The Corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic has challenged the world and Nigeria in particular with an economy still getting 86% of public revenue from oil and gas. Consequently, the need for international knowledge and collaboration in order to confront challenges that span borders and continents such as climate change and public health, demands a multi- dimensional academic approach in contextualizing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the world and providing a conscious holistic global action plan to finding solution within individual social contexts. This is with the realisation that Nigeria had experimented numerous economic planning models. It is in the context of the of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that focuses on key issues of development that the paper seeks to assess the feasibility of the countries realisation of the sustainable development Goals (SDGs) as the economic framework to effectively plan, execute and evaluate government policy performance in the wake of the pandemic currently ravaging the world, Nigeria inclusive.
Keywords: Pandemic, Development, 2030 Agenda; Sustainable Development
The corona virus disease has had a negative effect on world economy, religious activities, funerals, business, education, public healthcare systems, and agriculture and socio- cultural events. What more, these economic impacts can translate into hiccups in long term planning initiatives like the sustainable development goals (SDGs). This is because as the health sector takes up more resources and people reduce social activities, the country invests less in physical infrastructure. Consequently, the impacts of the economic recession sparked by the pandemic response, which have already begun will be deepened for some time to come and unless countries mount major efforts to respond, the pandemic will have a long term effect on human capital and welfare.
Contemporarily, the decline in the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Quarter Three (Q3) 2020, is not unconnected with low activities both at the domestic and international levels which reflected residual effects of the restrictions to movement and economic activity implemented across the country in early Q2 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.(NBS, 2020) However, when these restrictions were lifted in the third quarter, businesses re-opened and international travel and trading activities resumed. Although there is the optimism that it will end, pundits have already started a conversation of how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect the goals that institutions develop to counter the debilitating effect of the virus on global development.
This paper is a qualitative study with desk research and document analysis as the main research method that seeks to assess the feasibility of the attainment of SDGs. The study made use of secondary data from the internet, television cable networks news reports, scholarly articles, and updates from the World Health Organization. Due to the restriction on movements and social distancing protocols, the study also made use of social media such as Facebook and Whatsappas convenient sources for data collection.
Sustainable development (SD) has been regarded as an evolving dynamic concept with many dimensions and many interpretations which appears to support the contention that there is no need for one agreed definition but rather it should be seen as a process of change that is heavily reliant on local contexts, needs, and priorities.
While attempting to conceptualize the term 'sustainable development', the International Institute for Sustainable Development posited that 'the improvement of economic efficiency, the protection and restoration of the environment and the enhancement of the social well-being of people formed the basic tenets of sustainable development'. (IISD, 1995) According to developmental educationists, the term refers to 'the reduction of hunger and poverty in environmentally sound ways. It includes the meeting of basic needs, expanding economic opportunities, protecting and improving the environment and promoting pluralism and democratic participation.'(Google. com)
According to Mintzer (1992), though the essence of this form of development is a stable relationship between human activities and the natural world, which does not diminish the prospects for future generations to enjoy a quality of life, at least as good as our own, yet many observers believe that “participatory democracy not dominated by vested interests, is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development.”
It is therefore obvious from the myriad and varying definitions at our disposal point to the fact that the term 'sustainable' involves the use of natural products and energy in a way that does not harm the environment; or the usage of a thing in such a way that it can continue or be continued for a long time. Yet it is undisputable that the term originated from its root word 'sustain' which was described as providing enough of what somebody or something needs in order to live or exist.
Development on the hand could literally be defined as the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced and stronger. (Microsoft Encarta, 2009) Therefore, It could be described as the process of changing and becoming larger, stronger, or more impressive, successful, or more impressive, successful, or advanced, or of causing somebody or something to change in this way.
However, from a wider and focal perspective, the word 'development' was seen as the process by which a type of (social) change is introduced into a system in order to produce a better production method and improved social arrangement. It was also said to involve a structural transformation of the economy, society, polity and culture of a country. (Lawal, 2007)
While there is still the lack of understanding and divergent views on the concept, principles, goals and strategies of (SD), it is now believed by economic planners the world over, as the economic developmental framework that have the potential to offer the global community, especially the developing and less developed countries the recipe to tackle all or most of the development challenges. That is, if concerted efforts are made at different levels (international, national, regional, local, institutional and individual), to make its implementation a priority.
