To say that Nigeria, an oil-rich country, deserves a better health sector is an understatement going by the billions of naira revenue accruing to the nation yearly from crude oil sales. Apart from few private hospitals in the cities with obsolete equipment where billionaires and high profile citizens in government patronize for minor treatments, there is no major hospital in the country where major operations and specialized treatments could be done for the masses in case of emergency.
This perhaps informs why many of our leaders and traditional rulers usually go abroad for treatment whenever they have health-related issues and sometimes died oversea after which billions of naira is used to transport their corpses home for burial. The case of former president, Musa Yar’adua, who died in Saudi Arabia, former first lady of Nigeria, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Obasanjo, who died in Spain after undergoing surgery at Marbella Hospital in Malaga, Spain, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, who died in United States of America hospital and the recent paramount ruler in the old Western region of Nigeria, who died in London hospital are those that should give the country serious concern.
It will be recalled that Senate Minority Leader and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio, was flown abroad recently after a serious accident he had in Abuja, in spite of N30 billion state of the art, well-equipped hospital with “640 citys canners, digital mammography, endoscopy surgery, highly sophisticated intensive care units and medical gas plants with fully automated laboratories, he built in his state – Akwa-Ibom. Lack of seriousness on our governments in the past(both the state and federal governments) had led to brain drain in the health sector to the extent that our hospitals are now being managed by quacks with obsolete equipment to work with.
Where money is budgeted to procure new equipment in the budget in a year, corruption will not allow our public servants to buy those equipment and where procurements are made, equipment brought in will be outdated while the contracts are inflated to allow senior citizens corner some amount of money as national cake. According to the Nigeria Health Watch,N262billion ($1.7 billion) was allocated to health in the 2014 budget out of which 82 per cent was spent on recurrent expenditure.
The above amount was about six per cent of the total budget and in most cases; the amount may not be disbursed throughout the year. On February 19, 2014 the Senate passed the National Health Bill 2014, sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (PDP-Delta), which was designed to ‘revolutionize’ the health sector and focus heavily on better regulation and quality but up till now government is yet to implement it. While we believe that the health sector should be given priority attention to prevent many Nigerians from going abroad for medical treatment, we appeal to the present government of President Buhari to implement the bill passed on the health sector and if it is not good enough, the National Assembly should amend it to fit into the thinking of the current party in power so that we can stop the senseless health tourism abroad and bogus amount spent yearly overseas. It will not be too much if the government should set up state-of-art hospitals in six geo-political zones of the country where our medical students would be trained by the experts from within and outside the country so that Nigerians working in foreign hospitals could come home to work.
This will reduce brain drain in the health sector, develop our medical students, save foreign exchange spending on medical trips to London, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India and USA, while masses that could not afford the dollar for overseas treatment will be saved at home from untimely dead. President Buhari should remember that he met a moribund health sector; he must not leave the sector unattended to, as doing this will amount to a disservice to the nation and disappointment to many Nigerians that are yearning to come home from abroad but could not do so because of the fear of untimely death from small diseases or minor injuries that could be treated locally.
Again, the ongoing probe of the public sector to reduce corruption from the system should be extended to the health sector so the masses could know the extent of the rot that is going on in the sector. It will not only save the nation huge money being spent on medical trips, it will show the masses that the current government in power cares for them and deserves re-election for second term at the federal level.