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Strengthening public health system resilience in Nigeria



Building resilient public health systems is crucial for effective response to emergencies and preparing for future challenges.

Thirty-seven years old, Mr Anthony Yohanna, a plumber, lives at Iche near Kagarko, a town on Abuja-Kaduna highway. Like many families in the area, his family heavily relies on subsistence farming for livelihood, because they live in a rural community access to healthcare services is a major challenge for Yohanna and his family members.

The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the gaps in the public health system in his community.

When the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Nigeria, he said his family quickly realised the potential impact it could have on their lives.

“We witnessed the panic and fear that gripped our community as rumours spread rapidly.

“With limited access to accurate information, we were unsure about the necessary precautions to take and the symptoms to watch out for,” he said.

He said his family also witnessed the transformation of their local healthcare facility.

“Previously under-staffed and ill-equipped, the clinic received additional funding and resources to enhance its capacity to handle some emergencies.

“The availability of testing kits, personal protective equipment, and medical supplies boosted the confidence of healthcare workers in their ability to respond effectively,” he said.

“They also brought a sigh of relief among the members of the community”, he said.

However, as the pandemic unfolded, he said he nearly faced a tragedy when his eldest daughter contracted COVID-19.

“Thanks to the improved healthcare infrastructure, she received timely medical attention and support, ultimately recovering from the illness,” he narrated.

The experience highlights the importance of a robust and resilient public health system in safeguarding the well-being of individuals and families.

In acknowledgement of the urgency of the situation, the Nigerian government, in collaboration with international partners, implemented various measures to strengthen emergency preparedness and response.

As part of the mechanisms, the government established dedicated COVID-19 treatment centres, trained healthcare workers, and set up an extensive public awareness campaign.

These efforts aimed to ensure that accurate information reaches even the most remote communities, like the one the Yohanna’s.

One key component of the people-centred approach was the deployment of community health workers to educate and support rural communities.

Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib said that these health workers became the first line of defence against the virus, visiting households, distributing educational materials, and providing guidance on preventive measures.

Shuaib said that it was a lifeline to reliable information and a source of reassurance during uncertain times.

Through the lens of Yohanna’s family, it becomes evident that a people-centred approach is critical in strengthening emergency preparedness and response.

Program Manager, HERFON, Dr Opeyemi Adeosun,  said that when communities are engaged, educated, and empowered, they become active participants in mitigating the impact of emergencies.

Adeosun said by addressing specific needs of individuals and families, public health systems can build resilience at the grassroots and ensure that no one is left behind.

“Moving forward, Nigeria must continue its efforts to prioritise a people-centred approach to public health.

“It must continue to invest in healthcare infrastructure, expanding access to essential services, and empowering local communities with knowledge are essential steps.

“By doing so, Nigeria can improve its readiness to respond to emergencies, protect its citizens, and build a resilient public health system for a more secure future,” he said.

According to experts, taking a people-centred approach is crucial for strengthening emergency preparedness and response in Nigeria’s public health systems.

The Head, Communications Division, Nigeria Centre for Disease and Prevention Control, Dr Yahya Disu, said there was the need to prioritise the needs and well-being of the population in building resilient health systems.

One aspect highlighted by Disu was the importance of community engagement.

“By involving communities in emergency preparedness and response efforts, local knowledge, resources, and capacities can be leveraged effectively.

“This approach empowers individuals and communities to take ownership of their own health and well-being, leading to more sustainable and resilient systems,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CODE, Mr Hamzat Lawal, at the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Transparency and Accountability Project,(CTAP), Health Summit, also stressed the significance of investing in capacity building of healthcare workers.

“Adequately trained and equipped healthcare personnel are essential for effective emergency response.

“By providing training, support, and incentives to healthcare workers, they can be better prepared to handle emergencies and provide quality care to those in need,” he said.

Lawal also said there is the need for a multi-sector approach to building resilience health systems.

He advocates collaboration between different sectors such as health, education, transportat, and communication to ensure a holistic response to emergencies.

