When world leaders came together at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in September 2000 to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, following decades of conferences and summits, the aim was to commit nations of the world to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty.
They set out eight time-bound targets with a deadline of 2015, which became known as the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, which ended December 2015 and has since January 1, 2016 been succeeded by the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.
The final MDGs Global Report indicated that the 15-year programme was the most successful anti-poverty initiative in history, with over 50 per cent reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty, almost 50 per cent reduction in the proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions. Primary school enrolment rate has reached 91 percent, and many more girls are now in school compared to 15 per cent a few years ago.
But in Anambra State, investigation revealed that MDGs implementation only started in 2007 under the administration of Governor Peter Obi.
Professor Stella Chinyere Okunna, former Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in the state, who also chaired the MDGs Implementation Committee, said Governor Obi pursued MDGs with uncommon commitment.
“The MDGs were also his vision because when he came in, he adopted what he called Anambra Integrated Development Strategy, ANIDS, because every sector needed attention, none was developed. He looked around for how to implement this all sector policy and he saw in the MDGs an instrument that could help him implement his own multi-sectoral programme and vision. So immediately we adopted MDGs as our own vision. So, to make sure we achieved our own vision, we had to achieve the MDGs. So whatever other states were doing, if they did ten per cent, we were always compelled by our own choice to do ninety per cent, because they were just doing MDGs as doing it, but we were doing it to achieve our own vision,” she stated.
She said further that for the Obi administration, achieving the MDGs was almost like a do or die affair as the administration devoted every effort to it. She stressed that Obi put in a lot of money into the MDGs because it tallied with his vision..
“Because it was Peter Obi’s vision, he put in a lot of money. MDGs would not have given you such huge sums. For every implementation circle, you put in like N500 million orN600 million. They give you another six hundred million. That is N1.2 million. But Peter Obi put in billions and billions of Anambra money.”
According to a document containing the MDGs Conditional Grant Scheme, between 2007 and 2013, 360 VIP toilets and 120 solar powered boreholes were provided in the 21 local government areas of the state in 2007.
The year 2008 saw the construction and equipping of 10 skills acquisition centres, drilling of 66 solar powered boreholes, supply of 21ambulance buses to all the local government areas, provision of water buses to riverine areas of Anambra East, Anambra West, Awka North and Onitsha North, as well as supply of medical equipment and drugs to 138 primary health centres, PHCs and 15 general hospitals in all local government areas.
In 2009, 42 primary health care centres were rehabilitated, 11skills acquisition centres constructed, medical equipment were supplied to 105 PHCs, while small town water schemes were executed in Awka South, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Nnewi South, Anaocha and Oyi Local Government Areas.
Medical equipment and drugs were supplied to PHCs in Awka North and Orumba South and Anambra West Local Government Areas in 2011, with massive renovation of school infrastructure, provision of boreholes, reactivation of solar powered boreholes and construction of VIP toilets.
Small town water schemes were provided in Achalla, Awka North;, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo;, Umuoji and Obosi in Idemili North;, Oba in Idemili South, as well as in Ogbaru, while hostel blocks were constructed at School of Nursing, Iyienu;, School of Midwifery Idemili North; Saint Charles Boromeo Hospital Onitsha;, Holy Rosary Nkpor;, Schools of Nursing, Midwifery and Medical Laboratory Science all in Ihiala;, School of Midwifery Adazi;, Heart Centre Adazi and General Hospital, Amaku, Awka.
Under the 2011 MDGs Conditional Grants Scheme, CGS, N600 million was disbursed to three local government areas, while 304 projects were delivered across water, health and education sectors.
In 2012, 2,250 persons from 25 communities of Anaocha, Anambra West, Ihiala, Ogbaru and Orumba South Local Government Areas benefitted from the MDGs Conditional Cash Transfer.
In 2013, it was construction and renovation of classroom blocks, provision of school black boards, instructional materials, financial grants to co-operative societies, purchase of medical drugs and equipment, provision of referral ambulances, provision of motorized boreholes, rehabilitation of water facilities, provision of waste management equipment in health facilities, in Anaocha, Ekwusigo, Idemili North, Ogbaru, Ihiala and Oyi.
