A COVER INTERVIEW (March 2018) with Dr David Tola Winjobi
Dr. David Tola Winjobi, National Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development (CSCSD) is a seasoned human rights activist, trainer of trainers, gender analyst, community development consultant, thoroughbred researcher, and conflict manager.
With over 20 years’ development and human rights experience in organizations such as Amnesty International, Centre for Constitutional Governance, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), Winjobi has vast knowledge of democracy, human rights, poverty and SDGs profile in Nigeria.
He is a sought after international speaker on human rights issues and has made presentations through workshops and seminars on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in some countries including Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States. He was the only Nigerian invited by the UN General Assembly in New York in June 2010 as a speaker on MDGs situation in Africa. In December 2010, he was also invited by the UN in Geneva to present a paper on Minority Rights Issue. He was also part of Nigerian civil society delegates to HLPF National Volunteer Review in New York in July 2017.
Tola Winjobi is a Draper Hills Fellow, Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University, California (USA) as well as Fellow, Human Rights Learning Alliances, Fundar Center of Analysis and Research, Mexico. He is the Africa Focal Person, CSOs Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), the Founding Coordinator, the Southwest Freedom of Information Act Network, Nigeria. A member of African Working Group on SDGs, Tola is also a member Regional Advisory Group (West and Central Africa) of Global Network of CSOs for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), U.K. He is an Executive Member, Emerging Scholars and Practitioners in Migration Issues Network (ESPMI), Canada, and founding member, African Civil Society Coalition on Migration and Development (AFRICISCOMD). He was the Convener, Campaign2015+ International (now Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development) which had campaigned towards achieving MDGs by 2015 and challenging government to look beyond 2015 and give the lives of people a meaning.
Winjobi’s sterling leadership qualities and intellectual disposition have been largely shaped by his academic background. He possesses B.A. Ed. English (1986); M. Ed Psychology (1989); M.A. Peace and Conflict Studies (2006), and PhD Psychology (2000).
In this interview with SDGs Monitor, Winjobi provides an insight into the role of the Civil Society Organizations CSOs in localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.
It has often been said that the development of a nation hinges not only on the government but also on individuals and organizations. The deficiency of governments makes room for CSOs but the latter should not be seen as competing with the former because the purpose of the CSOs is not to replace governments. Rather its purpose is to support the efforts of government so as to improve lives and give the lives of people a meaning by upholding justice, human rights, and defending the rule of law. In other words, in the face of the current global economic recession, governments alone cannot be solely saddled with the development of a nation because of the scarce resources at their disposal. Hence, all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation. Without mincing words, governments at all levels know that it is their primary responsibility to provide good governance through the provision of necessary socio-economic services that would impact on the general wellbeing of the governed while the non-state actors (Civil Society Actors) are to complement the efforts of the governments.
CSOs in Nigeria have been playing some critical roles ever before the adoption in September 2015 of the 17 SDGs. We may recall that there were a series of consultations and deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda in which Nigerian CSOs not only participated in government’s and UN’s deliberations but also organized their own deliberations across Nigeria. Campaign2015+ International (now Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development) indeed organized deliberations in five geo-political zones of Nigeria. These deliberations involved faith-based organizations (FBOs), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), trade unions, professional associations, student organizations, community groups (the poor and the marginalized), town’s unions, disability groups, women and youth. The essence of these deliberations was to enable people to voice out the kind of world they wanted, nay the kind of Nigeria they envisioned. The outcome of these consultations fed into the national deliberations organized by the Nigerian government under the auspices of the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs supported by the United Nations Millennium Campaign. In fact, our own coalition came up with a 260+ page book titled “A Compendium of Deliberations on post-2015 Development Agenda” which contains the summary of the deliberations that took place not only in Nigeria but also across the globe. Since September 2015 when the new set of goals was adopted in New York, CSOs in Nigeria have not been resting on their oars. I remember vividly that press conferences were organized in the South West purposely to sensitize the Nigerian people to the new Global Goals and especially to serve as a wake-up call to the Nigerian government so as to hit the ground running in order to attain SDGs. This was also to ensure that the case of SDGs would not be like that of MDGs where late implementation affected achieving the MDGs by 2015.
