Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, yesterday faulted the spending priority of both the federal and state governments.

According to him, less attention was being given to education and areas that could benefit the masses.

Sanusi said with much of the resources going into debt service, fuel subsidy, overheads and the National Assembly, it would be difficult to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He said the issue of gender equality should also be enforced in the country.

This came as Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, stressed that ensuring safe school for the children had become a matter of fierce urgency amidst kidnappings and abductions by bandits.

They both spoke during a plenary on “SDGs and Quality of Life: Pathways for Accelerated Progress” at the 27th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#27) with the theme: “Securing Our Future: The Urgency of Now.”

Sanusi said the country required a leadership committed to development to be able to make a headway in its developmental aspirations.

He said: “Every country that has had development has a leadership that is committed to development.

“When in a country where 40 per year of the population is living in extreme poverty and where you have one out of six children in the world out of school in this country, you cannot solve this problem without having a leadership that understands that development is.”

While also kicking against populist policies, he said there was need for the right investment in education, healthcare, as well as the right investment in lifting the people out of poverty.

The former central bank governor said, “As long as our spending sends the wrong signal, so much as the bulk of our resources are going to the wrong areas, we are not going to meet out SDGs.

“And for the last 20, 30 years, we have turned the state into a populist state where the focus has not been on people.

“So, the greatest accelerator for me is to build that national consensus.”

He added: “Where are we spending our money? Does Nigeria consider its development as a priority? I mean, forget the noise, what are we spending our money on.

“We spend money on debt service, fuel subsidy, overheads, National Assembly.

“We are spending less money on education and healthcare than Ghana are spending. We are spending less money on R&D than Rwanda.

“Now, if we do not as a nation, if we do not at the level of leadership understand that developments are human beings, everything we do is going to fall by the wayside.”

According to him: “The greatest accelerator is political. Having the political reach that understands we need a developmental stage and not populist state.

“We have seen populist policies; we want to have cheap fuel, we want to have cheap electricity, we want to have strong naira, that’s populism.

“At the end of the day, what price are we paying by taking money out of education and subsidising petroleum products? What price are we paying for discouraging electricity from coming in…The biggest accelerator I think we need is a mind change.

“We can never have the SDGs if we don’t do that.

The reality is that at the level of the state, we have to decide what our priority and certainly there would be costs but it’s about choice.”

He also said that the country was lagging behind in terms of implementing the SDG component on gender equality.

“Look at the social issues, we are talking of gender equality, and I asked a question, look at the 36 ministers in Nigeria, how many women? We have 109 senators, how many are women? We have 360 members of House of Representatives, how many are women?

“When we talk of SDGs, we talk about gender equality, what are we doing to promote gender equality? We have to walk the talk,” he said.

He insisted that fuel subsidy which is shrouded in corruption should be scrapped.

In his contribution, Fayemi, said unless the current security challenges were urgently addressed, children in most parts of the country may be denied access to basic education.

The governor said: “For me, the fierce urgency of now is how to deal with safe school for our kids. We are talking about kids dropping out of school and it’s a problem already and now they are being kidnapped and abducted all over the place.

“If we do not fix that we won’t even have children going to school in many parts of the country.”

He said issue of gender equality was currently being addressed by government though not on a scale that is desired.”

He pointed out that there had been a decision by the state governors to provide free basic education for the girl child up to secondary level.

Fayemi stressed the need to look at the quality of education, proximity, and infrastructure and a programme for assessing results adding that funding remainee critical to achieving the desired outcomes.

He also submitted that there was need to inject more funds into education by freeing up funds from fuel subsidies.

THISDAY LIVE