A TEXT OF SPEECH MADE BY DR TOLA WINJOBI THE NATIONAL COORDINATOR, CIVIL SOCIETY COALITION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ON THE OCCASION OF NIGERIAN PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY 2021 AND CELEBRATION OF THE 6TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INCEPTION OF THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AS ONE OF THE EVENTS OF THE CSO GLOBAL WEEK OF ACTION HELD ON FRIDAY 24TH OF SEPTEMBER 2021 AT WHITE HOUSE PARLIAMENT BUILDING, OYO STATE GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT, IBADAN NIGERIA
The VNR 2021 has come and gone but the next event the Civil Society Global Week of Action HLPF is currently on going this September, and it is the usual annual celebration of the inception of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development since 2016. In other words, this September 2021 will be the 6th anniversary of the inception of the 2030 Agenda which CSCSD has always been celebrating. Two key events being planned by CSCSD for today are: Nigerian People’s Assembly a sort of House of Parliament debate and launching of the Grassroots Scorecard Report of VNR/HLPF 2021.
The objectives of this Nigerian People’s Assembly, among others, are:
- To bring together critical masses of Nigeria from across the country in an open forum to generate debates on issues affecting them differently and or collectively;
- Collate and articulate the issues and demands of the citizens emerging from Nigerian people’s assembly so and present this before the government for action;
- Discuss the COVID-19 situation relating to loss of lives, vaccination, social protection and livelihood and link to the SDGs;
- To provoke the political will and interest of governments in unbundling and prioritising the implementation of the global goals according to the country and regional context;
- Bring parliamentarians face to face with the people to hear and respond to their demands.
Of much concern to us this year is the involvement of the youth as critical stakeholders in development. Youth is a critical mass that attention needs to be focused on in view of the high rate of unemployment, insurgency, violent extremism, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and armed robbery ossifying peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG16) in Nigeria. Many of our youth were not given enough voice in the 2030 Agenda implementation process. Many are neglected by governments in many facets of life. Opportunity has not been given to them to be part of HLPF as none of our youth has ever been sponsored to New York either for VNR in July or HLPF in September. Specifically, we are organizing a “Youth Parliament” where young people would be given the opportunity to organize mock parliament with one of them as the Speaker of the SDG Youth House Assembly and other officers in place.
In view of the UN SDG mantra of “leave no one behind” the stakeholders’ inclusive practice principle is a very significant block in the Nigeria’s implementation of SDGs. Any development that will be sustainable will not only be participatory for all stakeholders, it must also be very inclusive. This inclusion as duly recognised by the UN is bipolar both in ensuring that civil society is given roles to play through the lifecycle of a development program and equally have a share of any accrued benefit from the program as due to others without any discrimination. Other critical stakeholders including senior citizens, women’s group, persons with disabilities and grassroots citizens have to be given the opportunity to open up on how SDGs have been impacting on them. They have the right to assess governments’ performance on plans, programmes and policies affecting them. Thus, we are including these critical sets of Nigerian citizens in this our august national SDGs assembly.
You would agree with me that some of our senior citizens suffered a lot before they could access their gratuity and pensions. Some cannot leave their abode while some are bed-ridden and some lost their lives to COVID-19 pandemic while nobody seems catering to the needs of those alive. Some even died in the process of verification exercise as a precursor to collecting their entitlements. For our women’s group, 35 percent affirmative action is not respected by government as not much opportunity is provided our aspiring women politicians. The political parties do not help matters as they fix meetings at ungodly hours thus side-tracking our women from basic political participation. Gender based violence has become so rampart while the activities of boko haram, bandits/terrosits, kidnappers, and ritualists ossify the realization of gender rights including the right to education. Persons living with disabilities suffer the more due to systemic and societal constructs as they are being denied employment opportunities both by the government and the private sector based on the former’s status. The buildings of public and private institutions are not tailored towards the rights and the needs of persons with disabilities while most of our public transport system have no regard for them. Politicians both in power and aspirants are also invited here today so as to hear directly from the critical masses of the citizens so as to use their good offices to better the lots of these people.
