A Fitting United Nations Honour For Princess Orelope-Adefulire.
By Desmond Utomwen.
The United Nations on Tuesday, June 20 conferred SDGs Champions award on the immediate past Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, SSAP-SDGs, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, amidst praises from development partners and stakeholders.
The award was conferred on the former presidential adviser at an event held at UN House, Abuja, presided over by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale, in recognition of her ground-breaking achievements as supervisory head of SDGs implementing office in Nigeria since 2016.
Schmale, who hosted the event, teed off the accolades for Princess Orelope-Adefulire as he described her as an achiever and barrier breaker whose achievements as head of Nigeria’s SDGs office will be difficult to match.
“Your firm belief that the Sustainable Development Goals are for everyone everywhere, is a constant reminder that Agenda 2030 is neither for just one part of the country, nor for just one group of people.” Schmale noted.
Speaking in the same vein, UN Deputy Resident Representatives, Programmes, Lealem Berhanu Dinku who represented the UNDP Resident Representative Mohamed Yahya, noted that Nigeria made remarkable breakthroughs in the implementation of SDGs under Orelope-Adefulire leadership of OSSAP-SDGs.
According to him, efforts of Princess Orelope-Adefulire led to the country’s six geopolitical zones feeling SDGs impact in measures hitherto unknown.
Dinku added that the former SSAP-SDGs made significant strides in several SDGs fronts, citing the impressive collaborations and integration processes she initiated that resulted in such landmark accomplishments as the Integrated National Financial Framework, INFF, the Integrated SDG Simulation model otherwise known as the iSDG Nigeria Model among others.
“Your unwavering support for the SDG-aligned states development plans across 15 states, is truly commendable. By assisting these states in integrating the SDGs into their development agenda, you have demonstrated your commitment to ensuring the localization of the goals and fostering grass root progress towards sustainable development. Dinku stated.
“Your tireless advocacy for improved access to quality education, poverty alleviation, gender equality, sustainable energy, health and sustainable urban development has positively impacted the lives of countless Nigerians. “Your achievements serve as an inspiration to all, highlighting the power of dedicated individuals in driving sustainable development,” Dinku said, adding that the UN feels proud to have collaborated with the former SSAP-SDGs in the pursuit of a shared goals.
“At UNDP, we are honoured to have collaborated with you and the OSSAP-SDGs in pursuit of our shared goals. We applaud your outstanding contributions and look forward to continuing our partnership to accelerate progress towards the SDGs in Nigeria.”
The biggest accolade came from the First Lady, Sen. Remi Tinubu, who was represented at the occasion by the APC national women leader, Bertha Edu, harped on the quality of Princess Adefulire’s character which she said was manifested in all the public offices she has held and her performances therefrom.
She noted that as the first female member of the Lagos state House of Assembly, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and later Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Princess Orelope-Adefulire concern for both women and the girl child was self-evident. During the period, the First Lady noted, she initiated the Domestic Violence Bill, which became a law in Lagos and has since been domesticated in other federating states.
“She is a great personality with a proven track record of transcendence and real time governance. Princess Orelope-Adefuire has diligently served Nigeria in many fronts and capacities, making invaluable contributions for the good of the society.”
The First Lady also stressed that Princess Orelope-Adefulire has demonstrated her commitment to the welfare of maternal and child health, poverty eradication even before her appointment as the head of the country’s SDGs Office, where she also excelled, a reason for which she is being celebrated.
“I thank the UN and the orgnisers of this award for finding it imperative to reward performance and dedication. This will go a long way in instilling sense of duty and encourage more people in their services to the nation, to give their best“, said the First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
Apparently overwhelmed with the adulation, Princess Orelope-Adefulire, who was accompanied to the event by her husband, Chief Abiodun Adefulire, thanked the UN for giving her the award, not forgetting to also give credit to former President, Muhammadu Buhari, whom she said, gave her the opportunity to serve as his SSA on SDGs.
“I would like to use this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, former President, for the opportunity to serve as SSAP-SDGs.”
She also paid tribute to the contributions of her team which she referred to as the SDGs family, the real engine room for the humble success she recorded. Not done, she singled out her husband, whom she described as the best husband in the whole world and one who stood as her backbone and pillar of support over the years.
In particular, she urged the UN to continue to assist and collaborate with the OSSAP-SDGs even more than the way it collaborated with her.
“Let me begin by thanking God Almighty for a day like this and the gift of life. It is difficult to express my feelings in spoken words. I am elated to stand here today as a recipient of the 2023 United Nations SDGs Champions’ Award from the United Nations’ system in Nigeria. This is a significant and momentous occasion in my life and that of my family. I am deeply honoured by the recognition of my modest contribution to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development,” she urged.