Yes, the UN SDGs Action Campaign spearheaded Government-CSO Strategy Group on SDGs in November 2015. The goal of the Strategy Group is ambitious while its objectives are laudable. The objectives among others are to deepen understanding of the SDGs and encourage adequate and systematic engagement with all the SDGs, and to ensure the coherent and expert approach to programming on the goals and targets of the SDGs. The inauguration actually took place in OSIWA Office in Abuja where the participation of government officials was not encouraging because the government was represented by the Chairman of the House Committee on SDGs. The Nigerian government lacks the capacity to sustain the Government-CSO Strategy Group on SDGs. This body has been in a coma as there is no capacity to coordinate its meeting more so that the government could not give the deserving leadership direction to the group. The Office of the Senior Special Assistant on SDGs (OSSAP-SDGs) needs to do more. Paramount is the need for OSSAP-SDGs to constructively engage civil society, academia, media, private sector, professional bodies, donors, youth, women and even children, persons living with disability and other stakeholders as each of these groups has one role or the other to play in achieving SDGs. It is not too late for OSSAP-SDGs to provide an enabling environment for CSOs to operate and sustain Government-CSO Strategy Group on SDGs. The idea of impromptu CSO consultation with Abuja-based CSOs erroneously called voluntary national consultation is not the best for the voice of civil society to be heard as several NGOs are being side-lined in such only Abuja meeting. No amount of money is too small for government to support CSOs’ attendance at such meetings; it is nothing about development if such meetings are not about CSOs.
Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development is a national coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and networks registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and active in all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. With a board of trustees and a national steering committee, CSCSD is the only government-recognized coalition of over 300 registered civil society and NGOs set up essentially for monitoring the implementation of SDGs in Nigeria. It envisions a society whose centre-stage is justice, peace, the fulfilment of human rights and development in all ramifications.
Its work is being done in partnership with other civil society organizations, the poor, the marginalized, professional associations, the academia, the private sector, and development partners with a view to pressuring governments to account to the SDGs promises and give the lives of people a meaning through upholding justice, human rights and development in all ramifications. CSCSD considers all the stakeholders including the poor, the marginalized, the minority, and development agencies as co-partners who have an important but collective role to play in the attainment of the Global Agenda, and upholding of human rights, justice and peace.
Since the SDGs mantra is “leaving no one behind”, in order to attain SDGs by 2030 all hands must be on deck; everyone should be involved while their voice should also count. We need to synergize with governments at all levels. OSSAP-SDGs cannot do it alone. Paramount is the need for governments especially OSSAP-SDGs to constructively engage civil society, academia, media, private sector, professional bodies, donors, youth, women and even children, persons living with disability and other stakeholders as each of these groups has one role or the other to play in achieving SDGs. This is our belief at CSCSD. Without mincing words on the realization of SDGs, civil society and the media are central to creating nationwide awareness, building the capacity of stakeholders, providing information to the grassroots, monitoring the implementation process, and supporting the efforts of the governments in service delivery. The media, our staunch ally, has really been playing a leading role with civil society as the former including newspaper, electronic and social media have been giving adequate publicity to SDGs even free of charge.
In order to support the governments to drive SDGs in Nigeria, CSCSD has implemented many activities around the SDGs from the inception of Agenda 2030 in September 2015. Few among them were: a two-day capacity strengthening workshop on strategies for localizing the SDGs for CSOs in Abeokuta and Ibadan (March/April 2017); establishment of Think/Do Tank Group responsible for writing and issuing out position papers, media briefs, press releases, communiqués etc.; media capacity building on the commitment to professional reportage on SDGs (June 2017); “Ojumo Alayo” 18-week episode, which is an SDGs Yoruba talk-show on the Africa Independent Television (AIT) every Saturday; Splash FM 105.5 Ibadan “SDG Talk” every first Tuesday of the month featured in English; “Otun Ojo”/New Dawn OGTVAbeokuta live magazine programme where CSCSD Ogun State members feature every Monday 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. to talk about SDG events and gender nexus; and a two-quarter episodes on Sweet FM 107.1 Abeokuta, Ogun State titled “The Podium” every Thursday from 9.00 a.m. to 10 00a.m. featured in both English and Yoruba.
Others were Lagos SDG Conference, (June 15 2017) first of its kind in Nigeria; and an international stakeholders conference on SDGs in Abeokuta (March 6 to 7, 2018). There was also a National SDGs Advocacy Training (August 2017) on Goal 16 so as to enable CSOs to be meaningfully engaging the stakeholders on peace, justice, inclusive societies, transparency and accountability. We also engage in massive production and free distribution of IEC materials on SDGs in leaflet, card and booklet forms including a 260+ page book entitled “A Compendium of Deliberations on Post-2015 Development Agenda”.
