President Muhammadu Buhari took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 to call on all countries to sign up to the UN Convention Against Corruption.

Nigeria’s global partnerships to project development have been frustrated by cases of corruption. Here, Awwal Ababukar looks back on MDGs to find a pattern in the management of SDGs in Nigeria.

Following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations (UN) in 2000, the 191 countries and 22 organisations that make up the UN and 22 declared eight goals they would collectively aid one another in attaining before 2015. Dubbed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the first five goals were: eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achievement of universal primary education, reduction of child mortality and promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.

The three remaining goals were combating of HIV/AIDs, malaria and other disease; improvement of maternal health, ensuring of environmental sustainability, and development of international development partnership.

As a member of the UN, Nigeria signed this treaty and promised to work towards the realisation of this goals.

To achieve goals, a number of steps were taken, including the release of central government funds. Offices were also created and individuals appointed to key positions to work towards the targets.

However, several reviews of MDGs in Nigeria in 2015 concluded that the country did not score 50 percent in any of the targets. A key cause of the failure, according to analysts, was corruption.

Towards Attaining MDGs

Nigeria designed many programmes aimed at attaining the MDGs in 2015, starting with the creation of the office of the Special Adviser to the President on MDGs by President Olusegun Obasanjo and opening of offices and appointment of personnel in States and local government areas.

Among the programmes created was National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP). NAPEP was created in 2001 to coordinate and oversee various institutions and develop plans and guidelines for them to follow with regards to poverty reduction. NAPEP goals include training youths in vocational trades, to support internship, to support micro credit, etc.

Another programme was National Action for the Control of Aids (NACA) to among other strategies mainstream HIV/AIDS interventions across the countries. Created in 2004, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) focused on Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable growth, and poverty reduction based on three pillars: empowering people and improving social service delivery; fostering economic growth, in particular in the non-oil private sector; and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of government, while improving governance.

Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) which was introduced in 2000 to address the problems of rising unemployment in the society, boost economy productiveness, and ensure Nigerians are provided with basic necessities of life such as: affordable health care, sanitized environment, quality education amongst others.

Other programmes desined to achieve the goals, especially in the area of poverty reduction were YES, YouWin,
Conditional Cash Transfer and Conditional Grant Scheme.

Corruption led to MDGs failure

Documents from MDGs office shows that over one trillion naira was spent
for the implementation of MDG targets and objectives in the country between 2007 and
2010.The robust disbursement of funds do not however reflect in the country’s level of poverty, infant mortality, unemployment, diseases, etc.

For Nwanolue Alabi, a scholar, it is unlikely
that all these accrued funds were solely dedicated to the spending of pro-poor projects and programmes towards the achievement of MDGs.

“There were instances where funds were disbursed for the supply and distribution of drugs when there are no health facilities. Also, N430 billion awarded for MDG Projects within
2006-2009 went back into Government purse through counterpart funding by different
states. Those were clear cases of corruption,” the scholar lamented.

He added that, “we made no much progress in MDGs in Nigeria because of poor governance, corruption, lack of accountability and transparency, policy inconsistency, lack of holistic database and insurgencies.
used to carry out effective and efficient. The funds stollen by our leaders would have taken Nigeria out of its problem long ago.

Many citizens saw National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) when it replaced Poverty Alleviation Programme as watershed during Obasanjo administration. But its coordinator, Magnus Kpakol, allegedly swindled the agency through contract scam, hence it was unable to carry out its mandates as a result of paucity of fund.

YouWin is a youth development scheme, established by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. The program is a Private and Public initiative that finances outstanding business plans for the young, aspiring entrepreneurs in Nigeria, but sources said the corruption in its administration denied Nigerians from fully benefiting from its impact.

Sustainable Development Goals

As the MDGs came to an end in 2015, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came on board. Like the MDGs, it also has a 15-year target. While MDGs were eight, SDGs are 17 among which are: No poverty, zero hunger, good health and Well-being, quality education, gender equality and clean Water and sanitation. Each with a list of targets, other SDGs are affordable and lean Energy, decent work and economic growth, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, reducing inequality, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water and life on land, peace, justice, and strong institution and partnerships for the goals.