The sum of N5 billion was provided for the execution of projects ahead of the 2015 MDGs deadline, for the execution of regional large water schemes, small town water projects, boreholes, abattoirs, Schools, Healthcare facilities and medical staff quarters amongst others.
In September 2013, cheques for another N1.2 billion were handed over to six other local government areas of Anaocha, Ihiala, Idemili North, Ekwusigo, Ogbaru and Oyi, with each receivingN200 million, to develop healthcare, renovate schools and sink boreholes, among others.
In February 2014, N10 billion naira was released to continue rehabilitation of public and mission schools and for accelerated execution of various projects, all in a bid to meet the MDGs.
MDGs – a blessing in Anambra State
With the knowledge of the implementation of MDGs in the state, visits were paid to selected communities to ascertain the gains of MDGs and how they impact on the lives of the people.
Residents submitted that MDGs was a mixed blessing in the state.
The chairman of the MDGs Implementation Committee during the last administration, Professor Chinyere Okunna, claimed the programme was a huge success.
“I don’t want to be immodest, but our performance in MDGs was quite good. I think we were about the first state to carry out poverty mapping in Nigeria, supported by DFID. We did that to identify where the extreme poor people live and we saw that they were in Ayamelum, Anambra West, Orumba South, Awka North and Ogbaru side without neglecting other local government areas, we concentrated on them,” Okunna stated.
“And again, one thing we found out was that their poverty was mainly because they were inaccessible, they had no road. So, the very first road we built as a government was to Ayamelum. We opened up those rural areas with good roads, so that they could evacuate their farm produce because they were all food producing areas. They began to have access to input for agriculture even for visit from government officials and the poverty level improves drastically.
“Other poverty reduction interventions were carried out. For instance we implemented the safety net under which people of 75 and above, who were indigent without pension and no one to take care of them, were paid N5,000 each every month. Also women of child bearing age, who had young children in school but couldn’t afford to maintain those children. If they were pregnant and were attending ante natal clinics with public health institutions, they also received this kind of MDGs intervention.”
The committee chairman said further that the government also trained women especially the poorest among them, in variety of handicrafts and gave out sewing machines, hair dressing and bakery equipment.
In the area of education, Professor Okunna said one of the biggest steps taken by the Peter Obi administration was the return of schools back to missions.
“There was opposition from his own government, NUT, everybody. But he defied everybody and returned them and that has really revolutionalised education here. The church came into a kind of unique partnership with the government. There was massive renovation of schools and construction of new classroom blocks in every community which gave them facelift. The money was given directly to the schools, which engendered honesty and competition. And it was cheaper so they could renovate hundreds of classrooms.
“If you had awarded contracts, may be one quarter of what was done would have been done. The morale of the teachers was boosted because secondary schools in the state whether public, mission or private received computers, library, laboratory equipment and buses. And the seed we sowed began to germinate even when Peter Obi was still there, our children began to lead in WAEC and NECO.”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Andrew Umeobi who just retired from service, also argued that MDGs changed the face of Anambra State in many respects.
“MDGs report has been produced and you find out that in the South-East, Anambra State is number one. Number doesn’t mean that we got everything right. It is relative. There is how they marked it, green, amber, red and so on and so forth. Anambra state had more green and amber than other states like Ebonyi which had a lot of red,” he said.
In the same vein, residents interviewed unanimously gave the MDGs a pass mark for the transformation it brought about especially in the health and education sectors.
The President General, Isuaniocha, Dr Alfred Nkwonta, said MDGs was a blessing to the community, with the provision of boreholes, generating set, fridge and tricycle for the Primary Health care centre, provision and renovation of school structure.
Sir Mike Opia who hails from Ogbaru agreed that MDGs succeeded in Anambra State.
“In education, there is success story. I remember the immediate past administration initiated this direct cash disbursement under the MDGs to schools whether public, private and missionary schools. Initially people were complaining and stood against the method, but the governor stood (firm) and today go to our public schools, you see structures. In fact now, we in the Civil Society have argued that one of the reasons Anambra State is performing well in public examinations – WAEC and NECO- is because the carrying capacity of our educational institutions at that level has improved and there is enabling environment for teaching and learning.”
