UNDP calls for more investment to accelerate Nigeria’s development
Mnena Iyorkegh, Abuja
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called for more investment to fast-track sustainable development in Nigeria.
The UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa, Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, stated this in Abuja, after concluding an eight-day official visit to the country.
The visit was aimed at strengthening collaboration for inclusive youth empowerment, as well as advocating for integrated responses to governance, peace and security challenges across the country.
On the challenge of youth unemployment, the UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa said there was the need for more investment to bridge the gap that has been created towards a more inclusive and sustainable future.
“We have to invest in our youths, hope resides in them, if we don’t, then we are embarking on a suicide mission. Young people are not just sitting and waiting for a hand out, Nigerian youths want to make contributions to national development. They want to be agents of change, not just treated as problems that needed a solution, they, they are burning with talents, enthusiasm about bringing solutions to the table.
“But we are under-investing in them, so as development partners, we have chosen as UNDP that youth will be the spine of our programme, any programme that we do that doesn’t touch youth is irrelevant because also the youth make up the buck population here. if you want to secure the future, if you want human security to be sustained, if you want development to be sustainable, invest in youth is not a luxury, it’s a must.”
In Lagos, Ms Eziakonwa inaugurated Nigeria’s first Accelerator Lab, which would offer opportunities for young people to fast-track home–grown solutions to Nigeria’s development challenges.
With the private sector, she witnessed a renewed commitment to support youth entrepreneurship and empowerment including through the Jubilee Fellowships Programme.
“What I have witnessed in Nigeria, and last week in Cameroon is a dynamic Africa. Empowering people, particularly women and youth, facilitating their endeavours, and scaling up the transformative innovations they develop, is the only way to support Nigeria and its people in their unique development path towards a more inclusive and sustainable future.”
In Abuja, Ms Eziakonwa met with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, to reinforce UNDP’s support to the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its plans to speed up sustainable development in the Decade of Action – focused on climate change, wealth creation, youth employment, and women’s participation in politics.
“Nigerian authorities and people have immediately responded to the pandemic and we are proud to have supported the procurement of forty percent of the equipment needed for the response as a ‘One UN’ effort, However, the pandemic is not over yet, and we must now redouble efforts to address the global inequality evident in vaccine famine. Vaccines must be available to all those who wish to take it.”
The eight-day mission included a multi-city visit to the north-east, Abuja, Owerri in Imo State and Lagos, starting with crossing the Cameroon-Nigerian border by foot into Borno State.
In the course of the visit, Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa inaugurated infrastructure serving borderland communities in the Lake Chad Basin (both in Cameroon and in Nigeria), such as a police station, barracks and new immigration and border control offices as well as housing for immigration officers.
“Stabilization efforts are working. I was in Banki less than a year ago and being there again last week I was struck by the transformation the town and people living there have undergone. Police and customs officers were proud to be back to serve people in the community, who, in turn, have expressed they now feel more secured. Through our joint stabilization work, we can reduce needs and strengthen support to humanitarian action.”
Ms Eziakonwa during her visit also witnessed the firsthand impact that the Nigerian Government and Borno State Government led stabilization efforts have had on the most vulnerable people in north-east Nigeria, she however explained that building trust between the leaders and citizens is the way forward to stability.
“One of the solutions is building trust between the leaders and the citizens because the break down of trust is the problem we have. When we don’t have trust, you don’t have confidence, you don’t feel that those who are leading you don’t care. You just join that force, who may demonstrate to you that they care more.
“And so how do we stop citizens from getting roped in the extremist, violent groups. It is precisely by demonstrating that those who are put in charge to look after their welfare actually care.”
On the cash transfer which is one of UNDP’s projects, the UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, Mohammed Yahya said; “The cash transfer is part of the UNDP’s response to the impact of COVID-19 specifically to the vulnerable, secondly Small and Medium Entrepreneurs SMEs. We started to do the cash transfer in Lagos and Kano State, since then we move to Ebonyi, and now Imo and Abia state, specifically the South East States because of the prominence of the SMEs that will provide important needs for the community.”
He lauded the launch of the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS), mandated to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years while emphasizing the fundamental role the private sector plays in the country.