same is true of poverty. One big reap in education is the opportunity to acquire suitable skills for contemporary jobs. Google recently established an artificial intelligence (AI) centre in Ghana. As organisms, we either evolve and adapt to survive or we perish. This is a long standing scientific fact. There are even more convincing instances on why Nigeria must invest in her people – human capital development. National and international economic environment is quite dynamic or rapidly changing. Should the “giant of Africa” be left behind?
CODE and other CSOs in Press Conference, calling for #AmendUBEAct in Abuja.
In its traditional innovative solutions; synergy with Nigerian CSOs and in partnership with Malala Fund, Connected Development is currently leading a campaign on the urgency to amend the country’s Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act of 2004 to accommodate contemporary discrepancies and realities. For emphasis (at the risk of sounding trite), one “miraculous” way that the Federal Government of Nigeria can respond to the frightful of out-of-school figure is to amend the current UBE Act (please, track previous national conversations on twitter using #AmendUBEAct).
As I excuse my keypad for other itineraries of the day, let me conclude with a few sentences. As far as governments (at all levels) continue to keep mum over our 8.6 million out-of-school children, excruciating poverty is inevitable. Whereas it is no longer fashionable to abandon the business of governance to governments alone; citizens must support government officials in all possible ways for I consider bad leadership and poverty as our “common enemy”. By the way, my heart goes out to hundred of children in the Republic of South Africa that were murdered, gruesomely, on this day 1976. For this is the 28th edition of the #DayOfTheAfricanChild which you paid the supreme price, making it to be.
Written by Ani, Nwachukwu Agwu. Ani is a rural development practitioner. He can be reached via Nwachukwu@connecteddevelopment.org . He works with Follow The Money – the fastest growing social accountability movement in Africa.