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MY REACTION TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI'S INDEPENDENCE DAY BROADCAST

The 55th Independence Anniversary Broadcast delivered today, October 1st, 2015, by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, stands out as one of the most abridged in recent times, and which left a lot to be desired.

Dr Osahon EnabuleleI am pained that in the whole of his Independence address, not even a passing comment was made on the health of Nigerians. It is sad that in what has become a recurring decimal, Mr. President could not spare a critical thought on his plans for Nigeria’s Health Sector. While I admit that the issues of Insurgency, Power supply, and anti-corruption campaign are germane, I had particularly expected Mr. President to use the opportunity of the National Day address to affirm his commitment to the health of the Nigerian people.

Mr. President must be reminded of the significant nexus between health, peace, productivity, economic growth and the wealth of communities and nations.

Mr. President must be reminded of the imperative of investing more in the health of Nigerians, backed with effective management, tracking, monitoring and evaluation of the investments, rather than politicizing health care and using health goods and services as an avenue for emotive and cheap electoral and political gains.

Truly, Mr. President must lead the way in abandoning the era where the health sector is used only as an electioneering campaign tool, which is hastily abandoned soon after they are elected into office, with insensitivity to the declining health status and socio-economic conditions of the people.

I am distressed that Mr. President failed to use the opportunity of his Independence Broadcast Speech to affirm his commitment to the effective utilization of Nigeria’s public health facilities by himself, his family members and all those designated to serve as political office holders in his Government.

Muhammadu Buhari

President Buhari did not measure up to expectation

with Independence Day speech

 

Mr. President needs to be reminded that a major evidence of poor political commitment to the healthcare sector is the poor utilization of health care facilities in Nigeria by the nation’s political leaders and public office holders. Rather than utilize public health facilities they claim to have constructed in their communities, and therefore inspire citizens within their jurisdiction to do same, most of Nigeria’s political and public office holders take delight in travelling abroad for medical care under government sponsorship and at the expense of tax payers.
These travels which are sometimes for very basic medical conditions and procedures, including blood pressure checks, has largely contributed to the humongous capital flight out of Nigeria, to the tune of well over $1 billion dollars, with the Indian economy and hospitals securing over 50% of this capital outflow due to foreign medical travels.

It is always shameful to see some of our elected political leaders and public officers stay on queues in foreign hospitals for basic medical consultation and health check-up, instead of concretely addressing the numerous challenges befuddling Nigeria’s health sector, and adequately investing in quality health infrastructure and services within their jurisdictions, in ways that will facilitate the realization of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Nigeria.

To halt the despicable trend of poor patronage of Nigeria’s health facilities by her stewards and state actors, I had expected President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to use his Independence Day Broadcast to make a public policy statement on the utilization of healthcare services by political and public office holders.

As a Nigerian, I expected him to make a firm declaration that he, members of his lovely family and all political and public office holders shall henceforth utilize available healthcare facilities in Nigeria, and would only be sponsored abroad for medical care, at the country’s expense, in line with the provisions of the National Health Act, precisely clause 46 of the National Health Act which states that:

‘’Without prejudice to the right of any Nigerian to seek medical check-up, investigation or treatment anywhere within and outside Nigeria no public officer of the government of the Federation or any part thereof shall be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation or treatment abroad at public expense except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation or referral shall be dully approved by the Minister or the Commissioner of health of the state as the case may be.’’

This, in my view, would be a strong indication of Mr. President’s firm resolve to lead by example in checking huge leakages and wastages through indiscriminate government sponsored foreign medical travels by public officers, and rebuilding the confidence of Nigerians in Nigeria’s health care facilities.

Recognizing that indiscriminate state sponsored foreign medical travels by public officers provides a veritable avenue to launder Nigeria’s resources, it is clear that a strict implementation of the National Health Act would help further Mr. President’s on-going anti-graft campaign and save Nigeria enormous resources lost through capital flight; resources that can be invested into the revenue pool of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to cater for the rural poor and vulnerable group of Nigerians.

I therefore strongly appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to make a public policy statement on this and give full effect to the National Health Act as part of his on-going anti-graft campaign and revitalization of Nigeria’s health sector and the improved health of Nigerians.

It is still not too late for Mr. President to do so.

Dr. Osahon Enabulele, M.B; B.S, MHPM, FWACP
Vice President, Commonwealth Medical Association;
Immediate Past President, Nigerian Medical Association

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