By Tordue Salem, Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives, the federal government and stakeholders in the healthcare sector Monday supported the establishment of a Federal University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Bida, Niger state.
The stakeholders took the decision at the public hearing organised by the House committee on health institutions in Abuja on the bill for an act to establish the university and four other bills.
Presenting the bill, the sponsor and vice chairman of the House committee on finance, Rep. Saidu Musa Abdullahi (APC-Niger) lamented that Niger is the only state in the North-Central without a degree-awarding institution in medicine and health sciences.
He said this was unacceptable considering the strategic importance of Niger state in the scheme of events in the country.
“Aside from being the largest state in the country with 76,363 Square Kilometres, accounting for about 10 per cent of the nation’s total landmass, Niger state is home to Nigeria’s major hydroelectric power stations, the Kainji Dam, Shiroro Dam, and Jebba Dam as well as the Zungeru Dam, which is currently under construction.
He said “The overall objective of this bill is to secure a national mandate to teach and train high calibre health-care professionals, provide healthcare services and to operate various schools and specialities that offer exemplary training and quality research in health care.
“Once the university comes on stream, it will provide more opportunities and a fair chance for Nigerians seeking to pursue careers in the medical sciences and most importantly address medical workforce shortfall in the country”
According to him, “At the moment there are 1,335 health facilities in Niger state, out of which two are tertiary health facilities, 21 secondary health facilities and 1,322 (99%) are PHC facilities. 1,095 (83%) of these PHC facilities are publicly owned while the remaining 227 (17%) are privately owned”.
“Niger state has the highest under 5 mortality in the north-central geopolitical zone of Nigeria and above the national average of 128 deaths per 1000 live births.
“Conversely, Niger state has one of the highest numbers of under 5 years children with fever, seeking medical attention from health facilities or healthcare providers (73.2%), above the north-central average of 71.8%”.
In his presentation, the minister for health, Dr Osagie Ehanire supported the bill but said the nation has to develop the entire healthcare chain.
He said there should be at least one primary healthcare in every council ward and one general hospital in every local government, adding that the priority of the federal government was to build primary and secondary healthcare centres and rebuild tertiary health institutions for optimal performance.
He said health institutions were the foundation for the training of high-quality personnel and must be strong.
While declaring the hearing opened, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila noted that public hearings are an important part of the legislative process and an exercise in collaborative governance, allowing citizens and stakeholders to contribute their experience and perspective to the legislative process and ensure that legislative outcomes reflect the concerns and expectations of the greatest number of our nation’s citizens.
Represented by the Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC-Abia), the speaker said “I assure you that your contribution will neither be ignored nor taken for granted. I ask you also as you make yourselves heard, to do so with circumspection and respect for opposing views”.
He said each of the bills seeks to alter the architecture of our nation’s public health services in ways that will hopefully improve the lives of our people, either through increasing options available for medical training or providing access to medical facilities in places where there is an evident need.
Also supporting the bill, the leader of the Niger state caucus in the National Assembly, Senator Abdullahi Sabi urged all stakeholders to exercise their right to express their support to the bill. It is very clear that Nigeria is lacking medical personnel.
Similarly, a former governor of Niger State, Dr Babangida Aliyu said “We need at least two federal universities of medicine and health services in all zones”.
In his submission, JAMB registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyode said universities should not be established just for the sake of sitting onstiruiolns but it must be done in collaboration with the NUC and federal ministry of education. “I believe that for the success of this initiative we get accurate statistics and carry along the NUC. A lot of background information can be got from NUC and the federal ministry of education”
Other stakeholders who presented memoranda at the hearing include former information minister, Prof. Jerry Gana.