Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is one of the priorities of the Government of Nigeria. This is the cause that Alumna Jennifer Ndidi Ozegbe joined on return from her Masters studies.
While still on scholarship, Jennifer was promoted to Principal Administrative Officer/Economist and took on this post on return at the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the MDGs.
Jennifer completed a Masters degree in International and Development Economics at the Australian National University in Canberra in July 2012 and returned to Nigeria shortly afterwards, more motivated than ever to pursue her vision of striving for development and change, drawing on the skills and knowledge obtained during her studies.
“The Masters program has provided me with improved technical skills and a better understanding of economic theories and how policies can be managed to ensure sustained poverty reduction and continued progress towards addressing other developmental challenges,” she explains.
One of the many responsibilities of the Office is ensuring that Nigeria’s debt relief gains, negotiated from the Paris Club in 2005, are effectively channelled towards implementing projects and programs geared towards achieving the MDGs by 2015.
The Conditional Grants Scheme Unit, which Jennifer returned to work on as an Economist, is a crucial part of the fiscal federalism framework, providing grants to states and local governments to implement MDG-related projects that also require matching funds from the counterpart. From 2011-2012, over 15,000 projects have been completed across the country under the Grant Scheme.
Jennifer’s role in this process involved evaluating proposals from states and local governments. She has recommended for approval pro-poor projects and programs that meet the criteria of assisting states and local governments to achieve the MDGs targets, monitoring the implementation process and strengthening intergovernmental collaboration.
Another key contribution that Jennifer makes to the work of the Office she serves is the advisory role she plays. Prior to her return, the principal intervention areas for the 2012 Conditional Grants Scheme were health, education, water and sanitation, conditional cash transfer and youth empowerment. She advised on the value of including agriculture as an intervention focus for the 2013 Grant period. Her advice was taken on board, resulting in the inclusion of interventions for the agricultural sector in the 2013 Grants.
“Through my studies in Australia on poverty reduction strategies, I realised that agriculture plays an important role in poverty alleviation and development,” she explains.
But the work does not stop at making funds available for development. Capacity building is another facet of the effort of progressing towards the MDGs in Nigeria, and Jennifer has played an important role in this process through advising and facilitation.
Jennifer is involved in the program to enhance citizens’ engagement for accelerating the attainment of the MDGs in Nigeria, which started in 2012, and has since provided training to over 300 beneficiaries, including local government officials and chairs, community-based organisations and village leadership, building their capacity to advocate for social accountability and participatory development and to influence decision-making towards shaping development outcomes in their communities.
To Jennifer, the sky is the limit when it comes to influencing positive change, and she is in the right place to do so.