But fears are already rife in Nigeria that there is every likelihood SGDs would go the way of MDGs in the country because of corruption.

Surprisingly, first sound of fear came from President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 to call on all countries to sign up to the UN Convention Against Corruption.

According to him, “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the imperative for our collective will towards finding enduring and sustainable solutions to addressing global disparities. Corruption freezes development, thereby undermining the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said, citing his own Government’s efforts to combat the scourge, including the significant recovery of stolen assets which are then channelled towards the development of critical infrastructure and the implementation of social inclusion programmes.”

The Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has also expressed concern that 2030 target for SDGs remain a fantasy if corruption flourishes.

Buhari and Magu’s view have been corroborated by many commentators, including the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Ibrahim Rafsanjani.

In an interview with Thisday in 2016, Rafsanjani argued that, “Corruption is a very serious threat to the realisation of these SDGs and also the entire development of Nigeria. As you can see, corruption leads to under-development, unemployment, total collapse of health sector, total collapse of education, of infrastructure in terms of electricity and even the road networks as well as other things that we need as a nation to be able to progress. Corruption is a serious threat, and it if is not tackled and dealt with squarely, there is no way we can be able to achieve or realise anything in the development framework for sustainable development.”

However, in spite of the fears expressed and alleged strengthening of anti-corruption institutions in Nigeria, corruption is still a threat to the achievement of SGDs in the country.

Recent Corruption Case

Currently, the Office of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) have been indicted in N23bn corruption case as the sum has been traced to the account of a Level 12 officer in the office.

SDGs office is headed by a Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.

The affected officer and three others linked with the fraud were said to be on secondment from the OAGF.

But following the uncovering of the scandal, the Level 12 officer and others have been secretly redeployed to OAGF by SDGs.

There were indications that some security and anti-graft agencies were probing the illicit money laundering.

Also, some documents relating to the fraud have been forwarded to the relevant committees in the National Assembly.

The account of the officer was allegedly used for slush purposes by the management of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs Office.

The suspect indicted for the slush fund is from a state in North-West and the beneficiaries of the illicit cash are rallying around him to sweep the scandal under the carpet.

It was gathered that the account where the “diverted” fund was domiciled was detected by the BVN used to open several companies accounts where payments were made to them.

“The personal BVN of the said officer was tied to the slush account of one of the companies being used,” a highly-placed source said.

Some security, anti-graft agencies and anti- fraud units have since launched an investigation, seeking to confirm the purpose of the fund accruing to the account, and beneficiaries of the account.

The Level 12 officer has admitted to one of the agencies that he retained over N1. 8b out of the money for personal use.

When contacted, a top official at the SDG Office said the officer in question was sent back to the Office of Accountant General of the Federation after the discovery of the scandal.

“All those involved have been trying to bury the scandal so that President Muhammadu Buhari will not hear about it.

“It is unfortunate that such a huge sum will be laundered in a country where many people cannot feed.

“We want the Presidency to get to the root of this scandal. All the suspects are trying to bribe their way through in order to stall investigation of this fraud,” the source said.

Also, the office has also been indicted in a case of budget padding. Several newspapers have reported that the SDGs office proposed N40 billion as budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
But in the estimate submitted to the legislature, an additional N33billion was found.

This jerked up to N77billion and is one of the highlights of the ongoing probe by the lawmakers and relevant agencies.

Attaining SDGs

Since corruption has been identified has a key factor that led to the non-attainment of MDGs in Nigeria in 2015 and the country is also presently treading the same path with SDGs ahead of 2030, for Dr. Yusuf Musa of the Deparment of Political Science, University of Abuja, “the targets and the goals can still be met. We still have 10 solid years. A lot can be achieved in even five years. All the country needs to do is to strengthen anti-corruption agencies and people them with people with tested and proven sense of integrity.”

According to him, “We must also stop selective anti-corruption war. We must prosecute everyone found to be corrupt irrespective of position or political affiliation. I am sure if corruption is rooted out, our path to meeting SDGs would be smooth. We have everything, only corruption and politics are our problems.”