However, it is pertinent to point out that the fundamental and overriding success factor in the implementation of sustainability development is requisite human capital which is now threatened by the public health crisis currently ravaging the world today.
Sustainable Development: Goals and Issues
In September 2015, the United Nations (UN) spearheaded a set of seventeen (17) “Sustainable Goals” integrated in a global development agenda which has a time horizon of 2015 to 2030 (UN, 2015). This adopted resolution, named “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which according to O'Connors et al (2016), sends a strong message that its implementation relies on collaborative action between all countries and all stakeholders. These goals are specifically set for governments to strengthen the pathway toward a “green economic growth.” The countdown to achieving these goals began on January 1st, 2016.
Towards the realization of this, it may be recalled that in 2000, the United Nation Organization (UN) set out eight (8) international time bound Millennium Development Goals (MDG's), with quantified targets for reducing extreme poverty in various dimension: halting the spread of HIV/AIDs, provision of universal primary education: promoting of gender equality, as well as environmental sustainability among others by year 2015.
At the end of the target year, poverty in Nigeria as well as in many other developing countries has not only deepened, malaria and other diseases have also aggravated, while environmental degradation have persisted. With the realization that the 2015 timeline for the MDGs is not realisable, the 190 UN member countries adopted the Agenda 2030, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Agenda 2030 among its objectives seeks to guide countries to end extreme poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change, among other things.
Sadly, most developing countries like Nigeria, the MDGs were only partially achieved, thus shifting a greater development burden to the future with the innovative idea of goal-oriented planning pioneered by the MDGs that gained acceptance in Nigeria when the country used MDG Needs Assessment and Costing as a basis for a ten year development strategy covering the period (2006-2015) and the SDG. The scope of the SDGs was expanded significantly, compared to the MDGs from 8 Goals to 17, which did not only increase in comprehensiveness, but also in the complexity of challenges of development planning.
Besides, much more than the MDGs, the integrated focus of the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs requires a unified approach incorporating the cross-sectoral linkages of policies, trade-offs and policy-synergies and in recognition of this, several Sub-Saharan African countries including Namibia, Malawi, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire are currently undertaking integrated SDG policy design using the integrated Sustainable Development Goals Simulation Model. (Nigeria's iSDG Policy Report, 2019)
To achieve the SDGs, Nigeria has likewise collaborated with the Millennium Institute (MI) to help domesticate and customize the iSDG model for use in Nigeria's medium-to-long-term planning. This is to form a basis for estimating the consequences expected from current and alternative policy choices as well as for scaling up public investments in economic, social and physical infrastructure towards achieving the Agenda 2030.
By tackling multiple challenges that humankind is facing, Ehindero (2017) posits that the SDGs main purpose is to close the gaps left by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) earlier economic development planning framework that is intended to also strengthen universal peace in larger freedom through its plan for people, planet and prosperity. However, Sachs (2012) in his own submission posited that apart from the main purpose of the seventeen SDGs, it was structurally different from the MDGs as it was designed through a bottom-up approach, which started in the Rio + 20 conference held in 2012.
From the foregoing, it is very clear that Sustainable Development apart from being a multi-dimensional concept that requires the participation of diverse stakeholders and perspectives also draws global attention to the urgent need to address issues that have the potential to endanger our individual and collective existence and threaten to rob future generations of their wellbeing. As captured by Sampson (2013), these issues include the environment, economy, social and human right issues, globalization, governance, and transparency at national and sub-national levels among others.
The Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the UN Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, providing a shared vision for tackling some of the most enduring global challenges, and poignant to the paper is the third goal ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all refers to strengthening the capacity of all countries, particularly developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and international health risks. Sadly, today's novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has added dimensions of complexity to this problem.
While COVID-19 can initially appear an equal opportunity disease, the impact will be especially dire in some contexts and groups. Poverty and disease interact with and reinforce each other, becoming particularly acute when considering that over 736 million people in the world live in extreme poverty, disproportionately suffering from disease and ill health (World Data Bank, 2019)
COVID-19 is expected to create and exacerbate food-insecurity among millions of poor and low-income groups. There will be a great need in for networks of food sources in taking care of SDG2: Zero Hunger, to prevent increased hunger among vulnerable populations..