The second key deliverable today is the launching of Grassroots Spotlight Scorecard towards 2021 VNR HLPF- assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Nigeria and how it affects ordinary Nigerians: https://bit.ly/3i41dFH . This has become an annual ritual for our coalition assessing the performance of government on some critical indices of development as it affects the grassroots people including urban and rural settings of Nigeria. The Executive Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde along with the Speaker Oyo State House Assembly shall make a public presentation of this book.
The outcome of our deliberations would be presented as CSO SDGs Policy Asks to the government both at the state and federal levels. It then becomes a policy tool of engagement with the governments which would invariably inform policy decision of Nigerian government about the citizens. We urge our political leaders to step up in this Decisive Decade to lead the effort – to: uphold universal principles of care and cooperation, human rights and gender equality; support a zero carbon economy and green jobs; and ensure we crack the converging crises of COVID-19, injustice, climate change and nature loss.
We are calling for a Great Recovery Plan with action in three key areas, to power a future that is: Healthy, Green & Just. This includes the following: Healthy: vaccines for all without compulsion, national affordable healthcare; Green: commitment to delivering on the Paris Agreement principles of cutting carbon emission to guarantee no more than 1.5C temperature rise; Just: a new social contract that shuns impunity but guarantees human rights and also delivers a fairer economic system!
Achieving the SDGs is dependent on the political will of our leadership. Governments at all levels only need to walk the talk and stop paying lip service to development issues. Although all the 17 Goals of 2030 Agenda are important, they however do not have equal weight. Cherry-picking or prioritising the goals may be necessary because it is obvious government may feign not having enough resources to bring about the realisation of the 17 Goals by 2030. Whereas Nigeria has the resources, it has all it takes to attain SDGs but self-centeredness coupled with endemic corruption has been the bane of its development over time.
Governments at all levels should take concrete steps to reverse trends of shrinking and closing civic spaces in development, to protect and enable space for civil society, including enabling laws and regulations, democratic accountability based on human rights norms and human rights standards, and the full protection of civil society under attack – such as social leaders, human rights defenders and gender rights activists. They should repeal and halt all obnoxious laws, policies, and bills stifling operations of civil society including social media bill i.e. Hate Speech Bill that metes out death penalty on the violator especially the press.
Government should also respect democratic country ownership of national development plans, and recognize the importance of the inter-connected themes in achieving Agenda 2030 — civil society voice, eradicating poverty, women’s empowerment, fighting inequality, decent work, climate action and environmental justice — without which the realisation of the SDGs would be a mirage in Nigeria. They should also hold effective, inclusive and transparent consultations with CSOs regarding national development priorities and guarantee meaningful inclusive CSO participation in decision-making and creation of public policies all in tandem with the UN Agenda 2030 mantra of “Leave no one behind”; and implement public policies to promote and strengthen CSOs.
Paramount is the need to uphold the rule of law, shun impunity, respect human rights, promote the right to initiative of citizens, and uphold all fundamental rights and freedoms including, but not limited to, freedom of association, of expression, and political participation, the rights to peaceful assembly and information, and release unconditionally all the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience including the activists and journalists kept behind bars despite court injunction to release them on bail.
The federal government’s granting amnesty to insurgents and bandits is a suspect. Amnesty should be granted to those who genuinely ask for it as against amnesty by ambush because many of those bandits are not made to undergo transparent and sincere rehabilitation and reintegration which is why some of them still go back to their destructive enterprise unleashing terror on the communities. Granting unrequested nebulous and opulent amnesty without justice is an injustice to those who the terrorists have rendered widows, widowers and orphans suffering in the IDPs. Therefore, government should address injustice and follow due process of surrendering, rehabilitation and reintegration of the bandits and insurgents before genuine pardon is said to have been granted.
Thank you for listening.
Tola Winjobi (PhD)
National Coordinator, CSCSD