Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr. Salihu Lukman, has called on the federal government to invest massively in the health sector following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
He said the challenges posed by coronavirus is a wake-up call for both the leaders and the citizens, whether to be united in taking census of affected population, counting or celebrating deaths.
Lukman stated this in a statement issued yesterday, where he noted that at this early stages of the manifestations of the threat of COVID-19 in Nigeria, “there was need to take urgent steps to recover humanity and ensure that the country’s responses help in producing the needed changes that could protect lives of citizens, guarantee quality and accessible healthcare services.”
According to him, “All these can only be achieved through high public investment in our health sector, which will also be partly dependent on similar high public investment in the education sector that will be required to produce the medical personnel.
“In this trying time, there are hard facts that we must come to terms with. As Nigerians, since the mid-1980s, our public policy thrust discourages public expenditure in health and education sectors. In some ways, COVID-19 pandemic is confronting us with the opportunity to revisit our public policy thrust.
“Therefore, part of what could be the challenge facing us as Nigerians may be the issue of initiating processes of developing our health sector such that it is able to mobilise our leaders and citizens to work in harmony.”
The director-general added that one of the lessons COVID-19 has brought is that the country’s health and safety could only be guaranteed with good public investment in the health sector.
Lukman said given the terrible state of the country’s hospitals, almost every citizen believes that to find cure for any sickness, major or minor, Nigerians have to go outside the country, irrespective of individuals earnings or social status, this is a common belief across all divides in the country.
He added that as a result, everybody’s instinct, once faced with medical challenge, is to mobilise financial resources, which many have to achieve through donations by family members and well-wishers.
Lukman noted that with COVID-19 dangers facing all countries equally, most of the countries that used to be destinations for Nigerians in search of medical services have shut down.
He emphasised that the task of responding to coronavirus required collective responses from both leaders and citizens, stressing that COVID-19, being the leveler, “the earlier the leaders and the citizens come to terms with this fact, the better for everyone.”