“This approach fosters coordination, information sharing, and resource pooling, thereby strengthening the overall emergency response capacity of the country,” he said.

Strengthening Health Systems Lead at BudgIT, Dr Biobele Davidson, also raised concerns about the equitable distribution of resources and services.

Davidson highlighted the need to address underlying social determinants of health, such as poverty, gender inequality, and lack of access to basic services in the country.

“By addressing these disparities, public health systems can become more resilient and responsive to emergencies,” she said.

She advanced that people-centred approach was essential in strengthening emergency preparedness and response in the country.

According to health experts, by empowering communities, investing in healthcare workers, promoting multi-sector collaboration, and addressing social determinants of health, resilient public health systems can be built to effectively respond to emergencies and protect the well-being of Nigerians.


Nigeria’s Separation of Oil and Gas Ministries: A masterstroke for economic growth



By Dr. Owolabi Ajibade

As a country, the management of our energy resources plays a crucial role in shaping our economic stability, environmental sustainability, and energy security. Nigeria, with its vast natural gas reserves estimated to exceed 208 trillion cubic feet (TCF), holds the potential to become a key player in the global natural gas market. Despite these abundant resources, Nigeria’s gas sector has been historically underexploited.

Until recently, the responsibility for both oil and gas resources in Nigeria fell under the umbrella of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. However, the Nigerian government has made a groundbreaking decision to separate the Gas sector from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. This landmark move is not only aimed at streamlining and enhancing the administration of our energy resources but also holds the promise of unlocking numerous economic and environmental benefits.

There are several compelling reasons why this separation is likely to yield significant advantages. Firstly, oil and gas possess distinct characteristics, operational processes, and market dynamics. The division of the Gas sector from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources paves the way for more focused and specialised regulation of each sector. By establishing separate entities to oversee the oil and gas industries, we can effectively address the unique challenges and opportunities presented by each domain. This will result in more efficient oversight, clearer objectives, policy formulation, resource management, and regulatory decisions, fostering a more conducive environment for investment and innovation.

Secondly, the oil and gas industries often require different regulatory frameworks. For instance, gas pipelines and distribution networks have distinct operational requirements compared to those for oil. By separating the ministries, the government can streamline regulations and tailor them to the specific needs of each sector. This will ultimately lead to more efficient operations and, consequently, higher productivity.

Thirdly, investors typically seek stability and clarity in government policies and regulations. By demonstrating a commitment to the gas sector through a dedicated ministry, Nigeria has become a more attractive destination for investors who are more likely to consider opportunities in the gas industry, spanning from exploration and production to distribution and infrastructure development.

For a sector often plagued by allegations of corruption, separating the gas component from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources will promote transparency and accountability. The independence of the two ministries allows for a more transparent financial reporting system, making it less challenging to track revenue flows, expenditures, and resource allocation accurately.

The Gas sector, often overshadowed by its oil counterpart, holds immense untapped potential. With the right leadership and policies in place, Nigeria’s gas sector is poised for exponential growth, leading to economic prosperity and sustainable development.

The recent appointment of Rt. Hon. Ekperikpe Ekpo as Minister of State for Petroleum, Gas Resources is a welcome development. Ekpo has consistently expressed his determination to optimise the country’s energy resources and has thus far demonstrated his ability to effectively unlock the full potential of Nigeria’s gas sector, strengthening the country’s revenue base and maximising economic development.

As the world transitions towards renewable energy sources and strives to reduce carbon emissions, Ekpo is tasked with maximising efficiency, which aligns with the broader global shift towards cleaner energy sources, thereby securing a resilient energy landscape for the nation. The Minister must, therefore, take the lead in transitioning the gas sector towards greater integration with renewable energy sources.

Honourable Minister Ekpo must encourage partnerships with research institutions and industry stakeholders to drive innovation in the gas sector, such as developing more efficient gas extraction methods, cleaner burning technologies, and carbon capture and storage solutions. Such an approach not only reinforces the sustainability of the gas sector but also future-proofs it against potential market shifts.

