My dear party members, on behalf of the leaders of our great party, I welcome you all to this meeting of stakeholders. Thank you for finding time to attend, even at such a short notice.
- I specially welcome our State Governors and deputy Governors, our members of the National Assembly who are competently flying our party flag, as well as Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi who are our eminent party leaders.
Let me appreciate the presence of the former National chairmen of our great Party and remind ourselves of the commendable services these Chairmen and Acting Chairmen had rendered towards improving the fortunes of our party.
We remember the services of Chief Solomon Lar of blessed memory, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr Haliru Bello, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Alhaji Adamu Muazu and Prince Uche Secondus.
Permit me to also acknowledge the efforts of our founding fathers who played key roles in moving the country from dictatorship to a constitutional democracy. We remember the services of the former Vice President Chief Alex Ekwueme, Mallam Adamu Chiroma and others. We are proud to state that the PDP had propelled this country into a functional democracy and creditably managed the affairs of the nation for 16 years, from 1999 to 2015.
I will like to note at this point that, although I had been working with some of our leaders back stage, this is the very first major meeting of our Great party that I will be attending, since I left office almost two years ago. So permit me to describe this meeting as a joyous family
re-union. I am really very pleased with the enthusiasm shown by our party members to attend this meeting.
There is no doubt that our party has in the last two years gone through some difficulties. However, in a democracy this is not strange in the life of a political party, especially after losing power to the opposition, like we did.
I should note that the situation is similar, albeit milder, even in advanced democracies. We should not forget that the Labour Party in the United Kingdom and the Democratic Party in the United States, both of which lost power at different times, have also been making efforts to reunite, reconcile and re-energise to become stronger, before the next general elections.
I will like to point out that every election cycle throws up a challenge as well as opportunities for a political party; a test to re-evaluate its performance, and an opportunity to reform its processes and programmes, towards rediscovering itself to become even more appealing to the electorates, in its next outing.
That is how evolution happens in a functional democracy: as parties continue to retool and reform in the bid to regain political power, governance improves and the people and society become better.
It is obvious that some of our people see this development as not only disappointing but discouraging for our great party. Although I can understand this sense of loss, I always prefer to align myself with those who choose to see it differently, given the positive impact our conduct and disposition has had in deepening our democracy.
All over the world, political parties lose elections, not because they have entirely failed, but because, in most cases, the people who gave them power in the first place, have decided to hand it over to another party, in order to experience a different kind of leadership. In Africa and other emerging democracies, the challenge had always been with the disposition of the party in power to allow the people the opportunity to freely exercise this right.
This obviously is the area where we have excelled. The fact that we allowed this process to take place peacefully, and freely handed over power to the opposition did not only lift the profile of our party, but also elevated our country to the status of one of the world’s stable and reliable democracies. For this gesture alone, the whole world has continued to applaud our party and its leaders as icons of democracy on the continent.
We were able to achieve this because our Government really reformed the electoral and political process, by giving the electoral bodies their true independence which subsequently opened up the political space for free and fair elections.
We may have had shortcomings while in power, but we also recorded significant achievements and great milestones. Through purposeful leadership, we reformed our institutions, rebuilt the nation’s confidence, regained international goodwill and rekindled hope in our people.
This is not a forum for chest-thumping but it is important we highlight some relevant initiatives of past PDP administrations. Our ideological commitment towards a private sector-led and
people-oriented economy manifested in the great achievements we recorded in various sectors including communications, agriculture, public financial management and financial reforms, the financial services, rail and roads infrastructure, as well as in the social services.
In agriculture we revolutionized the sector by introducing programmes that encouraged more people, including the youths to embrace farming as a thriving business. We also boosted local capacity for food production, thereby drastically reducing the prize of food stuff and food import bill.
Our Youth Enterprises with Innovation (YouWin) and the Nagropreneur programmes not only encouraged young people to go into such difficult business areas as agriculture, it also helped them to become entrepreneurs and acquire the capacity to employ other people.
