By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire was deputy governor of Lagos State and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. Speaking with State House Press Corps during a briefing organized by the Presidential Media Team, she says no SDGs projects will be abandoned. She explains why it was premature to do an impaction evaluation of the interventionist agency now. She also speaks on what government is doing to meet the goals. Excerpts:
What are you doing to ensure that MDGs projects are not abandoned after commissioning and how will you make your website functional?
There’s none of our projects that is abandoned. There are some that were done under MDGs, we have written letters to the National Assembly to give us those projects that are not completed or that are not in use to give it to us to adopt so that we can make it functional and hand it over to the community. We’re doing that just that the list is endless. For example schools, we have 8, 000 of these and there’s no local government we don’t have these schools and when you see the schools, you see furniture there. When you see the hospital, it’s fully equipped. 23 of these hospitals that we have built across Nigeria, 140-bed, 120-bed, are fully equipped. Those not equipped are yet to be completed. What you need to do is to put manpower there and they are all intervention programs, interventions from local governments, from civil societies; from community leaders; from civil societies and private sectors. There is an officer from my office that monitors abandoned or unutilized projects.
On our website, I have that information just a few days ago and I promise you that we’ll update it.
How have you been able to bring to bear your experience in youth development first as a Commissioner and later a Deputy Governor in Lagos state?
I had some modest contributions when I was the Commissioner for Women Affairs in Lagos and I remember that all of these empowerment program were initiated by me in 2003. Even when I was a Deputy Governor I still hold my ministry dearly because of the little and modest contributions that we’re able to do. Of course they are still working with the Ministry of Labour and Employment. So far we have built 69 vocational centres; we are just showing one-one here not that it’s only one we did. For example we did 23 hospitals and some are still ongoing and we have primary health centers, almost 400 across the country. We’re also working with the NYSC to build Entrepreneurship centres in NYSC camps. So we’re working with DG NYSC now to do another 12. I started the vocational model where they learn to make beads, sewing and even make-ups that have now become a big industry. I started it in 2004 and people from all over the country came to Lagos to learn and I’m sure that it’s helping some young people that left school that cannot continue their education; even the graduates. It’s really for young guys that are vulnerable. So we’ll continue to do that and I’m doing it and just that we cannot just go to people; we want them to take ownership and utilize that’s why we wait for them to send requests to us through our website, through letters, through calls to different platforms
How has bureaucracy at the sub national levels and insecurity slowed down the achievements of the 2030 SDGs goals?
Achievements of SDGs is in a process at different levels as being canvassed by the United Nations. As we’re working at the national level, we’re working with the sub national government and that was why each of the state at the sub national level appointed a focal person to connect with us to the government. When you look at the 17 goals, you will see all the activities of government there and in every state, you have ministry of Job, ministry of Employment, Women Affairs, Education, Housing, Innovation, or whatever. Those are the goals, individual goals of most of the SDGs. So it is already established in the governance structure. But what SDG seems to do is to accelerate government activities so that we can benchmark ourselves that this is where we want to be in 20 years. So something is pushing us to get to that place. So SDG is not a new project that we adopted from somewhere, we just adopted acceleration for the benefit of our people, and of course to ensure that people at the riverine community, rural community, people living with disability are not left behind.
There are a lot of factors that may affect the delivery of SDGs in each state. What is affecting the north is different from what is affecting the south. But all we need to do is to encourage our governments and sub national level, everybody has a role to play in SDGs. As the media, this your role now, disseminating information. And when you see people in your community that don’t have water you can approach us you have done your bit. Okay, if there is violence in your community, you can intervene by persuading because if that is not checked, it will escalate to the local government and to the state and to the country.
Achieving the target is largely dependent on the ability of government to release funds. In view of the financial challenges confronting the nation, how have you been cooking and how many intervention projects have you delivered so far?
We have a lot of projects we are working on; we just pick one of each in each state. Some are not picked because for instance primary healthcare centers that we have built across the country are 400 and are well equipped and handed over. In addition to buildings we provided solar for electricity, ambulances, water so that it can be useful to them and sustainable. So when you see all these hospitals that you see now with all the equipment, they have hybrid solar like 80, 90 KVA, depending on the size to support them. The hybrid solar also comes with inverters and generator in order to address goal 7 of the SDGs, that has to do with renewable energy. Everything is complete in the hospitals, what is left for the sub nations, governments to do is to provide manpower. The hospitals are computerized, we expect them to be doing e-health services. We are handling a lot of projects, for example we provide skill acquisition centers, community centers, water, solar power, boreholes, security challenges, Transformer, we intervene based on the request that comes to us.
Most of these offices are believed to either embark on phantom projects, or poor project implementation. What have you been doing in the area of deploying innovative means to track and monitor your project to ensure delivery of quality project?
On poor implementation of projects, I think that so far, every agency of government must be able to monitor their projects. The era of doing what you like is no more there. Everybody knows what is good. You can see the quality of what we delivered. We want to be seen as being reliable and responsible. So the quality that comes with our inspection when they invite us to come and inspect some of the projects from MDGs, we find out that they have high quality. There are different committees of government to inspect. There is presidential committee on federal government properties at the presidency. There is another body from the Office of the SDG, Auditor General, Budget Office and all of them aside from the federal auditors in each of the ministry. They go there unannounced and every quarter they ask for the information of your budget. When they ask, they go at their own time unannounced to see what we are doing. I think that things have improved to the glory of God and the benefit of Nigerians. So, nobody wants to be embarrassed with the project. The level of inspection has improved because they know they will not be contacted before they go and inspect and the report of the inspection will come back to you.