“Talk of health, yes, there are also some successes. Some institutions that needed to be accredited were equipped and I think we succeeded there, even though is not yet uhuru. Just yesterday, we were talking about some medical equipment that were distributed to various hospitals that were not being enjoyed by the end users,” Opia observed.
Visits to communities across the state indicated that Ojoko Memorial Primary School, Nawfia had done well with MDGs with the provision of VIP toilet and a block of classrooms and offices.
In Anambra West Local Government Area, the water borehole provided at the community secondary school, Umueze-Anam, has been meeting the water needs of the school as attested to by the one of the Vice Principals, Dominic Okafor.
“Sincerely speaking, the MDGs programmes that the Anambra State government keyed into right from the time of Peter Obi and which has been accelerated by Governor Obiano has really reduced the plight of our people, especially potable water. Like in the school here, we have our VIP toilet given to us courtesy of MDGs and it is wonderful. Some toilet infections that we used to experience in the past, we no longer see them again. Not only that, before this toilet came, all around you see our students in the bush, going to defecate. But now, that one is a thing of the past. The environment is clean. The students had been given orientation on how to maintain that place. And then, the state of hygiene both within and outside the classrooms has been improved,” he said.
Some primary and secondary schools visited in Anaku, Omor and Igbakwu, all in Ayamelum Local Government Area and those in all the eight other selected local government areas of Awka North, Dunukofia, Njikoka, Orumba North, Nnewi South, Ekwusigo, Oyi and Anambra West, had their classroom blocks renovated, with some provided with VIP toilets and water boreholes.
In the area of health care delivery, MDGs intervened with renovation of Primary Health Centres, supply of drugs and equipment, provision of VIP toilets, placenta pits and tricycles especially to aid mobility during immunizations and emergencies.
Primary Health Centres in rural communities such as Anaku, Omor, Mgbakwu, Umueze-Anam, Mmiata Anam, Amichi, among others, benefited from the installation of solar panels to serve as alternative to power from the national grid.
There were also multi-billion naira investments in secondary and tertiary health care, which facilitated the accreditation of the state university, now known as Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku Awka.
Water sector not so good
While the global report indicates that the target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water was also met, in Anambra State, it was the submission of some residents that MDGs implementation in the water sector was not such a big success..
For instance, Opia who lamented over the failure in the water sector implementation of MDGs, said:.
“Even though in South East Zone, Anambra State came first in MDGs implementation, there are a lot of failures in the water sector. That was basically because of the way MDGs was designed. It was designed in Abuja and in most cases they didn’t have the local environment situation in mind. They cost the provision of boreholes as a universal thing, but you find out that there are geological and geo-physical differences.
“If that is not taken into consideration in costing the boreholes, you find out that in most cases, the contractors will just carry the money, when they get to the sites and discover that the money cannot do what they were asked to do, some abandoned the projects and ran away. Some would play a fast one like pouring water into the overhead tanks and after inauguration, it dries off. The problem is from the design and I think the SDGs is taking care of that shortfall in MDGs by trying to be specific in the design of projects, so that we will outgrow this problem witnessed under the MDGs.”
Radio Nigeria during visits to some of the communities discovered that many boreholes and small town water schemes provided under the MDGs were not functioning, while some of those that still work at the moment were either reactivated by the government or the benefitting communities or institutions.
Non-functional or moribund water projects are found in Ifite- Awkuzu, Anaku, Amichi and Ozubulu.
Obinna Edochie who resides in Ifite-Awkuzu, regretted that the water scheme which brought a big relief to the community after completion, worked only for short time and stopped.
The water scheme provided for the people of Anaku had also stopped giving water to the people as revealed by residents including, Peter Okoye.
“I can’t just tell when the water was provided. When I came back from Ghana, I met it. I came back 2010. It has not been working. They told me that it worked only few days and stopped. Since then, it has been covered with bush as you can see. We still get water from the streams and well. We are suffering here,” Okoye stated.
