By Emeka Mamah
Chairman of the Northern Governorsâ€™ Forum (NGF), who is also the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, yesterday reviewed socio-cultural developments in the North and lamented that the area â€œhad opportunities to have done better for our people for the better part of Nigeriaâ€™s independence but we appeared to have squandered those opportunities.â€
Muazu spoke against the backdrop of reported crass poverty, deteriorating health standards and education backwardness in most parts of Northern Nigeria when compared with other parts of the country.
â€œIt is indeed, unfortunate that we have been left behind by the rest of the world because for every disease and ailment that has been eradicated in other parts of the world are still with us,â€ Muazu said at the opening of the technical review meeting on the resolutions of the first Northern Statesâ€™ health summit.
He said, â€œwe in the NGF share a common passion and vision to improve the health status and the overall quality of lives of the people we serve at this historic period. Not only do we consider it a political obligation, we also see it as a moral cause to do everything possible to reverse the negative development indices associated with our states.” including the high death rates caused by preventable and curable diseases.
â€œWe believe that it is wrong that in this era, with all our resources, endowments and awareness, we have a significant percentage of our people still dying from malaria and other preventable diseases.
â€œWe still have polio as an issue; we have the quality of lives of our daughters being hampered by Visco Virgina Fistula (VVF) as a result of unethical cultural practices.
â€œWe have a growing army of school-age children roaming the streets begging or engaging in one form of delinquent behaviour or another.
â€œIndeed, the time for us to act is now. We need to put together an intervention programme that is comprehensive in its scope and impact for addressing the multitude of problems afflicting our people and our states.â€
In his address at the ceremony, Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, noted that Nigeria has a lower than average life expectancy, higher maternal and child mortality, high preventable morbidity and mortality even by sub-Saharan Africa standards.
â€œAnd, within the country, there are significant inequities in distribution of health services as evidenced by wide inter-state and regional variations, rich-poor divide and urban-rural differences in access to and attainment of health,â€ the Minister said.