By Jonathan Eze
Africaâ€™s foremost entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote, has given an insight into why he is advocating that the private sector operators in the country should commit one per cent of their profit annually to funding health care services.
Dangote had suggested to members of an expanded National Economic Council meeting recently on the need to have a trust fund to revitalise the countryâ€™s sorry public health sector similar to the education trust fund operated at the federal level and security trust fund run in some states.
He expressed the conviction that such trust fund would go a long way to help the health sector and improve the peopleâ€™s wellbeing in the face of multiple challenges confronting the country with limited resources available to government.
His advice came on the day the Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates picked holes in the economic policy of the federal government, when he said the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) being bandied by the government does not address the needs of Nigerians.
Gates said the ERGP was just a mere document which identifies the need to invest in people but which has failed to reflect so in its implementation adding that though Nigeria has economic potential, it has to be maximised through investment in people as the greatest resource.
The Microsoft Founder stated emphatically that Nigeria was a dangerous country to give birth as it is the fourth worst country in maternity mortality rate in the world, only better than Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. He therefore urged the government to invest in healthcare, education and human capital because Nigeriaâ€™s fiscal system is built on low equilibrium, which in turn produces low level of service.
Dangote, while speaking with journalists in Lagos at the weekend on the proposal for one per cent profit for health care trust fund said for Nigeria to invest in her people, the same people must have good health and it is glaring that government does not have enough resources to execute all health care infrastructure, hence the need for private sector to come in.
The President of Dangote Group explained that such fund could be administered by government and private sector together for maximum impact just as it is being done in the educational sector.
While expressing his readiness to offer necessary assistance to government on how to come about the trust fund, he enjoined private sector operators to be ready to join hands with government â€œto achieve the overall objective of improving our public health sector and turn around our human capital availability.â€
Dangote had through his Foundation, the Dangote Foundation committed billions of Naira on critical intervention in the health sector by building hospitals and equipping teaching hospitals.
His Foundation is currently building the biggest maternity wards in Aminu Kano specialist hospital and state of the arts Surgical Operating Theatre and Diagnostic Centre (SDC), at a cost N7 billion, which will soon be completed.
The 900-bed capacity maternity at the hospital, reputed for highest number of in-patients in sub-Saharan Africa, has been lacking facilities that may detract from the new SDC being built by the Foundation, hence the decision to carry out the construction and renovation of the auxiliary facilities.
The Foundation is currently building a N7 billion Surgical and Diagnostic Centre at the hospital and the foundation, whose chairman is from the state, said it was committed to its timely completion.
Already the foundation has handed over to the hospital management a renovated maternity ward, two ultra-modern maternity laboratories, upgraded water supply system Eclampsia ward, theatre and improved sanitary environment befitting of a specialist hospital.
Dangote explained that the provision of the health care facilities was in line with the focus of the foundation to contribute to improved health care service delivery in Nigeria as well as nutrition on the African continent.
He stated that his foundation has mandate to intervene in the critical areas such as health, education and human development which was why the foundation has also embarked on some poverty alleviation programmes targeted at women at the grassroots.