The administrative officer of Abba, Njikoka Local Government Area, Okpala Fabian, wondered why government would execute project that cannot serve the purpose intended, by not getting to the point they will strike water sustainably.
“Well, it is not encouraging at all. If a project like that is supposed to be sited here, it must be fully sunk, getting the real aquiver where the water rests, not when the water gushes out, you stop it and during the dry season, everything dries up. It was functioning before,” he said.
The Health Officer in charge of one of the Primary Health Centre in Ukpo, Florence Osakwe lamented that all efforts by MDGs to give them water failed.
“MDGs tried severally, they couldn’t get water. They just packed their equipment and left just like that, we didn’t see them again up till now. But the Rural Women Foundation, they came and gave us water here”.
One of the problems with the water sector implementation of MDGs is vandalisation and theft by residents of host communities.
It was gathered at the primary health care centres in Mgbakwu, Awka North Local Government Area, and Amichi, Nnewi South, that part of the boreholes provided by the MDGs were stolen by unscrupulous unidentified persons.
Another resident of Mgbakwu, Chijioke Iferike Oliver, condemned the shoddy job done by contractors, who handled some water projects in the community.
“The MDGs water project in the Community Secondary School is uncompleted because they couldn’t get water from that place. Then during the inauguration; they bought water and put inside the tank. Two or three weeks after inauguration, they couldn’t get water again up till this moment. The one at the Community Primary School was meant to serve both the school and Unity Primary School. It is not also functioning now. It was completed then, it functioned, they got water from the borehole, but I don’t know what actually is the cause.”
The borehole provided at the Primary Health Centre, Omor, did not work at all, while the one at St Mary’s High School Ifitedunu, was reactivated by the management of the school.
Concerning the low performance of MDGs in the water sector, Professor Okunna, the former MDGs implementation committee chairman and now Head of Department, Mass Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, agreed that some of the boreholes failed but argued that MDGs water sector segment of MDGs was not a total failure as there are water projects which were successfully completed and are meeting the water needs of the people up to date.
“Borehole was not the solution. But when we came in, there was no water at all and we needed to provide something as soon as possible and the only option was sinking of boreholes, before we plan for big water scheme. Most of those boreholes that didn’t work are the solar ones because solar technology was new and many didn’t really understand it as at then. But the communities claimed that they could not afford the motorized boreholes, the fuel for the generator. So they began to convert to solar boreholes and many of the boreholes didn’t work, that is the honest truth.
“However, others that worked, communities are failing to take ownership. When we visited some of them following complaints that they were not working, we discovered that something as small as fuse could blow and they will leave it waiting for the government to come and replace them. Consequently, we began the campaign to make sure that people take ownership of those projects. Also some of the medium level water schemes at Ifitedunu, Ukpo, Ozubulu, and Atani to mention few, worked when they were commissioned and they began reticulation before we left.”
Investigations also revealed that some of the gains of MDGs are being eroded due to alleged shoddy execution, failure to take ownership of projects and sustain some of the lofty initiatives or lack of maintenance culture.
The Nursing Officer in charge of one of the Primary Health Centres in Ukpo, Florence Osakwe, lamented that the solar panel installed at the centre only worked for two months after installation and all efforts to call the contractor back to rectify the fault failed.
Besides, some of the schools repainted in the past had lost their beauty and needed repainting, while supply of certain drugs to most primary health centres had since stopped.
Obiano’s administration to the rescue
Governor Willie Obiano has at different fora lamented the failures and lapses in MDGs implementation under the previous administration and had pledged to reverse the trend.
The governor recently inaugurated small town and regional water schemes in various parts of the state including Abatete, Nanka, Igbariam, Ihiala and Umunze.
False claim of projects and reversal of MDGs gains
Visits to Comprehensive Secondary School and Community Secondary school, both in Nawfia, revealed that the VIP toilet and solar powered borehole claimed to have been provided by the MDGs were non-existent.
Radio Nigeria had a chat with one of the teachers in the school, Ezisu Linus.
