Health advocates have identified the media as a crucial component in human capital development in Nigeria through proper, accurate and balanced reporting of critical issues.
To remind the media of this role, the Human Capital Development Network (HCDN), a coalition of development partners and Civil Society Organisations, this week in Abuja organised a one-day media orientation parley.
Held under the theme, ‘Catalysing the Media as Partner for Human Capital Development in Nigeria’, the organisers said it was put together to boost the knowledge and skill set needed by journalists for raising the accountability bar for efficient investment in human capital development agenda across all levels and sectors.
According to the World Economic Forum in the preface to its 2016 Human Capital Report: “A nation’s human capital endowment — the knowledge and skills embodied in individuals that enable them to create economic value — can be a more important determinant of its long-term success than virtually any other resource.”
The document echoes the opinion of many experts and advocates, such as American billionaire investor and philanthropist, Bill Gates, who, during a visit to Nigeria in 2018, faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic plans, as not human-oriented.
Mr Gates said the plans could not meet the basic needs of Nigerians.
The philanthropist and founder of Microsoft Corporation said while the government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) identifies “investing in our people” as one of three “strategic objectives,” the “execution priorities” do not fully reflect people’s needs, “prioritising physical capital over human capital.”
Mr Gates urged the government “to maximise the country’s greatest resource, which is the people.”
Lending credence to the billionaires’ observations are Nigeria’s abysmal yearly performance on the Human Capital Development index (HCI) of the World Bank’s Human Capital Development Project.
HCI measures how much human capital a child is expected to acquire by age 18, against the risks of poor health and poor education in the country where she lives.
The country was rated 152 out of 157 in 2018 with an HCI score of 0.34 (out of 1) despite its vast natural resources.
Two years later in 2020, Nigeria recorded a score of 0.36, indicating that a child born in Nigeria will be 36 per cent productive as compared to how it would have fared if it enjoyed complete education and full health.
Impediments to human development
Making a presentation at the media parley, Gafar Alawode, a consultant with the Development Governance International (DGI), listed several impediments to human capital development in Nigeria.
They include an uncontrolled population growth, inadequate investment in health and education, and unemployment, among others.
President Buhari, in April 2017, unveiled the ERGP (2017-2020) as a four-year economic plan to propel Nigeria towards human development and growth.
ERGP, built on the 2016 Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP), is a short-term plan aimed at tackling corruption, improving security and rebuilding the economy.
It seeks to build on the SIP by restoring growth, investing in people, and building a globally competitive economy.
While there was a marginal improvement in human capital development through some programmes of the ERGP, many Nigerians believe the plan has not lived up to expectation.
Mr Alawode said advancing HCD requires investment from the very beginning of life through the provision of adequate nutrition and care for mother and child from childbirth.
“A human being becomes healthy, knowledgeable and educable when he gets the right care and nutrients that will help in the development of the brain,” he said.
The expert also presented a cycle of what is needed to develop Nigerians to their full potential.
He said the challenge of unemployment in Nigeria can also be attributed to the fact that many young people lack the education and skill set necessary for employment.
Role of Media
Moji Makanjuola is the Executive Director of International Society for Media in Public Health (ISMPH), an organisation promoting critical reporting of health-related issues, especially those affecting children.
She said brave, critical, and balanced reporting will generate conversations capable of putting the government under pressure to improve HCD in all sectors and levels.
Making a presentation at the event, Mrs Makanjuola said good journalism backed with research is vital in monitoring the programmes and targets of the government aimed at improving HCD.
She urged journalists to ask critical questions and raise the accountability bar in reporting HCD issues.
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Some journalists at the event highlighted some challenges they face in trying to hold the government accountable.
She noted that most government institutions are still not providing the media critical information even though the government promised to uphold the Freedom of Information Act, which was signed into law a few years ago.
The conveners of the event, Mr Alawode; Juliana Abude from the Legislative Advocacy Initiative for Sustainable Development (LISDEL) and Ms Aanu from the Centre for Accountability and Inclusive Development (CAAID) issued a statement at the end of the event.
The statement contained the following recommendations:
1. The federal government, through the Human Capital Development Core Working Group under the National Economic Council, should fast track the process of engagement with the lower tiers of government, to engender HCD as a development policy objective.
2. Increase investments across the health and education sectors, evidenced by timely release of budgetary allocations, full release and cash backing of appropriated sums and effective utilisation of such funds.
3. Government at all levels should see the current security challenge ravaging all parts of the country as a consequence of under-investment in the human capital of the citizenry and therefore consider HCD investment as a potent intervention towards accelerated growth shared prosperity enhanced productivity of the citizenry, and enduring peace.
4. Ensure greater transparency and accountability in social investment especially for health and education expenditures.
5. Foster citizen participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of HCD-related interventions to enhance ownership of such interventions at the grassroots.
6. We call on the three arms of government at both Federal and State levels to engender HCD as policy objectives for national progress and deploy available resources towards design and implementation of policy thrust articulated in Nigeria’s HCD vision document.
7. Various Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) of government should work together to ensure synergy in the design and implementation of HCD related policy thrust across sectors.
8. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum should ensure the state Governors include HCD on their priority agenda, follow-up on implementation and encourage knowledge-sharing amongst the governors.
9. The Media and Civil Society should raise and sustain the accountability bar for HCD policy action and ensure that the government across all tiers make adequate budgetary provision for HCD-related policy thrusts without compromising the efficiency of resource utilization. The CSOs should scrutinise the manifestoes of the political parties for HCD-related content and demand reprioritisation of HCD action.
10. Religious and traditional leaders should support with awareness creation and encourage their subject and followers to support the HCD vision.
“This media orientation parley provides an opportunity for us to discuss and reflect on HCD as the future of the country, and we hope the engagement will serve as the beginning of a robust and enduring partnership that will harness and align all available resources towards accelerating the attainment of Nigeria’s HCD quest,” the statement highlighted.
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