By Emmanuel Elebeke
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, has said that the Federal Government had provided a whopping N126 billion in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) to upgrade health infrastructure across the country.
The upgrade, he said will include: Federal Medical Centres and teaching hospitals with intensive care units, laboratories and isolation centres in 36 States of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Agba stated this in a speech he delivered at the virtual celebration of the 21st Anniversary of the Temitayo Awosika Help Foundation (TAHF), which was established to immortalize the principles and way of life of Mr Temitayo Awosika who was born on the 12th of August, 1980 (40 years ago) but passed away on the 13th of August, 1999.
“In order to build resilience in our health system, we have provided N126 billion in the Economic Sustainability Plan to upgrade health infrastructure across Federal Medical Centres and teaching hospitals across the country with intensive care units, labs and isolation centres in 36 States and FCT.
“In this period of COVID-19, we still require more collaboration with the international community to tackle health challenges in our country.”
In his speech titled: “Unleashing partnership to drive institutional financial support for the implementation of research planning outcomes towards improving the health of the ‘weak’”, he said “as a Government, we are geared towards making progress in the health sector by upgrading and developing Nigeria’s health infrastructure and operationalisation of the National Health Act 2018.
“The Act established the Basic Health Care Provision Fund to increase the fiscal space and overall financing to the health sector to assist Nigeria to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through revitalisation of Primary Health Care (PHC) and other schemes.
“The goal is to ensure that quality basic health care services are delivered to the majority of Nigerians irrespective of their location in the country.”
Agba, however, expressed sadness that the advent of COVID-19 and lockdown of both global and local economies had negatively impacted on the gains already achieved in the health sector.
“Lockdowns and travel restrictions have put public health systems under stress and caused hundreds of millions around the world to lose their livelihoods overnight.
“To stimulate the economy and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health sector, this government developed a stimulus package that included fiscal and monetary policies, sectoral interventions and social programmes.
“These are direct support to the health sector, mass agriculture, and more funding of WASH programme.”
Agba said on the occasion that in continuation of the nation’s development agenda, he had already inaugurated 26 Technical Working Groups (TWGs) for the development of Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the Medium-Term National development Plan (MTNDP 2021-2025).
According to him, “They are to succeed the current Nigerian Vision 20:2020, and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020) respectively. The plans are expected to address development challenges in all aspects of the country’s national life including healthcare, within the agreed time horizon.”
He added that “as part of the improvement to our health sector, it is necessary to implement most of the research findings that are beneficial to the development of our people especially in this era of COVID-19, where health has taken the primary position as it always ought to be, in the affairs of national development.
“Late in 2011, Nigeria became only the third African country to undertake a stem cell transplant, after South Africa and Tanzania. This procedure has the potential of saving the lives of patients with debilitating and incurable haematological disorders.
“I am however aware of the challenges of funding encountered by the pioneer stem cell transplantation team in Nigeria led by Professor Godwin Bazuaye in sourcing the needed financial support and partnerships in order to make the new technology more readily available especially to the less-privileged members of the society.
“I want to, therefore, take this opportunity to seek institutional partnership in the area of promoting Bone Marrow Transplantation in the care for patients with sickle cell anaemia.
“The provision of bone marrow transplantation locally as well as the engagement of interest in popularizing researched results of locally-produced anti-sickling supplement in the management of sickle cell anaemia will go a long way in making the cost of treatment more affordable and access to treatment more assured.”
The minister said that the suggested institutional finance partnership would enable the sourcing of support from financial institutions other than commercial banks.
“These financial institutions will act as an intermediary for investors and will themselves also have the capacity to invest in the sector.
“They have the capacity to provide finance and financial services in areas outside the purview of commercial banking. Non-Governmental Organization’s involvement in driving this process will be most desired.”
He disclosed that “another additional financing option to drive institutional financial support for the implementation of research planning outcomes towards improving the health of the ‘weak’ is through impact investment.
“Impact investment is a blended finance aimed at reducing the barriers to private sector participation in social investments and financing of Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) implementation in the county.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria is currently promoting private sector-driven impact investments projects in Nigeria and using it as a strategy for funding the SDG gap in Nigeria.
“It helps drive toward solutions and make more of our resources count toward social progress and environmental sustainability as well as financial sustainability.”
The minister reiterated the current administration’s commitment to supporting the growth of blended finance and especially impact investing, pointing out that “the government is creating an enabling macroeconomic environment to attract more impact capital to Nigeria, and eliminating barriers that inhibit the growth of the sector.
“We have developed various policy measures to enhance the enabling environment and ensure good governance/transparency since assumption of office.
“The Treasury Single Account (TSA) application, Tax Reform, development of Anti-Corruption Strategy 2017 – 2021 and the Presidential Initiative on Ease of Doing Business readily come to mind.
“To this end, I want to take this opportunity to call all impact investors and those interested in impact investing to partner TAHF, which is primarily a Non-Profit Organization/Non–Governmental Organisation that provides socially-useful works as demonstrated by the various activities that TAHF has been carrying out in the last 21 years.
“This is a veritable vehicle to ensure the highest impact of such a partnership.”
He commended the vision of TAHF in giving succour to people with sickle cell anaemia and the poor in the society and its stated commitment to providing physical, material and spiritual health to people with sickle cell anaemia, and the poor in the society.
This, he said, would be further consolidated when “we start to seek institutional financial partnerships in building well-equipped Bone Marrow Transplant Centres in Nigeria.”
“It is therefore with a sense of pride and fulfilment that I pledge the support of the government of Nigeria through the department of international cooperation in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to host the research information and needs for a national and international institutional financial partnership to commence,” he declared.
Meanwhile, he used the occasion to launch the “TAHF National and International Institutional/Financial Partnership”.