“As for the solar power borehole, they did not install any borehole here. The borehole you see here was done by Nawfia indigenes residents in the USA as we were told when we came here because the school was operating from town hall before we came in January 2012.. In case of VIP toilet, we saw two burnt toilets here, I don’t know whether MDGs provided it or not. But recently, one Honourable decided to renovate the two toilets. He just put zinc on them. We didn’t see any name of MDGs as they normally inscribe on their projects,” he said.
Allegation of corruption and denial
One of the reasons people adduce for the failure particularly in the water sector is corruption and connivance between government officials and contractors.
A former member of the state House of Assembly, Val Ayika, shared his experience with MDGs during oversight visits to some of the projects.
“The target of course wasn’t met, no two ways about it. But human existence in developing world has been uplifted to some extent, because if you move around, you will see some subsisting projects boldly marked MDGs. However, it was such a regrettable and condemnable thing that when we visited Orumba, I must be specific, we saw a borehole project believed to have been an MDG project but finally turned out to be an individual borehole. And the individual, who happened not to be in town, we spoke with him on phone and he confirmed that it was his own personal borehole.
“We also visited a transformer put by the town union, which was claimed to be an MDG thing. The legislature is not completely carried along to know the full details of the projects,” the legislator said.
But, Okunna denied the allegation of corruption or connivance with contractors as according to her, everything t was done with transparency and accountability to the best of our knowledge.
“Really, the Ministry of Planning was doing the small boreholes. The big water schemes were handled by the Ministry of Water Resources under Emeka Nwankwu. And I don’t remember any shady deal, I don’t know, I won’t tell you I know. But as far as we were concerned, what we did was above board. The implementation of the MDGs was done through the communities. They gave the projects we implemented and we told them to also keep an eye on those projects even as we did a lot of monitoring ourselves. So, I don’t see where the fraud would have come in,” the Mass Communication Professor said
Opia, a member of the MDGs Steering Committee from the civil society, also believed the process was transparent to a large extent.
“To the best of my knowledge and what was made available in the steering committee, by the Desk Officer, who was in charge of day to day administration of those projects. I didn’t see really any manipulation. I was part of the process of contract awards. But you know we are in Nigeria and you cannot rule out some of these under hand deals. But particularly, failure was not due to manipulations and corruption among government officials because it would have affected other sectors”
In an interview, an official in the MDGs office, John Paul Onyekineso, denied the allegation from some citizens that the MDGs projects in their communities especially water projects, were not functioning at the time of inaugurating them.
“Quote me anywhere, there has never been any project constructed that never worked at the point of commissioning or after commissioning. The project failure will normally start due to mismanagement on the side of the community members. There is no how we will commission a project that is not functioning, it is not possible. Any community that is saying that their project is not functioning, let’s go there and you see that the problem is exactly from the community side because the project must have been completed and handed over.”
Onyekineso also disclosed that the Anambra State government is still waiting for the federal government to contribute its counterpart fund for the implementation of MDGs projects for 2014 and 2015, adding that the lessons from MDGs will help the state in executing the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, whenever the federal government flags off the implementation.
The final MDGs Global Report also states that despite the huge success recorded by MDGs around the world, the job is unfinished as there is urgent need to end hunger, achieve full gender equality, improve health services and get every child into school. The SDGs are expected to guide policy and funding for the next 15 years, beginning with the historic pledge on 25 September 2015 to end poverty everywhere permanently, including Anambra State.
In Anambra State, any development programme including Sustainable Development Goals, will have to focus on equipping primary health care centres for qualitative service delivery, recruitment of personnel, sustainable distribution of drugs to PHCs, making the school environment better and more conducive for teaching and learning with adequate security, provision of toilet facilities across communities and public places to enhance public sanitation, provision of water on a sustainable basis.
Several efforts made to speak with the Chairman, House of Assembly Committee on MDGs, Patrick Aniuno, on the role legislative oversight will play in ensuring value for money were not successful as he kept postponing appointments for an interview. Eventually, he failed to speak with the reporter before going to press.
However, respondents expressed the hope that the current administration of Willie Obiano and those after it would learn from the experiences of MDGs and adopt better strategies for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
They also suggested community ownership of all projects in their localities, diligent and regular monitoring, engendering of maintenance culture and above all sincerity on the part of those saddled with the responsibility of implementation.