By Joan NWAGWU
Mrs Yemi Adedeji, a petty trader, was beating her child, Moji, for not going to school. Asked why she was not willing to leave home, Moji said she was afraid of being beaten by the rain.
â€œAre you salt that you must not be soaked; what about other pupils younger than you?â€Adedeji asked.
Moji, 10, a primary six pupil of a school in Ode-Aye, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State, painstakingly explained that she was afraid of both the sun and the rain because her classroom had no roof! It was then that parents in the sleepy semi-rural setting realised that most of their children and wards had been reluctant in going to school.
But, Moji and her colleagues do not have to be begged to go to school anymore. In fact, they now wait for dawn and run to school â€“â€“ beautiful school. The classrooms have been refurbished and painted in bright and beautiful colours.
Thanks to the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and its Local Development Programme (LDP). Combating poverty lies at the heart of the UNDP; many of its poverty reduction programmes are direct result of needs identified by the communities that they serve.
A UNDP-sponsored two-day inaugural dialogue on the Niger Delta Local Development Programme with the theme: â€œStimulating Action for Effective Local Government and Poverty Reductionâ€â€ was held recently in Okitipupa, Ondo State.
Turhna Saleh, UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, said it has sponsored a baseline survey of public services in some Local Government Areas. He said the LDP recognizes that effective governance at local level would be critical in addressing poverty reduction and conflict prevention on sustainable basis, especially in the Niger Delta. â€œNiger Delta is a very important region, not just because it produces the crude oil that sustains Nigeria but also because it is critical to poverty alleviation and security in Nigeria.
This collaboration between UNDP and the state Governments of Ondo and Bayelsa aims to reduce poverty and promote peace in this strategic region by empowering communities to take decision in their development,â€ he said. According to Saleh, this will be done through promoting the LDP dialogue in both states.
Saleh, said UNDP has disbursed N105.2 million as LDF to Okitipupa and Ilaje local government areas of Ondo State to execute some selected projects. Saleh noted that communities in Okitipupa LGA had been able to sink boreholes, while building markets, schools and health centres. â€œThe impact of the LDF on local communities has been very positive. The communities have been able to come together and organize themselves into Wards Development Committees (WDCs) with elected membersâ€, he said.
â€œIts principal aim is to support the development of effective and responsive local government institutions capable of delivering public infrastructure and services, using participatory, transparent and gender-sensitive planning, monitoring and evaluation techniques. Some measures put in place to achieve this goal are aimed at promoting dialogue, regular interaction and better communications between local communities, states, local government councils, civil society organisations and the private sector, Saleh stressed. He said the LDP also initiated a local development dialogue to enhance information sharing, mutual understanding and solidarity, while enhancing cooperation and communications among all the key actors.
Mr Edward Mugabi, UNDPâ€™s Chief Technical Adviser on the Niger Delta Development Programme, explained that the LDP approach was a model introduced by the organization to achieve sustainable local development and enhance governance.
The concept and approach known as the LDP was borne out of a series of pragmatic projects initiated in the early 1990s by the UN Capital Development Fund and the UNDP,â€ he said. According to Mugabi, LDPâ€s acclaimed success through the years had been its demonstration to national governments the feasibility of promoting decentralization and pro-poor policy changes.
He noted that the initiative by the UNDP that had Bayelsa and Ondo states as its pilot programme, had recorded a huge success and Okitipupa LGA has completed and inaugurated four community-help projects. Mugabi stated that the LDP was recognized as a strategic and flexible programming tool combining capacity building with development budget support to local governments.
Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Governor of Ondo State said his government had committed N38,477,959 as counterpart contribution to UNDP projects in the state.
He said that this was apart from what the state has committed to Ikaram and Ibraram Millennium village Project under the UNDP.Â â€œ Let me reiterate that the required state counterpart contribution to UNDP on this pilot project which amounted to N28 million has been fully paid immediately this administration came on board
.â€œWe are mindful of the enormous financial requirement for the attainment of the itemized programmes, in the face of challenges posed by the global financial meltdown. We are also overhauling the tax administration system with a view to boosting Internally General Revenue (IGP) and we also putting up a robust relationship with sundry development partners to meet our intended goals. This is where the UNDP as one of our development partners has been considered and welcome with open hands,â€ he said. Mimiko added that, the philosophy of his administration is to make the people the centre of its development programmesâ€.
He said the people should determine their development priorities, initiate projects, monitor implementation and develop an enduring sustainability strategy. â€œWe are offering a distinctive governance system predicated on using existing community structures as the building blocks for enhancing development, which again is in line with this pilot initiatives of the UNDP,â€â€ he added.
A traditional ruler in Ondo State, Oba Ernest Idepefo, urged the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to use the traditional mode of communication in executing its programmes in the rural areas. Idepefo of Morubodo Kingdom in Okitikupa, said that meaningful rural development could only be achieved through effective use of the traditional mode of communications.
He said that such modes were crucial to the integration of members of a community in the development of their areas. Idepefo said members of the development committee of the UNDP should be encouraged to use a multi-lingual approach in their operations so as to carry along both literate and illiterate people in their programmes. Similarly, Mr Kukumo Ikuemenisan, Secretary, Okitipupa Ward Development Committee II, said the level of publicity about the LDPs was dismal. â€œThe LDP strategies and objectives are not well known to people, particularly the grassroots.
Yet the programmes are meant for the people and their communities, â€he said. Ikuemenisan said the era of abandoned projects in rural communities ought to be a thing of the past. This could as well be achieved through the effective use of traditional mode of communications. â€œSo that the people will be sensitized and thus, become active participants in the developmental programmes of their areas.
It will foster wider consultations and further promote transparency and openness, and improve greater community participation in decisions concerning development projects in their areas. UNDP is the facilitator of development in many communities; there are no political undertones in UNDP agenda but a projectsâ€ expansion and functionality is our collective responsibility,â€ he said. Dr Christopher Ajiboye, Head of Community Development Department in Okitipupa Local Government, described the UNDP Programme as successful. â€œWe have been monitoring the programme from day one and, according to observations, the programme is very successful,â€ he said.Â He said they met with women, elders and youth groups to select the infrastructure they needed the most before approving them.
Joan NWAGWUÂ is of the
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
the LDP, commended the Okitipupa Local Government on its performance. â€œQuite frankly, what I have seen is very impressive and I think that community people are taking a lead and doing this, then am sure the local government and UNDP are also impressed,â€ Goni said. A development plan that puts the grassroots in its front burner relieves the state and federal governments of a lot of tension.
Besides, since majority of Nigerians are rural dwellers, a successful transformation at the grassroots will create employment, curb rural-urban migration, reduce crime and generally improve the quality of life of the people.