The impact of Covid-19 on the UN SDG's is captured by Padmanabhan and McNeely (2020) that with lack of access to medical resources and necessities such as water and effective sanitation, it will be challenging to promote the health and wellbeing across groups and contexts. Also, it is well known that time between vaccine development, testing, and production can be quite long (SDG3: Good Health and WellBeing). With worldwide closing of educational facilities, the need to create inclusive opportunities is apparent.
Current trends show COVID-19 infecting men and women in about equal numbers. However, with the majority of care workers in the world being women and also with expanded responsibilities typically falling on them for additional childcare due to mass school closures, COVID-19 is expected to impact women more than men (SDG5: Gender Equality). People who cannot afford such conveniences as the recommended hand sanitizers to ward off transmission do not have many options beyond basic soap and water. For vast numbers globally without access to clean water, the situation could get much worse (SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation).
The COVID-19 situation has highlighted the need to have long-term energy facilities to bolster security of supply. For example, lack of solar panel shipments from China has created delivery bottlenecks and could delay many projects impacting renewable energy provision (SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy). COVID-19 represents a significant threat to the sustainability of businesses and jobs. While “social distancing” has been proposed to avoid infection, this has prompted some people to telework, also impacting other occupations.
Initial assessments indicate the loss of as many as 25 million jobs worldwide resulting from COVID- 19, pushing millions of people into unemployment, underemployment, and working poverty. (SDG8: Decent work and economic growth; SDG9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure) COVID-19 is expected to affect social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainable development
Social determinants of health and resulting disparities are of particular concern. Policy attention is given to increasing the ability to be tested freely, access to affordable face masks, basic utilities, guaranteed health benefits, and paid emergency leave toreduce Inequality. (SDG 10)
With COVID-19 creating an economic crisis, increased homelessness and hunger are expected. Related anxiety has ironically increased violent acts and riots. Such behaviour is not uncommon during crises in any country and governments should be prepared for associated civil disturbances.
With a shared goal and vision for avoiding the spread of COVID-19, inclusive partnerships are needed at global, regional, national, and local levels. Policies must address a range of issues, including international and national cooperation and coordination, cross-sectorial exchanges and interfaces, and governmental and nongovernmental relations. Learning how other countries are controlling the pandemic through global partnerships, mobilizing funding and long-term investments, and creating government stimulus efforts can help fight the COVID-19 crisis as a united front
Impediments to Nigeria's Effort towards the realization of the SDGs
Miller & Tyler (1994) and quoted in Cilona (2017) submitted that Nigeria is bedevilled by all elements which are now manifesting in its underdevelopment status characterised by recent social anomie, i.e insecurity through banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, internal communal crisis, economic sabotage, unemployment and lots more, which are all indices of a failed state.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with an estimated population of about 250 million and a land mass of 923,768 square kilometres. It has abundant natural resources and is the fourteenth largest exporter of crude oil in the world. The country has had experiences with development planning that pre-dates her independence in 1960 with National Development Plans (NDPs) being developed in the post-independence era with varying degrees of implementation that could not be said to be impactful. which when put together with the effect of economic downturns, the country had experienced declining economic development related to the proper management of the development processes, namely: policy formulation, planning, and implementation of programmes which had over the years resulted in poor delivery of public services, unacceptable level of poverty and inequality, with a huge infrastructural deficit and poor human development indices.
With her enormous natural and human resources, the country ought to be one of the world leading economies but, unfortunately, Nigeria is still entrapped in a web of socioeconomic problems which hinder her growth. For example, going by GCIP data, poverty headcount peaked at 79.6% in the year 2000 and recorded its lowest level in 1997 with a headcount ration of 44.7%. On average, between 1960 and 2015, poverty headcount in Nigeria was 61.8% of the population. This considerable high level of poverty in Nigeria calls for policy attention in addressing the menace due to the negative spill over effects it is having on the Nigerian society.
In recent times, based on the poverty line of $1.90 per day, 46.5% of Nigerians are extremely poor, which made the World Poverty Clock to dub Nigeria as, 'the poverty capital of the world'. According to the World Poverty Clock (2019), extreme poverty in Nigeria is increasing by almost six persons per minute.