In fact, Goal 1 is not about poverty reduction per se; it is indeed about poverty eradication by 2030.Considering the first target of that goal, it is clearly enshrined that extreme poverty shall be eradicated for all people everywhere in particular for people living on less than $1.5 a day. I think governments – the Federal Government in particular provided they are sincere, is working in line with some of the targets of goal number one. Target number 3 focuses on implementing nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable. There is a Social Investments unit/department in the Presidency which has come up with a National Social Protection Programme Framework and Monitoring Plan in the interest of the poor and vulnerable.
I remember in September 2016 there was a national social protection programme organized by ActionAid in which the activities of the Social Investments in the Presidency were presented by the Special Advisor. There are five programmes under Social Investments viz: Home-grown School Feeding programme; teach Nigeria; cash transfer programme; enterprise and empowerment programme. There is so much under this social investments programme including 150 pupils to a caterer to feed in some senatorial districts, N-Power programme to build the skills of youth, partnering with the National Orientation Agency, relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) including agric education, Small and Medium Scale Development Agency (SMEDAN), ICT companies at state level, improving household consumption, and cash transfer programme with consideration for the poor in 30% of the Senatorial Districts in Nigeria.
All the activities above need partnership with stakeholders, especially the civil society that has to monitor the process so as not to derail. Many non-state actors are involved in monitoring the Home-grown School Feeding programme in the north. Likewise in the south where school feeding programme had been in operation by some state governments before the Federal Government’s current intervention, many non-state actors are also involved in monitoring how the programme is fairing.
The goal of SDG 10 is to reduce inequalities within and among countries. This suggests that there is a growing inequality between one country and the other especially between countries in the global north and the global south. Beyond that, there are inequalities within each country and this can be considered from three perspectives – social, economic and environmental. Unfortunately, most people are concerned about economic inequality. Even at that, social inequality affects economic inequality whereas inequality has no boundary; neither is it a respecter of ethnicity, race, gender, age, religion, or disability. There is a yawning gap between the rich and the poor in our country, Nigeria. The wealth of the nation is skewed in favour of the rich who continue to enrich themselves and impoverish the poor. There is socio-economic inequality between our political leaders and the governed. Inequality is perverse in terms of women’s political participation and representation in government against the Beijing Platform for Action. People living below the poverty line of $1.5 per day are increasing in numbers while the political class continues to amass wealth. We are told a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria takes home on a quarterly basis a whooping sum of $29 million (Senators are yet to publish what they earn in order to rebuff this!) still many state governments have thrown their people into further penury as they cannot pay even a pittance of the N18,500 minimum wage. Worst still, many states are currently owing their workers salary arrears; an indication that some states are not viable as they have to go cap in hands to the Federal Government to collect the monthly allocation.
In the face of all this, civil societies have been in the forefront campaigning against inequalities especially against the growing economic inequality in Nigeria. Several of our members are working assiduously on inequalities enshrined in target 2 of Goal 10 of the SDGs by collaborating with and advocating that governments should promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all irrespective of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, religious status or background.
Some members of CSCSD are actually organizing empowerment programmes in order to increase the status of women while some are meaningfully engaging governments in their respective states to ensure that favourable economic policies are enacted. Indeed, some NGOs like CAFSO-WRAG for Development, Farmers Development Union (FADU) and Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) are directly implementing micro-credit schemes in both rural and urban communities essentially for indigent women.
Similarly, the activities of some of our members focus on women’s political empowerment. This is strategic with the belief that once women gain political power it would invariably transform to economic empowerment, though this may not be so all of the time. Even then, women’s political representation across boards at federal and state levels has not been encouraging because of the unfavourable political atmosphere for women who may not be able to face the political brigandage that men’s politicking is characterized. This is all the more reason our members who are involved in electoral reform system often organize programmes around stemming political brigandage and violence so as to encourage women to participate in politics.
Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is the focus of Goal 5 of the SDGs. Hardly can one see an organization that is not working in the area of gender; if an organization is not working directly on gender, it is apparent that such organization would have mainstreamed gender into its plans and programmes. However, CSOs’ activity on gender goes beyond mainstreaming gender but also campaign to ensure that governments at all level also mainstream gender into their plans and programmes while they also encourage governments to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere according to target number one of Goal 5. Organizations such as CAFSO-Women’s Rights Action Group, Campaign against Impunity and Domestic Violence (CAIDOV) and Gender Development Initiative (GENDI) and many more are prominent when it comes to the issue of gender especially working on violence against women and harmful traditional practices. For example, CAFSO-WRAG for Development has submitted to Oyo State House of Assembly a bill on gender based violence while clamouring for a special court to try the violator of gender based violence
Specifically, Goal 4 target 1 of the SDGs ensures “that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”. Primarily, education is the bedrock of development while quality education is dependent upon a good learning environment. However, our organization is saddened by radical de-education of girls in the North East through the dangerous activities of the Boko Haram insurgents. UNICEF in 2016 lamented over the 11 million children out of school in Nigeria. Boko Haram extremists are further decimating the poor number of children in schools in the North-East by abducting school girls. The unpalatable news started on April 14, 2014, with the abduction of over 276 girls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram. The same month in 2014, 58 male students of the College of Agriculture, Buni Yadi, Yobe State were murdered in cold blood while asleep. Yet on February 19, 2018, Boko Haram insurgents attacked Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State and made away with 110 girls. The aim of these incessant attacks is to discourage education through radical de-education which tallies with the agenda of Boko Haram, “education is a sin”.
There are quite a sizeable number of our member-organizations working on education for all among which are; Community Education Advancement of Peace and Development Initiatives (CEAPDI); Women’s Right to Education Programme (WREP), Centre for Youth Initiative on Self Education (CEYISED); and Phelyn Skill Acquisition Center. It is necessary to point out that some of our members are members of Bring Back Our Girls Campaign which came up at the behest of the Chibok Girls saga. It needs to be underscored too that these and many more of these organizations took active part during the post-2015 development agenda deliberations, especially in Nigeria. In line with the UN slogan of leaving no one behind, many of these member organizations are engaging the Nigerian government in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all. While some are campaigning on achieving literacy and numeracy, some are involved in school infrastructural rehabilitation. And while some are involved in referral on skills acquisition, some are basically providing vocational skills for youth’s employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship in line with target 4 of SDG 4. In addition, some of our member-organizations are involved in the monitoring of the school system while some are appointed members of the school-based management system.
The story of SDGs might be incomplete without making reference to the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which was held in Brazil, in 1992. It was here that the first agenda for environment and development was developed and adopted which turns out to be called Agenda 21. Twenty years later, at the Rio+ Conference, a resolution known as the Future We Want was reached by member-states. This Rio+20 outcome document set out a mandate to establish an Open Working Group (OWG) to develop a set of sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate actions by the General Assembly at its 68th session. The OWG underscored the fact that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response with a view to accelerating the reduction of the global greenhouse gas emissions. The thrust of the climate change action (Goal 13) is taking the urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
For the benefit of the readers, it is necessary to present succinctly the main targets of Goal 13. Since the climate change is increasingly posing one of the biggest long term threats to our planet, the time for action is now. There is need to take necessary actions: to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries; to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning; to improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning; to implement the commitment undertaken by developed country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries.
Our member organizations have been active when it comes to awareness creation and sensitization on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning. They speak on radio and television, and use the social media as a campaign platform. They develop and distribute freely flyers, posters, leaflets, pictorials etc. on climate change. I remember there are organizations like 21st Century, Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD), Centre for Disaster Risk and Crisis Reduction (CDRCR) and African Foundation for Environment and Development (AFED) that are active in this regard. Something unique about their media engagement is the use of local languages such as Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa in order to give non-English speakers the opportunity to participate in finding solutions to the common problem of climate change.
Nigeria’s decent work deficits concept is traceable to labour standards deficits. It may be good news that Nigeria has ratified a total of 40 International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions but Nigeria is famous for ratifying conventions that are not crucial to the wellbeing of workers. In other words, Nigeria tends to flinch when it comes to ratifying crucial conventions that address decent work deficits. For example, some of the ILO conventions that are yet to be ratified include ILO C122, C129, and C150 relating to labour market governance; C102 dealing with social security; C189 on domestic workers etc. Even where conventions are signed, Nigerian governments easily violate them with impunity just in the same way they seem not to have regard for target 6 of Goal 8 to reduce substantially “the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training” with about 42 million youth age bracket 25-44 years unemployed according to National Bureau of Statistics (2016). For all age groups, the unemployment rate stood at 19.3 in the same year which translates to 79.8 million unemployed Nigerians. No wonder our youth are travelling abroad at all cost to eke out a living but ending up doing precarious menial jobs. Some travel irregularly and become prey in the hands of human rights violators such as human traffickers.
