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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nigeria: Missing in UNITLIFE project

Nigeria is dishearteningly missing in the top-four countries on the heels of rejigged launch of Sustainable Development (SD) initiatives by the General Assembly of the United Nations, to use revenues from extractive industries to support and fight against child malnutrition, writes REMMY NWEKE for NaijaAgroNet.

Malian president -ibrahim Boubacar Keita
Recently the Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali and Niger jointly proclaimed a new fund for the fight against malnutrition as a levy from the extractive industries of their respective countries.

NaijaAgroNet reports that the announcement came at the launch of UNITLIFE, a new innovative financing mechanism that uses micro levies from extractive industries to increase resources for the fight against malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.

Also, NaijaAgroNet gathered that under UNITLIFE project, participating nations with abundant natural resources will channel a small portion of revenues derived from the sale of oil, gas and mining into a UNICEF-hosted fund dedicated to improving child nutrition.

For example, the Republic of Congo will contribute $0.10 per barrel of oil sold by its national state oil company and other partnering countries are expected to follow although the figure at press time remained sealed.

Yoka Brandt of UNICEF
Wikipedia, an online open source encyclopedia, defines sub-Saharan Africa as the geographical area of the continent of Africa located in the south of the Sahara desert and politically consists of all African countries that are fully or partially located south of the Sahara, including Nigeria, which incidentally was missing in the founders of this project considering the population and expected influence it would have on Nigerians.

Historical Oil fields:
NaijaAgroNet recalls that Nigeria is known as an oil-rich and producing country since the discovery of the first oil in Oloibiri oilfield historically a town of oil and gas industry in Nigeria. Nigeria first commercial oil discovery was made at (Otuabagi/Otuogadi) in Oloibiri district by Shell Darcy on Sunday 15 January 1956 known in Bayelsa State.

For the Republic of the Congo it’s first oil may have surfaced in the 70s with the petroleum industry accounting for 89 per cent of the country’s exports in 2010. While Niger has a long history of petroleum exploration dating back to the 1970s and until 2011 when the petroleum industry of Niger was born with the opening of the Agadem oilfield and the Soraz refinery near Zinder.

Experts have predicted that by the end of 2015,  an estimated that 25 per cent of North American oil will be from Sub-Saharan Africa, ahead of the Middle East.

What is oil and minerals?
Equally, experts at Wikipedia described oil as any neutral, nonpolar chemical substance that is a viscous liquid at ambient temperatures and is both hydrophobic and lipophilic. Oils have a high carbon and hydrogen content and are usually flammable and slippery. 

On the other hand, a mineral could be described as a naturally occurring substance, representable by a chemical formula that is, usually solid and inorganic, and has a crystal structure. It is different from a rock, which can be an aggregate of minerals or non-minerals and does not have a specific chemical composition.

UNITLIFE, an innovative financing mechanism –UN:
For the United Nations (UN), this kind of funding was based on an innovative financing mechanism being launched only days after the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted at the United Nations.

The architect of the initiative and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Innovative Financing for Development, Philippe Douste-Blazy, expressed his delight that a number of African governments accepted this idea “because we have already proven with the air ticket levy that innovative financing works and generates results. I also want to thank UNICEF for agreeing to host the initiative.” 

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, President of the Republic of Mali and one of the first supporters of the fund, expressed his satisfaction that Mali is one of the founders of this innovative financing mechanism based on the determination to scale-up the fight against child malnutrition in Mali and the region.

Chronic malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa – UNICEF:
The Deputy Executive Director at the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Yoka Brandt said that considering the chronic malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa which has affected over 1 in 3 children under the age of five, stunting their growth and threatening their cognitive capacity, thus limiting their opportunities in life, it has become imperative for this kind of mechanism.

“New and innovative financing mechanisms can make a big difference in the fight against malnutrition,” Brandt said.

President, Innovative Finance Foundation (IFF), Mr. Robert Filipp, who NaijaAgroNet gathered spearheaded the work on the fund design, said, it has real game changing potential. “If all countries with oil, gas and mines joined, we would have a real chance to eliminate malnutrition.”

So far, so good … but:
Earlier in the year, 2015, following the decision for UNICEF to host the agency for the proposed new financing initiative for Nutrition in Africa called UNITLIFE, the secretariat invited consultants according to the Director, UNICEF Public Partnership Division (PPD) Olav Kjorven, who approved the Terms of Reference (ToR) hinted that the design of the initiative is intended to replicate the highly successful UNITAID model which focused on micro-levy on airline tickets for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. 

Kjorven explained that the initiative is to be funded through a proposed tax levy on oil and other extractive industries in selected African countries. These revenues, the director said, would be collected in a global pooled fund to finance nutrition programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, which is estimated to generate $100-200 million per year. 

This, NaijaAgroNet reports exceeds other expected international resource flows for nutrition, given stagnating Official Development Assistance (ODA) levels to Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Latitude of the Secretariat:   
The Secretariat to be located at UNICEF Headquarters, New York city, United States of America (USA), NaijaAgroNet learnt, will provide substantive and administrative support to UNITLIFE, support decision-making and overall leadership of UNITLIFE and serve as inter-face between the governing bodies and other stakeholders, including implementing organizations. 

NaijaAgroNet also notes that the principal functions of the Secretariat encompass administration, communications, partner coordination, and reporting results for UNITLIFE. Whereas the role of the Secretariat will be to carry out and manage day-to-day operations of UNITLIFE, including implementing the work plan of UNITLIFE approved by its Steering Committee, managing and coordinating relationships with partners and coordinating and facilitating technical support and advice to its governing bodies. 

The Secretariat can consist of staff and/or consultants hired by UNICEF as the host of the Secretariat, as well as secondments from other partners and staff of other partners under agreement with UNICEF. The Secretariat will be accountable to the Steering Committee, but its staff will be governed by UNICEF’s human resources policies and procedures.

Why Nigeria must join UNITLIFE:
NaijaAgroNet gathered from UNICEF officials in Nigeria that the Africa’s most populous country with a population of over 171 million, including 40 million children, although there have been some improvements in child nutrition, but malnutrition remains a major concern, particularly in northern Nigeria.

Communication Specialists at UNICEF Nigeria, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku recently confirmed to NaijaAgroNet that estimated 54,000 severely malnourished children exist in seven drought-affected, northern Nigerian states, including Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno.

Raising the bar for malnutrition support:
NaijaAgroNet further reports that although financing commitments to nutrition have increased in recent years, around $50 billion are still needed over the next 10 years to reach the World Health Assembly target of reducing the number of children under the age of five who are stunted by 40 per cent by 2025.

The proposed levies from extractive industries in African countries have been described as a bold demonstration of African leadership to address the financing gap for nutrition in the continent. It is of high expectation that under the UNITLIFE initiative, the levies are expected to initially generate between $100-$200 million, about N39,806,000,000 billion a year, unfortunately without Nigeria, which claims to be the giant of Africa.

From all intent and purposes, every watcher of extractive industry on the continent expect that though Nigeria may not be at lead at all times, but at least should have been part of the founders.

It is therefore lamentable, as industry watchers look forward for a Minister of Petroleum that will reposition Nigeria within the shortest possible time in the scheme of things among nations, especially on the African continent, after a long wait by Nigerians for the list of incorruptible Ministers by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria, as matter of fact should find a way of proactively working or positioning the nation in the right direction to ensure the dreams of its forefathers are not in vein.

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