Etisalat urges government to prioritise Sustainable Development Goals

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Telecoms operator, Etisalat, has called on Nigerian government across all levels to prioritise meeting the critical development needs of the nation in their renewed efforts at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda of the United Nations.

Ibrahim Dikko, vice president, regulatory and corporate affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, made the call while speaking at the seventh edition of the thought leadership breakfast series, Sustainable Conversations, organised in Abuja by Thistle Praxis Consulting in partnership with Etisalat Nigeria.

Dikko lauded the UN-backed SDGs agenda, but noted that a country like Nigeria had to evaluate and prioritise which goals constitute its most pressing needs and go for such without taking its eyes off the others in the UN-backed 17-goals agenda block.

“The SDGs are lofty and ambitious targets. I think the way around this is for countries to look for what is the most critical for them. Each country has its own priorities. For a country like ours that has a very young, up and coming population, our primary concern for now should be to focus on education, health, security, peace and justice, access to facilities, etc.

“That is not to say we should ignore the other goals and just focus on these. We should prioritise and start with what is achievable now given the resources at our disposal,” Dikko said.

While assuring the audience of Etisalat’s commitment to strengthening partnerships with governments and their agencies towards achieving the development goals, Dikko disclosed that the company was leading a quiet revolution in providing telecommunications-focused education with training of students and lecturers in that field.

“When we started operations in 2008, we realised that in our universities, there were only such programmes like petroleum, electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering, but there was no telecommunications engineering. In this 21st Century, there is no way we can go forward and build capacity if we did not try and address that.

“So, we started a partnership with ABU, Zaria, to sponsor students to Masters’ Degree programmes in telecommunications engineering in partnership with Plymouth University, UK, and the Etisalat Academy, UAE. We are also training some lecturers at PhD level so there can be capacity for knowledge sharing,” he said.

Meanwhile, discussants at the one-day thought leadership series on Sustainable Development also called on various implementation organs of government to adopt an all-inclusive approach towards achieving of the SDGs of the United Nations.

Hussaini Abdu, country director, Plan International, who expressed delight at the prospects inherent in the goals, asserted that the attainment of the goals could be fast-tracked with the active involvement of the organised private sector and other relevant segments of the Nigerian society.

His words: “Nigeria has done relatively well on MDGs, but it could do more to be able to achieve the targets of the SDGs. The call now is for Nigeria to set up a clear strategy plan and get the different segments of the country to key in and drive it. The SDGs should not be driven only as a government or an NGO initiative, but should be driven largely as a Nigerian project and it is when every segment of the country keys into it that we can achieve the goals.”

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