The deputy vice chancellor, Academics, Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Prof. Damilola S. Olawuyi, has called on governments at all levels to fully embed the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into COVID-19 economic recovery plans.
Olawuyi, a Professor of Environmental Law and Vice Chair of the International Law Association (ILA) worldwide, made these remarks during an online workshop organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), in partnership with the ILA.
With the theme, ‘Progressive Realisation of SDGs in Nigeria during and Post COVID 19,’ the workshop featured experts, including the Director General of NIALS, Professor Muhammad Tawfiq Ladan, Prof. Robert Home, Emeritus Prof. of Land Law and Urban Management, Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom, and Dr. Nkechikwu Valerie Azinge, Lecturer in Law, University of Lincoln, UK.
There were also senior scholars at NIALS, which included Prof. Animi S. Temple, Franscisca Nlerum, Irekpitan Okukpon, and Osatohanmwen Eruaga.
Olawuyi noted: “Like the invisible enemy called COVID-19, many of the complex problems facing our world today are also lethal, tenacious and invisible. We are talking of poverty, hunger, climate change, corruption and financial crimes etc. We cannot see them, but we can feel their deadly and menacing impacts on human life and development. The SDGs provide important tools for countries to fight all invisible enemies. The SDGs are built on the idea of turning disasters and challenges to opportunities. To ensure that economic recovery efforts leave no one behind, there is an urgent need to make the SDGs the basis and foundation of all post-COVID recovery plans, including economic planning, research, education and rulemaking in Nigeria. Without an SDG approach to recovery, effectively detecting, measuring, and reporting on the impacts of the pandemic, as well as progress made in addressing them, will be extremely difficult.”
While commending the Federal Government for the foresight and vision in releasing the ‘building back Nigeria economic sustainability plan,’ with a stimulus package of N2.3 trillion, Olawuyi described the plan as a remarkable step. The don, however, emphasised the need to focus the stimulus package on small and medium scale entrepreneurship, climate-friendly ventures, and green technologies that can holistically improve social, economic and environmental conditions across Nigeria.
In the ensuing panel discussions, Emeritus Prof. Home emphasised the need to provide tailored resilience and social support for individuals and communities that have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic.
Similarly, Dr. Nkechikwu Valerie Azinge, an international financial crimes and banking law expert, highlighted the importance of addressing trade-based money laundering as a way of advancing the SDGs on economic growth and zero poverty. She advocated the need for automation of trading systems to flag trade mis-invoicing, tax evasion, money laundering, and other illicit transactions that may further create loopholes in government revenue and public finances required for post-pandemic recovery.
Other eminent legal luminaries that contributed to the discussions include Prof. Adebambo Adewopo SAN, Prof. Paul Idornigie, SAN, and a former Director General of NIALS, Prof. Epiphany Azinge SAN, OON, who has been at the frontline of litigating China’s legal liability in international law for the COVID-19 pandemic.
In closing the session, the Director General of NIALS, Prof. Ladan, commended the exceptional leadership roles that government agencies were playing in monitoring and collating data on SDG progress in Nigeria. He noted that such active data collation and measurement could help all stakeholders in public and private sectors, to better prioritise their efforts on key targets and goals that can enhance progress across all the SDGs.