“In accepting this award today, let me place on record my profound appreciation to the United Nations Country team, under the leadership of His Excellency, Mathias Schmale, for the commitment and tremendous support towards the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria.
Together, we have made significant progress in our collective desire to achieve the SDGs and leave no Nigerian behind,” she added.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. George Akume, former First Lady, Aisha Buhari and Head of Service, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, were represented at the event and showered encomiums on the former presidential aide.
As the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire has been instrumental in driving Nigeria’s remarkable progress in the implementation of the SDGs. Her unwavering commitment and visionary leadership have positioned Nigeria as a global leader in sustainable development.
One of her key achievements is championing global recognition for Nigeria’s efforts in achieving the SDGs. Under her guidance, Nigeria successfully conducted country-led evaluations of SDG-3 on quality health and well-being for all and SDG-4 on qualitative and inclusive education and lifelong learning for all. This milestone makes Nigeria the first country in the Global South to conduct independent SDG policy evaluations, showcasing Nigeria’s dedication to evidence-based decision-making and sustainable development.
She played a pivotal role in the launch of the Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) globally, which maps out a sustainable financing plan to ensure Nigeria’s commitment to the SDGs is met.
Her leadership has also extended beyond Nigeria’s borders. She spearheaded Nigeria’s sponsorship of United Nations resolution A/77/L.64 on Strengthening Voluntary National Reviews through Country-led Evaluation. This resolution received support from twenty-four countries, including Russia, China, Jamaica, Senegal, and South Africa, further highlighting Nigeria’s influence and commitment to promoting robust evaluation mechanisms for monitoring SDGs progress worldwide.
Her strategic vision, collaborative partnerships, and innovative initiatives have positioned Nigeria as a trailblazer in the SDGs implementation journey.
On assumption of Office, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire immediately hit the ground running by ensuring that the required institutional frameworks were properly put in place for the effective implementation of the Goals.
These include a Presidential Council for the SDGs inaugurated by the President to provide high-level policy guidance and leadership as well as direction on the implementation. She also championed the setting up of the Private Sector Advisory Group, the Donors Partnership Forum and the Civil Society Strategy Group as key partners in the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria.
Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire led Nigeria to present two Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development; first in 2017 and later in 2020 when the Nigerian team defied the COVID-19 challenges to present the second Voluntary National Review (VNR).
Under her leadership, OSSAP-SDGs also took steps to mainstream the 2030 Agenda into national, sub-national and sectoral policies, development plans and budgets as against embarking on standalone projects, which lack sustainable characters.
She has championed a massive investment and implementation of key intervention projects in a bid to fast-track the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria, while also ensuring that no one is left behind. The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs under her leadership embarked on several strategic interventions across the 36 states and the FCT. Between 2017 and 2022, her Office constructed and furnished over 9,000 Blocks of Classrooms; Constructed and equipped 66 Skill Acquisition Centres; and supplied 7,464 specialized Hospital Beds to different Hospitals across the country. Similarly, the Office has completed or about to complete the construction and equipping of a total of 43 units of 120 or 100 Beds Mother and Child Hospital (MCC); 27 units of 80 Beds Ultra-Modern Hospitals; and 195 number Primary Healthcare Centres across the country among other numerous projects.
For her outstanding service in public office which has spanned over 30 years, Princess Orelope-Adefulire has received several awards locally and internationally including the conferment of the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic, OFR by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022 as well as the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award in 2023. She was awarded the International Public Servant of the Year Award in 2007 by the Scottish Widows – a UK-based Non-Governmental Organization and bagged the Lagos State Person of the Year Award in 2009. She received the Daisey George Award 2010 in USA, as an advocate of children’s protection and development.
In 2018, she was honoured by the International Women’s Society (IWS) in recognition of her efforts at empowering and defending the rights of women, youth and children. Similarly, in recognition of her contributions towards the attainment of SDGs 8 and 10 in Nigeria, she was inducted as a Fellow of the Global Membership Platform of the Association of Business Executives (ABE) United Kingdom in May 2019 and received the CSR and Sustainability Champions Award from SERAS CSR Awards Africa in 2018. She is also a recipient of the Guinness World Records for the most children reading aloud with an adult at a single location, which she achieved while reading with 4,222 school children in 2011.
Princess Orelope-Adefulire holds an Honorary Doctor of Arts (Poverty Alleviation and Technology Incubation) from the Lagos State University (LASU). The conferment of the SDGs Champion Awards by the United Nations is therefore the latest of the numerous feathers that are fitting perfectly on her cap.