BY COBHAM NSA, ABUJA – The Federal Government has admitted that continuous foot dragging in closing existing gaps in Nigeria’s healthcare system portends inherent danger to the collective physical and socio-economic well being of Nigerians.
In an obvious acknowledgement of governance failure over the years and the fact that it cannot do it all alone, the government is raising an alarm that not taking advantage of opportunities presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to develop Nigeria’s health infrastructure is a call to future calamity.
“It will be the greatest disappointment of our time and of our generation if we do not seize the opportunity of the moment to redress all the deficiencies of the defects that we’ve had in our health and other infrastructure in this country”, the government warned through Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha,
However, there is soothing news coming from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that about 20 projects valued at ₦26.278 billion have enjoyed funding under its ₦100 billion credit support intervention for the healthcare industry in the country.
Mustapha, who is also the Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, painted the disturbing picture while inaugurating the Board of Experts (BoE) of the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme (HSRDIS) in Abuja.
In Mustapha’s estimation, “If we lose the sense of the moment, we will be confronted with another pandemic and we will find ourselves starting all over again.”
According to him, the country would have been better off “if we had built on the experiences of Ebola and other epidemics that we have dealt with in the past, probably today we wouldn’t have started with about two molecular laboratories for the testing of COVID-19.”
“If you travel the shores of this country, you will find out that we have over 10,000 public primary healthcare centers scattered in wards and villages across the country, ill-equipped, ineffective, and not being put into use but we keep building them”, the SGF said
In urging the new Board of Experts members to seriously consider a review of the nation’s healthcare sector governance structures in addition to tackling their primary responsibilities, Mustapha said COVID-19 “has exposed the weaknesses in our health system, in our governance system, in our security infrastructure, in our inclusiveness and creating social safety nets for our people.”
He however noted that CBN’s current intervention “will set us on the part of recovering our health care system in Nigeria. If we did not have the opportunity of reconsidering the reconstruction, of our health infrastructure in this country this is a golden opportunity that has availed itself.
“This particular time is an eye opener and it has revealed the depth of the weaknesses in the system. I have seen how the levels of government have abdicated their responsibilities when it comes to dealing with educational or health matters.”
Lamenting that the last three months have exposed serious governance gaps, especially in the abdication of responsibility in terms of management, funding, in terms of control in terms of direction and building capacity, Mustapha said issues around good corporate governance and globa best practices have become quite germane and the nation must produce people in government that will not abdicate their responsibilities or walk away from them doing nothing.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who also spoke at the occasion, disclosed that the apex bank currently is currently funding about 20 projects valued at ₦26.278 billion under its “₦100billion credit support intervention for the healthcare industry.”
Emefiele said; “some of the firms that have been able to obtain funding include hospitals, research centers and pharmaceutical industries.”
However, in his intervention, CBN’s Director, Development Finance, Mr Philip Yila Yusuf said the apex bank has so far received over 27 proposals from researchers requesting for ₦67 billion grant.
The grant is to enable them develop vaccines, advanced drugs or manufacturing of different types of products that will enable Nigeria solve different kinds of health care challenges plaguing the country.
“What we have inaugrated today is the Healthcare Research and Development Interventions Scheme. This is a grant to researchers, Institutions that want to embark on research either to develop vaccines or herbal medicines or drugs that could address not only COVID-19 but other infectious diseases that affect our people”, he YILA
According to Yusuf, “this grant is different from the hundred billion naira health care sector intervention that is for manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, hospitals who want to take money from the Deposit Money Banks to either expand or revitalize the lines that they have.”