Weak institutions have been responsible for poor delivery of public services, inadequate policy formulation, implementation, evaluation and erratic administration. The central government and political elites have been deficient in the provision of collective goods, including infrastructure, social provisions, regulation, and public order. In the absence of a neutral and effective source of public goods, Nigerians seek amenities on a particular basis from politicians. To satisfy this demand, politicians indulge in corrupt practices and favouritism which aggravates social divisions, further undermining the legitimacy of government leading to increased ethno-regional tensions. The absence of good democratic values that provide access and accountability to the people, gives rise to further poor governance. This contributes to deepening poverty, creating a foundation for social unrest.
The poor investment climate and low industrial development account for the high unemployment rate in the country, which currently stands at 19.7%. A large percentage of the unemployed are youths of ages 18 to 30 years, most of whom are graduates of tertiary institutions desiring to earn a decent living, but have not had the opportunity of having jobs, can be viewed as the main cause of youth restiveness and the attendant social problems in the country.
Nigeria has lately witnessed some crises with religious undertones in some parts of the North-east and North-central regions. The emergence of Boko Haram may signify the maturation of long-festering extremist impulses that run deep in some states in Northern Nigeria. The group alleges that western values are the corrupting influence in the governance of Nigeria. The group claims to fight injustice and poverty, which appeals to a segment of the uneducated Muslim population of the North. Unfortunately, in pursuit of their grievances, Boko Haram has used extremist religious platforms which have terrorist linkages.
Indeed, the youth, particularly the graduates from the countries tertiary institutions are the foundation of any society, their energies, inventiveness, character and orientation defines the pattern of development and security of a nation. Through their creative talents and labour power, a nation makes great strides. Consequently, graduate employment poses a huge social anomie which if left untamed could lead to negative consequences for a nation. Sadly, Nigeria is a threshold of such a disaster.
The involvement of Nigerian graduates in the current social anomie stems largely from massive unemployment. The Bureau of Statistics (NBS) (2020), reported that Nigeria's youth population eligible to work is about 40 million, out of which only 14.7 million are fully employed and another 11.2 million are underemployed. NBS went further to break down percentage of graduate unemployment as: NCE/OND and Nursing, 30.8%, first degree holders, 23% second degree holders, 22.9% and doctorate degree holders, 23.3%. it is surprising though that the percentage of doctorate degree holders is said to be more than the those of lesser degrees. Nigeria's unemployment youths of 14.1 million are more than the population of several countries in Africa and around the world. Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has also worsened the economic situation in the country as more jobs are being lost.
NBS asserted that a huge youth unemployment rate is synonymous with increased insecurity and poverty. The unabated criminality in the country today include: political assassination; armed robbery; election violence; kidnapping for ransom, including mass kidnapping; cultism; rape; burglary; car theft; fraud; internet scam; drug trafficking; oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism etc.
Ezekiel (2019) noted that Nigerian youths resort to crime and other social vices because they are not gainfully employed. He further pointed out that they are not gainfully employed not for lack of prerequisite qualification, but because the system has been crippled them politically, economically, socio-culturally, and even religiously.
In Nigeria, there are other pressing issues whose ignore have critically hindered the achievement of the desired sustainable development such as environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region due to the activities of oil exploration companies.
Furthermore, the migration of the Northerners to the South has continued has been on the upscale because of the challenges posed by global warming and dwindling water resources. Lake Chad, the Niger River and the Benue River are fast drying up, so more northerners had migrated southwards; especially cattle herdsmen in search of water for pasturing. This has further escalated the tense socio-economic problems as witnessed in almost all the geo-political zones of the country.
In addition, there exists an uneven wealth distribution in Nigeria, with a huge gap between the very few extra wealthy and the poor masses. The wealth resides in the hands of a few who mostly are not engaged in productive ventures.
The Nigerian government has attempted numerous economic reforms, which are designed to stimulate the economy and especially help the poor. Unfortunately, these reforms have not met the expectations of the populace. However, Economic reforms like the Austerity Measures Program, Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), and the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have made marginal achievements, but have not brought the desired succour to the masses.
All these and many past initiatives offer the foundation on which the SDG are founded. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 epidemic has added another dimension which happened shortly after the domestication of the SDG in Nigeria.
The COVID-19 pandemic that has challenged Nigeria's public health systems, and of the collapse in oil prices, for an economy still getting 86% of public revenue from oil and gas. With some poor health outcomes, such as high rates of maternal mortality, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged her public health system. Although there have been improvements in the under-five mortality rates.
