Measures for Nigeria to Reach the Objective "Make Cities and Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe, Resilient, and Sustainable" in the Next 15 Years

Third Prize, Undergraduate Category, Essay Contest 2015

February 23, 2016

Agbeyo Temitope

"I am Agbeyo Temitope, a student of history and international relations at Obafemi Awolowo University,Osun state, Nigeria. I believe that most problems facing the world today are deeply rooted in our past and through my study of history and international relations (which I view as the past and present, respectively) I hope to shine light on these problems through writing and solve them through my own little effort and enjoin others to do the same."

ESSAY TOPIC: Sustainable Development Goal #11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Propose specific measures for your country (or region or city) to reach the goal's objectives in the next 15 years.


"Safe," to me, suggests a situation of being free from harm's way or danger. "Resilient," to me, suggests endurance in the face of hardship; it suggests impregnability. "Sustainable," to me, points to the ability to keep or hold something to a particular level indefinitely. Therefore, as a Nigerian, witnessing the large numbers of lives lost due to various terrorist attacks in the Northern part of the country, hearing echoes of the 1967 civil war as the Easterners sing tunes of secession and a new independent Republic of Biafra, seeing various families being displaced from their homes due to occupation of their cities by the Boko Haram terrorist group; I have always seen my dear country as the proverbial elephant up a tree: I do not understand how come it got there, but I sense it's surely going to fall. Therefore, seeing the 11th of the proposed 17 goals that the United Nations member states will pursue to enhance progress in the world over the next 15 years, that is, "Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable," I began to think that maybe...just maybe there is a way to prevent a looming disaster and save this nation.

Some of the world leaders view the Sustainable Development Goals as voluminous and maybe unattainable, but for Nigerians at this point, a safe and secure environment means a lot and I personally believe that although seemingly ambiguous, the goals are a lot inter-related. Proper security will "promote peaceful and inclusive societies," peaceful society will "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education" while quality education will give us headways to battling gender inequality and climate change. Unfortunately, the problem of security is one of the immediate problems faced by Nigeria. To battle this problem, a lot of measures have to be taken to enhance the efficiency of the members of the armed forces. There have to be better training facilities and arsenals to enable the military carry out their work of battling terrorism.

Furthermore, the public has to be encouraged to share information with members of the armed forces. The distant relationship between the men in uniform and the general Nigerian public is very noticeable and this is mostly due to the way members of the armed forces abuse of the so-called "uniform." Many cases of extrajudicial killings have been reported over the years and this creates a problem of trust between the average Nigerian civilian and military men. The dangerous work done by men of the Nigerian Armed Forces mostly goes unappreciated by both the government and the people. These men who risk their lives every day to ensure our lives are not at risk are not appreciated well enough. Funds meant for their upkeep were even embezzled by some unscrupulous politicians looking to enrich themselves. Therefore, to attain security, incentives, admiration, and appreciation should be given to the members of the armed forces and they should be well equipped, because to make our cities 'safe,' we need them.

Moreover, "safe" does not only imply absence of war. In fact, diseases are more deadly killers of Nigerians and Africans than wars or terrorist attacks. Terrorism is a global phenomenon. Battling terrorism is a general interest of all nations across the globe but battling diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS has become a problem where Africans have to mostly depend on themselves for solutions. Progress has been made in battling polio and containing the deadly Ebola virus which threatened to bring about huge mortality rates in Africa. Hospitals and various health care centers should be built and facilities improved upon. Doctors and medical practitioners should be well trained in order to provide adequate healthcare for those who need it.

However, the role Nigerian citizens have to play in preventing these various threats to their health cannot be underestimated. We have to keep our environment clean. This can be achieved through proper disposing of wastes. A dirty environment enhances the growth of these deadly carriers of various viruses and bacteria. Keeping a clean environment will go a long way in reducing cases of death caused by diseases. Proper nutrition and personal hygiene are also necessary to effectively battle bad health. The government should also play its role by enlightening the people on the importance of hygienic living. Waste management bodies should carry out their work more effectively and the high price of treatments of health cases in hospitals should be looked into so as to enable citizens have access to affordable health care services. After all, "health is wealth," they say.

The resilience and sustainability of these cities and settlements are as much a function of the government as they are a function of the people. The fact that the goal number seven in the Millennium Development Goals is to "Ensure environmental sustainability" and the fact that it is again repeated here shows the importance of achieving this goal. For man to survive, his habitat must survive. In Nigeria, the problem of sustaining an ideal environment and settlement has remained unsolved for years. The rise in population makes settlements overpopulated and thereby decreases the chance of such settlements' survival. Waste disposition leads to poor environmental sanitation, there is inadequate supply of potable drinking water and also lands are being used poorly. To address this problem, the government needs very reliable sources of fund. These funds can be gotten through environmental taxes and the various Eco-Tourism attractions in the country.

In addition, urbanization and housing can be another effective method of sustaining the environment. Rural areas are more prone to the various diseases associated with poor environmental sanitation. They lack basic amenities like potable water supply, municipal waste management, and careful planning of houses to prevent natural occurrences such as erosion and the like. Also, we have to take advantage of our biodiversity. Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play. Biodiversity ensures natural sustainability for the environment and healthy ecosystems can recover from a variety of natural disasters.

In conclusion, during the first day of the United Nations summit in New York, Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, said "A little less conversation, a little more action." In order to make cities and settlements in Nigeria, Africa and the whole  world "...safe, resilient and sustainable," both the government and the governed must make little less conversations and take a little more action. The whole world must work hand in hand to combat the key issues affecting our societies. We must come together to combat poverty, illiteracy, gender inequality, climate change, injustice, and a whole lot of other vices threatening the very existence of our universe.

According to Ban Ki Moon, "some 8.5 million people have made their voice heard to the United Nations," I say, it is time we start listening.

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