Corruption: NMA Calls on FG, Presidency to Beam Searchlight on Health Agencies

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Paul Obi in Abuja

Following several allegations of corruption in the health sector, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), monday urged the federal government to beam its searchlight on agencies, parastatals and departments in the Federal Ministry of Health in order to rid the sector of high cases of graft and diversion of public funds.

The NMA made the call in Abuja ahead of its 2016 Physicians’ Week with the theme: ‘Health Care Delivery in a Frail Economy: Challenges and the Way Forward’, arguing that the body would not hesitate to call for the adoption of Department of State Services (DSS) method or any other strategy to fight corruption in the sector.

Speaking with journalists, NMA President, Prof. Michael Ogirima; its Director General, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu, and other executive members of the association insisted that the best thing for the government to do is to carry out the cleansing of the health sector of corruption just as it has done in the judiciary.
Ogirima said: “We call on the federal government to extend the anti-corruption crusade to all other sectors of the economy as it has done in the judiciary arm of the government.

“It is our belief that if this is extended to the health sector, the little resources available in the sector would be properly utilised to improve the affordability and accessibility of healthcare services to Nigerians passing through the economic recession.”

The NMA president stated that “if President Muhammadu Buhari finds it necessary to clear corruption tendencies in the health sector, I will support. Health sector is not the only sector in the economy. Of course we are aware of a committee working on the Global Fund, we are also advocating and asking about what is happening to that committee? We want that committee report to be made public.

“I am sure the president has his own strategies in addressing these issues- corruption in any particular sector. We won’t pre-empt whatever decision he has taken on corruption in any sector, including health,” Ogirima stressed.

He explained that “on the issue of the IDPs, NMA wishes to stress that the conditions in most IDP camps and welfare services provided by the government are suboptimal. In view of the president’s determination to fight corruption, there is need for the federal government to investigate and bring to book all those accused of diversion of relief materials meant for the IDPs.”

He added: “On our own part, the executive of the NMA has constituted a committee on IDPs and we call on all state branches of the NMA with IDPs challenges to do same and create time as part of their CSR to address health challenges in the camps from time to time.
“The NMA wishes to draw the attention of the government to the negative impact of the psychological trauma and health challenges facing the released Chibok girls. We wish to stress here that we are ever ready to partner in providing voluntary specialist health care services to all the released Chibok girls through our members across the country.”
He further stated that the “NMA wishes to commend the bold step taken by the Federal Ministry of Health in resolving the prolonged crises bedeviling the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owerri.

“The NMA wishes to state that we stand by the just released directive of the ministry. We call on all the security agencies to be at alert and to act appropriately on any individual or group of persons planning to foment crises to deny the good people of Imo State quality health care services provided by the only Federal Tertiary Health Institution in the state. We also wish to call on the management of FMC Owerri to improve on its relationship with professional associations and unions and ensure equity and fairness in the discharge of their mandates.”

The NMA also decried the increasing cases of low purchases of essential health care needs by citizens of Nigeria; infrastructural decay of health facilities across the country, low budgetary provisions by all tiers of government for the health sector, slow progress of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and non-implementation of the National Health Act (NHA 2014) since 2014.

Notwithstanding the position of the NMA on the FMC, the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) said yesterday that it would protest today and occupy the FMC Owerri, against the decision of the federal government to reinstate the erstwhile Medical Director of FMC, Mrs. Angela Uwakem.

JOHESU President, Dr. Biobelemoye Josiah, has accused the Federal Ministry of Health for shielding the investigation of the medical director and giving the authorities a clean bill of health amid a pending court case on the issue.