At UNGA, Governors agree to prioritise SDGs, seek foreign assistance

The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) delegation to the ongoing 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) have sought the assistance of international partners in order to fully implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

They have also decided to heed the advise of the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, to prioritize each of the goals peculiar to their states in order to fast track the achievements and meet the target of 2030 which is less than 11 years away.

The Emir, while speaking at a high-level side event on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) presided over by President Buhari in New York had expressed confidence that Nigeria can meet the target goals, but only if the sub-national levels prioritise their needs.

According to the governors, who met at a high-level side event on the SDGs at the ongoing UNGA, the impact of Climate Change calls for partnership with experts.

The governors in attendance, led by the chairman of NGF and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Femi, were Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), Babatunde Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Simon Lalong (Nasarawa), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Umar Ganduje (Kano), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Abdulrahman Abdulrazak (Kwara), and David Umahi (Ebonyi).

They expressed optimism that, given the necessary intervention, the states would be able to meet the objectives set out in the SDGs.

While admitting that the SDGs have limitless potentials to enhance the lives of their people, the governors called on international partners to assist them with resources to fully implement the goals.

Fayemi, who led his colleagues to the event with the theme “The Role of Subnational Governments in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement,” stressed that it was important for the governors to attend the event given the “existential threat” faced by their states.

“We at the local level need to take ownership of these challenges,” he added, stressing that the problem of Climate Change can no longer be ignored as the consequences have become too obvious in different states given the amount of flooding, desertification and other menaces bedeviling parts of the country.

Citing a recent international report, he warned that Lagos State, as an example, could be submerged if nothing was done soon.

“Of course, the cynics amongst you may ask what are governors doing here in New York when they should be at home and focus on addressing challenges in the country.

“For us, there is no challenge that is more existential, no threat that is in need of combating than the issue of SDGs… But this cannot be done without the sub national, whether city or state level.

“You can’t imagine that the governor of Lagos State, the largest economy in West Africa, should not be at the forefront of those pursuing this issue. Only yesterday (Wednesday) Goldman Sachs released a report that Lagos might be submerged in the next 30 or so years. For me and any of my colleagues, these are issues that we are dealing with. And we are not doing it out of the national space.

“We cannot do all that without dealing with the green-bond in Borno which is contributing to the insurgence, or erosion in Ebonyi, access to education in Ekiti, for Plateau State for farmers, headers clashes. These are all products of Climate Change and human capital development.”

Imo Governor Ihedioha blamed the low funding by the Federal Government for the poor implementation of the SDGs programme.

According to him, the Federal Government used to release N4 billion annually to fund SDGs. He urged that all allocations for the implementation of the programme be restored.

Governor Umahi of Ebonyi, on his part, said even though southeastern states have coped with the consequences of Climate Change, particularly flooding and erosion, it has now gotten worse.

He called for international intervention to enable the states upgrade their infrastructure to tackle the challenges.

“Of course, we have to emphasise the new threat of Climate Change. In the past, we have had to live with erosion and then flooding occasionally, but these days sit is on the increase every year.

“We had to let the international community know what we are doing about solving the problem, the effect on the people, especially school children.

“When the roads are flooded or washed away, it has devastating effects in terms of access to medical facilities for children, nursing mothers and also school activities.”

“We need strategic infrastructure to tackle this, like infrastructure for control of the erosion and flooding. It’s quite a huge capital. So, we had to solicit for funds to assist the people of southeast in solving these problems,” the Ebonyi Governor added.

On the takeaways from the meeting, the Director General of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Asishana Okaura, told reporters that it would re-energise the state governors toward the implementation of his SDGs.

“There are too many takeaways. You know there were two broad sessions, the later part was that Climate Change is real, is not a thing you begin to conceptualise, we have gone beyond that level,” he said.

“It is an existential threat and that states have a role in ensuring that they implement things that will reduce the power of Climate Change.

“Secondly, that there is a connection between Climate Change and SDGs goals. And that ordinarily the expectation is for them (governors) to frame development plans around SDGs goals.

“Of course funding is an issue, there are funders ready, they are ready to come to Nigeria because they find Nigeria a very attractive investment environment, but we really need to put our house in order.

“They (international partners) made that point. You can see the passion of our governors.

“In terms of specific takeaways, I listed near 10 on my list. If it’s funding, we will have to look at local revenue mobilisation.

“Yes, there are international development partners and agencies ready, but they will not just come into a place without the requisite environment.”

Also at the event were the President of the 74th UN General Assembly, Prof. Tijjani Mohammed-Bande, who said: “SDGs are critical to the world. We must do our part. But when it comes to implementation, it is up to our local authorities.”

The Deputy Secretary General of the UN, Amina Ibrahim promised the organisers that the UN will support their initiative.

“Last week, young people around the world, many young Nigerians included, asked us to lead. They said we aren’t doing enough. We need to step up our efforts to right the wrongs.”

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