The development of the gas sector is critical for Nigeria to achieve its economic development goals. Stakeholders in the gas sector have a responsibility to work collaboratively with Rt. Hon. Ekperikpe Ekpo in the Gas Ministry to provide a reliable and affordable source of energy for power generation, industrialisation, and transportation, while also creating jobs and opportunities for Nigerians.

Dr. Ajibade is a gas expert with over 20 years of experience in the energy sector. He is currently a consultant, a strong advocate for the development of Nigeria’s gas sector and believes that the separation of the Gas sector from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources is a positive step towards this goal.

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Osun’s maladministration: When will Dr. Deji Adeleke address that press conference?



By Ismail Omipidan

The popular saying, ‘Promises are like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver’ appears apt in situating the promise made in July last year by a business mogul and elder brother of current Osun Governor, Dr. Deji Adeleke, that he would be the first to address the press if his brother, Ademola Adeleke, derails in the administration of the state.

Ordinarily, if this unprovoked, unsolicited and solemn promise was made at any of the political gatherings, I probably would not have bothered to keep tabs on it, let alone bring it to the knowledge of the public. But because it was made in an academic environment that does not tolerate frivolous claims, I feel duty bound to take Dr. Deji Adeleke to task on this matter. And if after today, he is unable to provide any credible and verifiable evidence as to why he is yet to address the press, I will never take him seriously again on any serious state matter.

I will also mobilise every right-thinking and discerning Osun citizen, every lover of liberty, democracy and free speech, every well wisher for Osun’s posterity, never to trust and believe Dr. Deji Adeleke again.

But if he decides to justify his criminal silence over the way Osun is currently being run and insist that the governor, his younger brother, is doing well, I would excuse him, since, like me, he is equally entitled to his opinion. I will only remind him that while comments are free, facts are indeed sacred.

To move forward, we must remind ourselves where we are coming from. It is time to think beyond party lines, and think Osun first, if indeed we are desirous of having a changed society.

I believe that it is not too late for Dr. Deji Adeleke to prevail on his brother to reconsider some of his administration’s bad policies and missteps that have become challenges to Osun and its people.

One of the challenges the State appears to be grappling with is the issue of Osun’s share of the Federal Government palliatives, which I addressed in my interview on Monday. After the interview went viral, instead of addressing the issues raised, the Governor’s spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, and some of his media handlers resorted to personal attacks. In fact, one of them called me a foreigner, simply because I was born in Benue State and had to work in the north before I was invited by my Principal, Adegboyega Oyetola, to join his team in 2019. Well, I am proud of my birth place, just as I am equally proud of my Ila Orangun origin.

In the interview under reference, I queried why Osun remains the only State in the South West that has not allowed the FG palliatives to impact on the people of the State, including the workers.

Interestingly, it took them several months after pocketing the funds before they admitted that they even received any fund. At the “Ipade Imole” held last month, the governor disclosed that the N2 billion palliative fund received from the Federal Government would be spent on three projects, namely the purchase of additional buses to complement the buses in the pool of the state, the rehabilitation of health centres in the state and the purchase of food items for distribution to the people of the state. The government made it emphatically clear that there would not be any addition to workers’ salaries.

But after my Monday interview, I was embarrassingly surprised to wake up to a circular this morning, signed by Sunday Olugbenga Fadele, a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Human Resources and Capacity Building. He revealed that workers in the service of the state would get a N15,000 wage award while pensioners would receive N10,000 and that the wage award will run for six months, beginning from the month of December. This is a welcome development and this is what we have been asking them to do since August this year.

However, I have a push back. Why give approval on November 28 and then set effective date in December? If the money is available, why the delay in disbursement? Again, at what point did the government change its mind? This is what I said about telling lies in public and political communications. For me, this latest summersault appears to vindicate my position on Monday that Osun workers are not smiling. I am sure they’ll wish for a better deal than what it is getting from the dancing and singing Governor, who unfortunately was not around on Monday to show the people of the state what he knows how to do best.