Another key challenge confronting the country has to do with out- of - School - children, a demographic challenge that relates to interplay between employment (SDG8), education (SDG-4), poverty (SDG-1) and the digital economy (SDG-17). With a population of approximately 250 million people according to population estimates, regional disparities are significant, with 78% of South Western children able to read full or part sentences, while only 17% of north eastern children can. With only 1.6% of GDP devoted to education.
Corruption in Nigeria is a development issue, as no country can bear the costs of corruption, which impedes development and minimizes the ability of the government to reduce poverty.Corruption is widespread, and once it becomes entrenched in the polity of a nation, its negative effects multiply. It induces cynicism, because people begin to regard it as the norm. It undermines social values because people find it easier and more lucrative to engage in corruption than to seek legitimate employment. It erodes governmental legitimacy because it hampers the effective delivery of public goods and services. Effectively addressing corruption in African countries, which includes Nigeria has become a development imperative.
In this paper, we have tried to show that Nigeria's quest for sustainable development has been a tortuous one. Socio-economic and political instability, systemic corrupt practises within its regimes and among her citizenry, insecurity brewed by intra and inter - communal strife, banditry, insurgency and social unrest, strangulating international debts, trade imbalances, unacceptable level of poverty and inequality and the proper management of the development process of the policy formulation, planning and implementation of programmes over the years resulted in poor delivery of public services have characterized Nigeria's desire for sustainable development.
In conclusion, the paper is of the view that the fragile political situation in Nigeria constitutes a complex mixture of causes and effects, a syndrome that has proven largely impervious to quick template driven solutions. It is obvious that there are no fixed solutions for addressing the issue of socioeconomic problems in the country, as every country has its own peculiarities that keep changing in a complex, volatile and ambiguous environment. This paper has, however, identified a three dimensional relationship between the political environment, the economic situation and the social problems in Nigeria, which signifies that turbulence in any of these three sectors usually has a direct impact on the others. For instance, political instability usually leads to economic problems, which then triggers social strife.
Not to sound pessimistic, these paper concludes that these myriad of sociopolitical and economic problems that Nigeria is currently battling with, compounded by the advent of the Covic-19 pandemic makes it seems unlikely that the realization of the SDG is not feasible in the short or medium term.
For the realization of the SDG in Nigeria,this paper in the short, medium and long term recommends that;
The paper is of the view that with the covid-19 crisis, Nigeria will need much more than the estimated cost of N125 trillion in real terms to achieving many more SDG's beyond goal 2. It will, therefore, be necessary for the domestic and international partners to provide financial support substantially in excess of this amount.
- Diversify growth beyond dependence on oil and gas. The social intervention programmes (SIPs) like the generation unlimited intervention, which targets employment for 20 million youth like N- Power is a good example.
- To address unemployment and kick start the economy, the government could explore giving subsidies and incentives to investors as a means of attracting investments and creating jobs.
- The FGN also has to invest more in education. A well informed and educated mind is the best security against contagion of folly and vice. The importance of education to society cannot be over-emphasized as it is important for the formation
of character, creativity and intellect.
- In order to harness the enormous natural resources with which the country is endowed, the FGN has to reverse the trend of large imports of most finished products into the country and focus on how to boost local production that would create employment for the youths, which will reduce poverty and the multiple social problems in the country.
- To de-escalate the tension caused by the migration of the northern herdsmen to the south the FGN must be creative by investing in modern irrigation and animal husbandry methods.
- In protecting the public in times of such pandemics is the need to provide welfare packages in the short term to cushion the effect of the economic downturn. These include cost of living allowance for civil and public servants, stimulus package to businesses and cash support to the vulnerable.
- On the public health side, health safety nets are expected to be fully implemented by other stakeholders, especially at the sub-national levels of government. In addition, extensive testing and tracing should be executed within the lockdown period if the country is to get under control.
- Corruption has ravaged virtually the entire Nigerian system, causing the country to be among the most corrupt in the world, and the consequences of corrupt practices have affected and hindered the political and economic development in our country. Drastic measures must be put in place to curb these acts.
- Non- pharmaceutical intervention to control the pandemic should be strictly enforced. These include mandatory use of face masks, social distancing and hand sanitation.
- A key lesson in protecting the public in times of such pandemics is hygiene and the need to prioritize universal access to clean water and soap. Nigeria's current access to basic drinking water stands at 64%.
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