Otive Igbuzor PhD
Deputy Director, ActionAid International Nigeria
Plot 461, Kumasi Crescent,
Off Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja.
The problem of development has occupied the attention of scholars, activists, politicians, development workers and international organization for many years with an increased tempo in the last decade. Even though there are different perspectives to development, there is a general consensus that development will lead to good change manifested in increased capacity of people to have control over material assets, intellectual resources and ideology; and obtain physical necessities of life (food, clothing & shelter), employment, equality, participation in government, political and economic independence, adequate education, gender equality, sustainable development and peace. This is why some people have argued that the purpose of development is to improve people's lives by expanding their choices, freedom and dignity.
However, the reality of the world is that many countries are underdeveloped with precarious development indices. More than 1.2 billion people or about 20 percent of world population live survive on less that US $1 per day. Wealth is concentrated in the hand of a few people. The UNDP in its 1998 report documented that the three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the 48 least developed countries.
Nigeria, which was one of the richest 50 countries in the early 1970s, has retrogressed to become one of the 25 poorest countries at the threshold of the twenty first century. It is ironic that Nigeria is the sixth largest exporter of oil and at the same time host the third largest number of poor people after China and India. Statistics show that the incidence of poverty using the rate of US $1 per day increased from 28.1 percent in 1980 to 46.3 percent in 1985 and declined to 42.7 percent in 1992 but increased again to 65.6 percent in 1996. The incidence increased to 69.2 percent in 1997. If the rate of US $2 per day is used to measure the poverty level, the percentage of those living below poverty line will jump to 90.8 percent. Nigeria fares very poorly in all development indices. The average annual percentage growth of GDP in Nigeria from 1990 -2000 was 2.4. This is very poor when compared to Ghana (4.3) and Egypt (4.6). The gross national income per capita is US $260; under five mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 153; maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births is 1,100; and life expectancy at birth is 46 years for males and 48 years for females. Poverty in Nigeria is in the midst of plenty. Nigeria is among the 20 countries in the world with the widest gap between the rich and the poor. The Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income( or in some cases consumption expenditure) among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. A Gini index of zero represents perfect equality while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality. Nigeria has one of the highest Gini index in the world. The Gini index for Nigeria is 50.6. This compares poorly with other countries such as India(37.8), Jamaica(37.9), Mauritania(37.3) and Rwanda(28.9).
In order to address the problem of poverty and promote sustainable development, the United Nations Millennium Declaration was adopted in September 2000 at the largest ever gathering of heads of heads of States committing countries both rich and poor to do all they can to eradicate poverty, promote human dignity and equality and achieve peace, democracy and environmental stability. The goals include those dedicated to eradicating poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.
Recognising the pivotal role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in mobilizing public pressure for the achievement of the Millennium Goals in Nigeria, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA) and Civil Society Coalition on Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE) with the support of the Millennium Campaign and ActionAid Nigeria organized a civil society Consultative Forum on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Abuja, Nigeria on 20th April, 2004.
The Forum reviewed the MDGs and explored the opportunities for the Millennium Development Campaigns to eradicate poverty in Nigeria; shared the experiences of other countries that have conducted campaigns on the MDGs; reviewed the Nigerian context and progress made towards achieving MDGs in Nigeria and mapped out strategies for the campaigns in Nigeria. The Forum agreed that the Millennium Declaration is a very important milestone that addresses issues of human rights, peace, justice, gender equity and environmental sustainability and challenges skewed globalisation. It noted that it is the lack of political will that is the greatest stumbling block to the achievement of the Millennium goals. Meanwhile, Nigerian government is a signatory to the Millennium Declaration and has a responsibility to account to the people on how it is abiding by the pledge. Against the background that Nigeria is very far from achieving the MDGs, there is therefore the need for a concerted effort by all if Nigeria is not to miss out. It was agreed that MDGs provide additional entry point to engage government on development issues especially as the MDGs affect all segments of the society and CSOs serve as the link between government and the grassroots.
A working group on MDG was therefore set up to be made up of organizations and coalitions working on development issues that impinge on the MDGs. The working group is meant to engage in campaign to build political will for the achievement of the Millennium goals and enable Nigerian people especially the poor and marginalised to take actions that will hold the government to account to the Millennium pledge.