By Dirisu Yakubu
Stakeholders in the nation’s health sector have taken a cursory look at the sector under President Muhammadu Buhari-led government and are unanimous in their rating that the administration failed to walk its own talk as contained in its campaign promises.
Following the merger of legacy parties in 2013 into what is today the All Progressives Congress, APC; the newly formed party won the heart of Nigerians with its lofty provisions in its manifesto.
In Section 8 (3) of its manifesto, APC pledged in 2015 to “increase the quality of all federal government owned hospitals to world class standards within five years.”
In sub-section 4, the party promised to “invest in cutting edge technology such as tele-medicine in all major health centres in the country through active investment and partnership programmes with the private sector.”
Five years down the line, the nation’s healthcare delivery system has remained as it was with some Nigerians insisting, it is worse today than it was five years ago.
Nothing exposed the vulnerability of the country’s health sector than the coronavirus pandemic. Granted that no nation was prepared for the scourge of the ugly virus, the obvious lack of ventilators across public hospitals in the country revealed the sorry state of affairs in this part of the world.
Speaking exclusively with Saturday Vanguard, Mr. Apoede Atsegbua, Chief Executive Officer, Society for Community Development, said the sector has a long way to go even as he noted that the President deserves some accolades, rather than jabs.
According to him, it would be wrong to blame President Muhammadu Buhari for primary healthcare, adding that governors and local government chairmen have not done enough to justify their monthly federal allocation.
“Some improvements may have been made but the healthcare particularly at the primary level is still in a very poor state. Some primary health centres are eyesore. It is not the President that is responsible for that.
“In the past five years, not much has been done but like I said, the blame goes to the three tiers of government. What COVID-19 has shown us is that the road to quality healthcare is a long one for us as a country,” he said.
That said, Mr. Atsegbua chided the federal government for slashing the health budget as a way of cutting cost owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to him, “health is a top priority of any serious government. So, I don’t understand why they would slash the health budget while retaining a huge sum for the renovation of the National Assembly Complex.
“What is a National Assembly complex that many Nigerians won’t even have the opportunity to see before they die? This is a misplacement of priority if you ask me.”
On his part, National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan said the health sectors has since gone comatose under President Buhari, stressing that the decision to further slash the health budget is both worrisome and unfortunate.
He said, “the PDP insists that in slashing the budget for the primary health need of the people to N25.5 billion (a 42% cut), in a country of over 200 million people, who are already economically overburden, the APC and its administration have further exposed that they have never had the welfare of Nigerians at heart.
“The party says no government, which genuinely means well for its citizens, will vote a paltry N25.5 billion for basic health care for 200 million people in 774 local governments, particularly at this time our nation is facing huge health challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, while allocating a bigger sum of N27.7 billion for renovation of the National Assembly complex, which is not even in a distress state.
“While the PDP has nothing against any effort to improve on the working condition of our federal legislature, placing the renovation of the National Assembly complex above health care at this critical time is a scandalous misplacement of national priority by President Buhari and APC Presiding officers.
“A critical analysis of the allocations indicates that with the N25.5 billion voted for primary health care in a country of over 200 million citizens, President Buhari and the APC plan to spend only about N125 per Nigerian at the primary health care level, within the 2020 fiscal year.
“Our party therefore rejects this collusion by the APC-led federal executive and their presiding officers in the National Assembly to downgrade the health need of our people as well as the education necessity of our children.
“It is even more distressing that the APC administration would still cut the primary healthcare budget in spite of the recent confession by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, that our health sector had gone moribund despite claims of interventions by the current administration.”
A consultant gynecologist with the Federal Ministry of Health in sync with Mr. Atsegbua said the fact many Nigerians including the President often go out of the country on medical vacation is enough “evidence” that sector has not gotten the attention it deserves and of which the APC promised in their campaigns. Nothing substantial has occurred in that sector in the past five years.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the medical expert expressed dismay at the seemingly inability of the federal government to make a difference in a sector many hoped he would leave indelible marks
“He condemned medical tourism in his speeches and campaigns but he has not done anything meaningful. The fact that he does not see the health institutions back home good enough to treat himself says it all. On a scale of ten, I will score this administration three. That is a failed test, isn’t it?” he asked rhetorically.
Like in other sectors of the economy, health is still at a notch below the expectation of the vast majority of Nigerians, five years after the assumption in office of President Buhari. Nonetheless, there is a chance the next three would witness significant improvement, especially given the lessons drummed into the consciousness of leaders and the led by the dreaded COVID-19.