Well, as Osun citizens, whether you are for the PDP or APC, it is in our collective interest for the government to succeed. God forbid, if it fails, we will all pay dearly for it. Our state will pay for it and our children will never forgive Dr. Deji Adeleke and all those who collaborated to unleash an adult who had little or no working experience, on us in Osun to manage our affairs.

Osun must survive beyond APC and PDP, and we all must play our part if we truly want Osun to survive.

Omipidan writes from Abuja.

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Fixing Africa’s under-development through novel leadership set



Fixing Africa’s under-development through novel leadership set

By Mayozi John

African countries have continued to contend with under-development; many try to snake out of the situation, which is directly linked to leadership failure and poor governance systems.

Apart from some of the countries under military dictatorship, others are also struggling even in their democracy, with poor electoral processes always marking the transition of power from one government to another. Dearth of focused political leaders has been largely blamed for this; hence, the stunted growth in most of the African states.

One of the persons irked by the worsening leadership question in Africa is Nigeria’s former Minister of Education and one-time presidential candidate, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, who is also famous for her #BringBackOurGirls Movement, has been concerned with.

Instead of just bemoaning the situation, she decided to do something to help. She moved to mould young men and women across Africa, who would stand tall and take over their countries. Decision alone, she felt, is not enough; she put her hands on the plough by founding the School of Politics, Policy, and Governance.

Speaking recently at the graduation ceremony of SPPG, she described the institution as an unconventional school designed to attract, develop and produce a new generation of political leaders, who would listen and serve the new class of citizens, who know their rights. SPPG’s mission, she added, is to educate future leaders and public officials, who are dedicated to the good of the nation and ready to serve the well being of all citizens.

According to her, SPPG has, for years, built a reputation of equipping leaders with the right values, knowledge and skills required to solve complex public problems.

She said, “The 33-week programme of the first-of-its-kind world-class institution for shaping new kind of public leaders, offers a unique opportunity for prospective leaders to be equipped with the requisite knowledge, skills and values required for effective, disruptive and progressive public leadership.

“The programme includes a wide range of carefully selected courses comprising 24 modules that are analytically and empirically relevant to solving Africa’s complex development problems.”

The former minister noted that SPPG is focused on building ethical, competent and capable leaders and producing, at scale, a new genre of public leadership that serves the people and delivers on governance.

“Leadership for results and positive impact is a mission SPPG has determined to make the most important conversation in the public space of Nigeria and the rest of Africa,” said Ezekwesili.

She tasked African leaders on the need to leverage technology and the trending disruption to enhance economic growth across the continent.

Ezekwesili, who is also the Convener/Chair of #FixPolitics, said the continent has continued to experience increasing leadership deficit in the areas of policy analysis, development and good governance, disclosing that SPPG is determined to bridge the gaps experienced in these areas with a well-tailored curriculum for African students with a global perspective.

On leadership deficit on the continent, Ezekwesili insisted that “the world needs Africa and Africa needs the world.”

She added, “The existing multilateral order is broken and must be urgently fixed, so that our world can make critical decisions and take the right actions on issues that affect us all.

“Africa must be at the centre of conversations on global governance, economic growth, poverty and inequality, climate change, disruptive technologies and related issues of human and social development. The world will do better with Africa actively at the table of the redesign of today’s global architecture for a future that provides equal opportunity for everyone anywhere to excel.”

To be ready for this, she stressed, Africa needs disruptive leaders, who are constantly interested in finding better solutions to problems of their communities, countries and the world.

The former minister linked Nigeria’s leadership problem to distorted political culture, where leaders place personal interests above public good, and canvassed a change of mindset by leaders to tackle the growing economy and security challenges in their countries.

She observed that character, competence and capacity were the missing link in producing good leaders in Africa, stressing the need for disruptive thinking in the nation’s political space.