It is not yet Uhuru for those in employment, especially in public and private sectors. For those in the public sector, their take-home-pay is not commensurate with the efforts they put in. The minimum wage is nothing to take the workers home whereas the political leaders especially the senators and House of Representative members are living in opulence. Workers in the private sector are worse off as casualization mechanism of the workforce is dealing the poor workers a great blow. Horrendous stories of occupational hazards leading to maiming and dismemberment of workers are deafening. Some are hospitalized for months as a result of job-related causes and are abruptly laid off while some often meet rough deaths while their employers seem not to be bothered in violation of labour laws (that some employers don’t make use of).
The foregoing contributes to decent work deficits in Nigeria; the malaise which the unionists are not taking kindly to. Though the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) are not directly members of CSCSD, some of our member-organizations often campaign for employment for our youth and a decent job at best. For example, CAFSO-WRAG for Development for many years, using IEC materials and the media, has been campaigning for decent job opportunities including conducive environment for youth to work. What is needed really is a concerted effort to pressure Nigeria to sign those conventions that address decent work deficits especially those that are geared at challenging poverty, occupational hazards, indecent work environment and social exclusion all within human rights-based approach. After ratification, there should be monitoring of the implementation so as to make government and private sector employers walk the talk.
There are 17 Goals and 169 targets in all and I am not sure the Nigerian government is prioritizing the implementation of them so as to see those they can easily work on which will impact on the people. However, the Federal Government has put some mechanisms in place to ensure hitch-free implementation of the SDGs. There is the establishment of the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs which is a carry-over from the former MDGs under the Presidency. There is also a House Committee on SDGs at the lower legislative house of assembly, and there is the National Assembly Steering Committee on SDGs too to play oversight function and appropriate appropriation to SDGs. There is also an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the SDGs established to guide the coordinated engagement with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) though there has never been a replica of this at the state level. There is also a Private Sector Consultative Group which, hopefully, the Nigerian government thinks, would bring financial leverage to SDGs implementation. Putting these mechanisms in place is not a measure of the progress of SDGs implementation but an evidence-based result of the implementation which we don’t have. What does all this translate to in terms of reduction in the number of people going hungry daily, suffering from poverty, being lost to death as a result of poor road networks, decayed hospital facilities coupled with the wrong diagnosis, unemployment, unpaid salary arrears and pensions, insecurity especially in the hands of armed robbers, violent extremists, kidnappers and ritualists? Can we say the government is doing well in moving towards attaining SDGs by 2030 in the face of all these calamities befalling our citizens? Worse still, the National Assembly has not been helping matters despite their oversight function as they not only indulge in budget padding but they also delay with impunity the passage of the budget. For example, the 2017 Appropriation Act was not passed till almost half of the year 2017 while the 2018 budget is still gathering dust with the Senate who has accused the ministers and directors of MDAs of flinching to defend their budgets.
However, one needs to praise the Federal Government for being involved in the last concluded High-Level Political Forum, National Voluntary Review (HLPF NVR) of the SDGs held in July 2017 in New York. HLPF is desirable as it was an opportunity for countries involved in VNR to showcase their efforts in implementing the SDGs in the past two years. It was also an opportunity for NGOs from these countries to hear directly from their political leaders some “lies” being told about the implementation of SDGs. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for NGOs to rebuff some of these “insincere” implementation commentaries because NGOs were preselected to make comments.
However, HLPF though political in nature is good as NGOs can still hold their governments accountable back home. Something that stood out cutting across the NVR presentations in developing countries is the fact that many of them were really passionate about implementing the SDGs in their various countries but they shied away from the major challenges facing them; two of which are insecurity and corruption. For example, countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia and even Somaliland are still battling with violent extremism as evident in the antics of Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, Al-Queda, etc destroying lives and property which ossifies smooth implementation and attainment of the SDGs. Corruption has also become a dreaded disease seeping through the pores of the fabrics of Nigeria and ravaging it beyond repair. For example, the leadership of the Senate is enmeshed in high-level corruption to the extent that they refused to confirm the appointment of Mr Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) because the latter already has their graft case files with him.
In order for Nigeria to attain the SDGs by 2030, there is the need for political will from our leaders who should walk the talk and be accountable to their SDGs promises. Inclusive governance atmosphere for service delivery, peace, upholding human rights and the rule of law whereby no one is left behind is central to achieving the SDGs without which all concerted efforts would be a mirage in 2030. Now is the time to act!