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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Youths to Buhari in Addis: Please, finance our future

In the rusty precincts of Baga sat Alkali Usman, tenderly on a slab of what appears to be a relic of his father’s house devastated by war. He has just escaped from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in a nearby town to reminisce on his life, his future and that of his beloved community. As a teenager, Alkali has seen it all.

President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo credit: informationng.com
President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo credit: informationng.com

He witnessed his father’s head being yanked off by terrorists who invaded Baga mid-January 2015 in what was known as the great Baga massacre. He barely escaped by the whiskers; but not all his sisters, brothers, neighbours and friends were that lucky. Some were mauled down by bullets which flew in every direction. In no direction, some ran into the forest and were never seen while some, like him, made it to the nearby Lake Chad where they were ferried to a safe location across the lake.

Life in the IDP camp, where food rations were served in buckets and amenities were stretched, was a modified nightmare for Alkali. Every attempt to address the trauma and psychological torture he was experiencing as result of the January massacre brought back more memories of a loving, convivial and communal life he once shared.

Now he’s back in Baga, with two lean hands supporting his chin and a dingy look playing around his face, he meditatively attempts to plot the graph of what has become a grim life. Going back to the IDP camp is a no-no for him, his sister there isn’t faring better. Life in Baga has become a metaphor for despondency of Hobbesian heights. What does the future hold? Alkali ponders.

He was born shortly after world leaders gathered in September 2000 and agreed upon the Millennium Declaration, which distills the key goals and targets agreed to at international conferences and world summits during the 1990s.

Drawing on the Declaration, the UN System, World Bank and OECD drew up a set of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with associated targets and indicators. 191 Heads of State and Presidents at the General Assembly of the United Nations approved the Millennium Declaration and pledged to, by 2015, create a world where poverty, illiteracy, hunger, lack of education, gender inequality, infant and maternal mortality, disease and environmental degradation would be vestiges of the past.

Its 2015 and Alkali is almost 15-years-old. Poverty, hunger, lack of education, insecurity and disease are yet to become vestiges of his past. Rather, Alkali is on the verge of becoming a relic of the past. The reality of Alkali’s precarious existence today makes a mockery of what MDGs sought to achieve in 15 years. And as he sits in forlornness, oblivious of the September 2015 terminal date of the MDGs, he’s the least bothered about ongoing processes at creating a successor framework to the MDGs called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He is not aware of the fact that you have just reduced your annual salary by half neither is he concerned that you and other world leaders are about to gather again with a view to drawing a financial framework that will determine how his life will be by 2030.

All Alkali is bothered with now is how to stop the inexorable effect of his past from robbing him of the limitless possibilities of his present and the chances of a future so resplendent.

President Muhammadu Buhari, this is the story of Alkali, your son, your fellow citizen and compatriot in 2015 Nigeria. His story resonates with more than 15 million Nigerian children under the age of 15 who are involved in all forms of labour, mostly to help pay for the cost of going to school.

Alkali is also in the company of about six million Nigerian children from north and south who are presently not attending school. He epitomises an estimated 1.8 million Nigerian children orphaned by AIDS in Nigeria, whose lives have been radically altered by the impact of HIV/AIDS on their families and communities just as six to seven million of his peers who are of immunisable age are in danger of dying from vaccine-preventable diseases and malaria.

Alkali is just an example of more than 1.5 million children who have fled their homes due to the violence, and are displaced internally, while others have crossed into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Needless to remind you sir, that inspite of Alkali’s recalcitrant exit from the camp, his sister alongside 880,000 children are staying with host communities with little access to humanitarian support, putting additional strains on already stretched health, education and social services.

Mr President, just as you posited in your inaugural speech, Nigeria is faced with enormous challenges but “daunting as the task may be, it is by no means insurmountable” and with the enormous goodwill you admittedly enjoy across the world, there is no better time for you to begin to systematically surmount these challenges than now!

Thankfully, 2015 presents you with credible opportunities to do so and secure a better future for Alkali, and Nigerians. 2015 is the year two United Nations summits that can bend the course of history will hold. One in September that will agree new goals – a new framework for humanity – to tackle poverty, inequality and environmental destruction. The other, in December to set new climate action targets, a crucial step towards a safer planet.

An important precursor to the September conference is the third Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) which begins today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is scheduled to conclude on 16 July 2015.