“We found that not just in Nigeria, but across Africa, there is a distorted political culture. It is the political culture where those in public leadership subordinate the public good, that is the common good, for their personal and narrow interests. This means that the common good is not served by people, who should be serving. To correct that, you have to customise a new leadership mindset.

“So, the training we give at SPPG has the content to reset the mindset of those who wish to lead. They lead by serving, place character at the foundation of the knowledge we give them by improving on their competency and the capacity to articulate sound policies, be able to design institutions that enable society to advance and to have the capacity to make the right choices of investment in the goods and services that countries need to grow,” she said.

Analysts are united on the fact that Africa, especially Nigeria, needs exemplary leaders and followers to build its polity and make the citizenry enjoy the dividends of democracy.

Regrettably, it has been observed that failure at providing good governance has been the lot of almost every Nigerian government, whether military or civilian.

Not a few scholars posit that Nigerians collectively lack a clearly defined vision championed by their leaders, and that this has remained the country’s political albatross since it became independent more than three score years ago.

Nigeria’s multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society would arguably do better, if anchored on a well-defined national vision. But that has not been the case. The cost is evident in the serial failures of the country to evolve into a nation and realise its enormous potential.

Ezekwesili is not alone on this push for the advancement of quality leadership in Africa.

The Chief Executive Officer of SPPG, Alero Ayida-Otobo, believes there is urgent need to groom a new set of leaders with policy development and good governance mindset, while educating new political leaders dedicated to the values of good governance in and out of Nigeria, based on the values the school upholds.

“We want to contribute to instilling in politicians and public administrators a deep sense of moral commitment to the common good as a foundation for Nigeria and Africa’s future prosperity.

“SPPG aims to strengthen the bonds between government, public administration and citizens by fostering dialogue, accountability and transparency,” she stated.

Most African countries, she noted, have the same developmental problems like Nigeria; hence, #FixPolitics and SPPG propel the drivers to cover the continent. They started in Nigeria but are going to cover the 54 countries in Africa.

“SPPG is one of the three pillars of the #FixPolitics Initiative. What we do is very pivotal to the future of Nigeria. The mission is to elevate the Office Of The Citizen; we want to enlighten the citizens of this country.

“Our goal is to equip 21st century politicians that will be value-driven, with character, unquestionable competence and undeniable capacity,” Ayida-Otobo stated.

In the same vein, President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network, Olu Omotayo, believes that beyond building men and women as future leaders, there is need for strong institutions in Africa.

In one of his media outings, he lamented that irrespective of strong leaders, Africa lacks strong institutions.

“In the Western world, anybody that comes to power, his action does not affect institutions because the institutions are strong already. When Obama visited Ghana, he said what Africans need is strong institutions and not strong individuals. Once the institutions are strong, things will work.

“But we do not have strong institutions; that is why a President can sit down in the Presidential Villa and ask the Central Bank governor to bring a certain amount of money. That cannot happen in developed countries; you must pass through procedures. The President is the head of government, but he has no power over those institutions; the institutions are separated from the running of government.

“But here, the institutions feel they are subservient to the executive. Even the judiciary, when you come to Nigeria, for instance, you see that the judiciary and the legislature have not been able to actually stand on their feet. These are the problems that make Africa to still be under-developed.”

While hailing the efforts being made by Ezekwesili and others, he, however, said more efforts should be channelled towards raising more citizens who could stand and challenge the status quo and defend the institutions.

“I have always been of the belief that the problem of Africa and, of course, Nigeria, is lack of collective effort of the people. If the people are determined that our institutions must be strong, they must be strong. So, we should not be focusing on leadership; if the citizens say this is what we want, they should demand it.

“Look at the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria, it was enacted to make people always demand accountability from their leaders, but how many cases have you seen? Those are the problems.

“So, there is the need to groom the people to take their destinies in their hands; they must be able to challenge the authorities and demand accountability. It is not just training some few leaders, who will turn out to become overlords; we need to train citizens who will stand on their feet,” he said.

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