Osinbajo: Jonathan Wasted Years of Oil Boom to Turn Around Health Sector

  • Saraki says budget to be ready in few days

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has once again blamed past leaders especially, former President Goodluck Jonathan for the rot in the health sector despite the huge resources within its coffers.

Osinbajo stated this yesterday in Abuja while representing President Muhammadu Buhari at the 58th annual delegates meeting and scientific conference of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).

He was of the opinion that Jonathan administration squandered the opportunity provided by the oil boom of 2010 to 2015 to improve the fortunes of Nigeria’s health system.

According to the vice president, their predecessor failed to seize the moment and invest in the health sector when the global price of crude oil was over $100 barrels per day.

Apart from Jonathan and the past leaders, Osinbajo also stressed that the insurgency in the North-east which started within the same period further brought the health sector to its knees with the attendant impact on the level of immunisation and availability of medical personnel

He stated: “It is no longer news that we inherited a troubled health care sector and the sector has been troubled for a long time. As one of the manifestations of the severely low spending on infrastructure generally and in health care in particular, I think that what we have seen through the years is a scandalously low level of funding for public health care in Nigeria.

“The level of public sector investment in health care in our recent past has in no way reflected our earnings, the high oil earnings, especially in the period between 2010 and 2015. That was when we earned the highest from oil prices.

“Add to this, a devastating insurgency in the North-east, which succeeded in bringing an already tottering health system in that part of the country to its knees, with the attendant impact on immunisation levels and the availability of medical personnel. There were some issues that consumed a substantial part of our attention, and these issues were among them: the problems with the healthcare sector, poor funding and of course, the North-east and the threat of the spread of some diseases, some of those diseases that had been under control on account of the fact that it had been extremely difficult to reach some parts of the North-east until a couple of years ago.”
Osinbajo who spoke on the theme: “Quality Healthcare: An Indicator of Good Governance”, appealed to the striking health workers to return to work noting that while investments in public health care must be improved, it is unlikely that it would be sufficient.

He informed the health workers and other stakeholders that paying for health care from budgets would not be able to improve the health sector unless other concerned parties and donor agencies augment the government’s efforts.
“As I close,” he said, “Let me use this opportunity to express my deep concern about the negative impact of strikes in our public health service.”

He continued: “While the agitations for better conditions of service by healthcare professionals are, and will continue to be necessary and legitimate expressions, we also wish that medical personnel should take on some responsibility for showing greater understanding in your dealings with the government, as we jointly work towards resolving the several problems and tensions in the health sector. Many of these problems predate many of us in so many ways; it predates your administration and predates our administration. But they are problems that must be solved seated round a table trying to resolve them. Where the resolution results in the several loss of lives of Nigerians, then we must take a second look on how to approach it.

“On our part we will continue to listen to you, and to discuss solutions that are agreeable to all stakeholders. We have constituted an inter-ministerial committee to examine all previous reports, documents, policy instruments and laws, including the Yayale Ahmed Committee report, with the goal of engendering cordial working relationships among all health personnel, and between all of you and the federal government.”

Also speaking, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, stressed the need to shift focus to the primary health care centres and not the secondary and tertiary institutions.

Saraki however, promised that the National Health Act would be fully implemented even as he revealed that the budget would be ready in a few days.

“I am confident that the Appropriation bill that will come out in the next few days will have one per cent coverage for primary healthcare. This is key in addressing the health sector.
“So, we hope that once the bill is signed into law, you will have the one per cent and that is our commitment,” he added.

Earlier , the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, promised that the government was working hard to curb medical tourism that has seen huge capital flight from the country.

Adewole noted that the government is determined to improve the overall health care system in Nigeria.
This, he said, was what informed the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund otherwise known as ‘Huwe’, and the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement programme.

According to him, ‘Huwe’ is a $90m project that allows Nigeria to build its capacity for faster detection of infectious disease outbreaks.