FfD3 is mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to: assess progress in the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration; reinvigorate and strengthen the financing for development follow-up process; identify obstacles and constraints encountered in the achievement of previously agreed goals and objectives, and actions and initiatives to overcome these constraints; and address new and emerging issues, including the synergies between financing objectives across the three dimensions of sustainable development, and the need to support the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

As you may recall Mr President, the financial landscape has changed considerably in Africa since 2000. Private external flows in the form of investment and remittances now drive growth in external finance. Foreign investments are expected to reach USD 73.5 billion in 2015, underpinned by increasing greenfield investment from China, India and South Africa.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is diversifying away from mineral resources into consumer goods and services and is increasingly targeting large urban centres in response to the needs of a rising middle class.

African sovereign borrowing is rocketing. Remittances have increased six-fold since 2000 and are projected to reach USD 64.6 billion in 2015 with Egypt and Nigeria receiving the bulk of flows. Conversely, official development assistance (ODA) will decline in 2015 to USD 54.9 billion and is projected to diminish further. More than two-thirds of states in sub- Saharan Africa, the majority of which are low-income countries, will receive less aid in 2017 than in 2014.

Despite significant improvements in tax revenue collection over the last decade, domestic resource mobilisation remains low. Financing the post-2015 development goals will depend on the capacity of African policy makers and the international community to harness these diverse funding options and exploit their potential to leverage additional finance.

It is in view of the above that the FFD3 becomes a crucial step in the journey to strong, implementable development and climate agreements. It is an opportunity to get the financial system and ambitious commitments needed to put an end to poverty, inequality and climate change. Mr President sir, this is an opportunity to FINANCE OUR FUTURE!

This conference is Nigeria’s chance as a nation to turn the ambitious development goals and climate agreements currently being discussed at the United Nations into reality. One bold aim of the FfD Conference is an inter-governmentally negotiated and agreed outcome, which should constitute an important contribution to and support the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

This is a uniquely important opportunity for Africa to negotiate how best its “future can be financed’’. Faced with a huge financial crisis, now is the time for Nigeria to lead other African countries in discussing and negotiating a financing plan and agreement that can help the continent in delivering the Africa “Africans want to see.”

Official development assistance and foreign direct investments can no longer be relied upon as the main sources of funding for the ambitious goals and targets contained in the soon-to-be finalised post-2015 global development agenda. Mobilising domestic resources, clamping down on corruption and illicit financial flows and addressing issues surrounding good governance are some of the alternatives that must be explored.

Nigeria needs to lead the continent in important discussions and negotiations that need to happen around finding alternatives that are critical to the growth of our continent and opportunities from which we can raise internal resources such as through intra-Africa trade, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, foreign reserves and remittances, natural resources including our extractive industries amongst others.

Nigeria is sufficiently qualified to lead these discussions since as a country since we have experience in all of these areas. Using this experience, you and other African leaders have a role to play in deploying the FfD Conference to negotiate viable continental finance alternatives and instruments that will help fund our development agenda from 2016 to 2030.

As you may have read in the papers, CSO leaders, farmers, women and youth groups in the country campaigned vigorously over the weekend calling on you to finance their future and that of their unborn generation by taking immediate steps to halt the illicit flow of funds from the country; mobilise both foreign and domestic resources to meet the country’s needs as well as tackle tax injustice that renders the poor and vulnerable members of our society hopeless and penniless while the rich enjoy waivers.

Sir, permit me also to add that SDGs cannot be attained if you fail to make concrete funding commitments that reflect ending extreme poverty by 2030, halting soaring levels of inequality and discrimination driven by economic policies that deliver for the few rather than the many, and an accelerated transition to 100% renewable energy so that a safer climate and sustainable economy can be achieved.

As you lead Nigeria’s delegation to Addis Ababa, have it at the back of your mind that Alkali and millions of Nigerians want you to demonstrably display focal commitment to a Post-2015 framework that will help to make climate action in Nigeria happen without further delay and also support the poor in building adaptive resilience to climate impacts they are experiencing already.

We demand that you lend your support to any post-2015 Agenda that prioritises high frequency, low-severity weather-related disasters, particularly in flood-prone zones in Nigeria and areas of insecurity, insurgency and fragility. I believe you will readily agree with me that by ending violence against children, we can increase the investment for development.

In conclusion sir, now is the time to take actions that will put smile on Alkali’s beleaguered face. The time to bring back the lost childhood of millions of Nigerian children who will become adults by 2030 IS NOW…Mr President, please finance our future today!

By Atâyi Babs (atayibabs@yahoo.com)

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