That the PDP Government improved communication in Nigeria through the introduction of Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM) and the expansion of the nation’s information and communication technology architecture needs no gainsay.
We equally expanded our educational horizon by implementing reforms in the sector and establishing 14 new Federal Government-owned Universities while three colleges of education were upgraded to degree awarding institutions.
We transformed the entertainment industry, especially Nollywood, by not only boosting its capacities and international prominence, but also turning it into an attractive and viable sector that became an important contributor to the growth of our economy.
We built the Kaduna-Abuja rail, the first modern rail in the country. We also pursued a successful automotive policy and established a promising industrial revolution plan.
We equally enacted the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in order to give the people unfettered access to information on the activities of Government.
The last four years of our time in office as a party was in deed quite momentous as we fully restored confidence in our economy by not only steadying the fundamentals for growth and growing the economy to become the largest in Africa, but also repositioning it to become the number one foreign direct investment destination in Africa.
There is no doubt that the PDP is a leading light in constitutional democracy and this is why we cannot allow the party to continue to drift. This meeting of today is therefore designed to stem the drift.
I have to state clearly that today is not a day to blame ourselves. We have blamed ourselves enough in the media. Today is not a day to insult ourselves, we have also done enough of that in the media. Today is the day our great party men and women will come up with suggestions and solutions to our problems. We will surely overcome the current challenge. The PDP will definitely rise again.
The meeting of today is noticeably unique and it is aimed at achieving two key objectives:
To reassure our party members and all Nigerians that the PDP is united and still remains the largest party in Nigeria and one that has all it takes to win key elections.
That without prejudice to the on going litigation over some issues, the party leaders are out to develop a mechanism towards achieving a lasting and enduring political settlement of our differences.
Great and committed members of our Great Party, you will all agree with me that this house as presently constituted is too large to fine tune details of our reconciliation plans and for the intended final political settlement out of court. Permit me to therefore recommend that the meeting be conducted in two tiers viz:
The larger body of stakeholders as we are now. This body will come up with suggestions on the way forward for resolving the differences that we currently face.
A smaller committee of not more than 40 members will be constituted to fine tune the suggestions of the larger body, to finally resolve all the outstanding issues.
- In closing, I charge our great party leaders to make personal and general sacrifices to ensure the quick resolution of the problems in our party. The PDP is a symbol of democracy. If you believe in the PDP, there is no sacrifice too big for you to make.
As politicians, with the zeal to lead our people, we must aspire to higher offices or identify the people we believe have leadership qualities and encourage them to aspire to those positions. But one thing is very clear: You cannot, as the polity is configured today, be elected into a higher office on the platform of a weak party.
We must all, therefore, work to rebuild the PDP and strengthen the party in line with the vision of our founding fathers, and the mission to continue to provide for the good of the people of our great country, valuable leadership in a stable democracy rooted in the rule of law.
We have to remind ourselves that the prolongation of the crisis in our party may have cost us so much in election fortunes, in recent time. The loss of Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections is still fresh in our memory. It goes without saying that we cannot afford to have a repeat of that in the forthcoming elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.
It is high time we buried the hatchet, suppressed our ego and prepared to make sacrifices in the interest of our party and, in deed the country.
Our ambitions therefore must come second, otherwise we will only be building castles on quick sand. We must realize that as they say, everybody is nobody without a platform. So, why destroy the platform?
I urge our teeming members to remain steadfast and continue to believe in the PDP. As I said earlier, it is true that we suffered a setback in 2015, but the fact remains that the PDP is still the largest party in our dear country.
There is no doubt that the PDP will emerge from this moment of trial to regain its position as the greatest party on our continent.
My great party men and women, thank you for coming.
God bless the People’s Democratic Party!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!
SANWO-OLU: WORK TO RESUME ON PEN-CINEMA BRIDGE
There will soon be respite for motorists plying Agege-Pen Cinema axis in Lagos, as State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu assures accelerated completion of the abandoned Pen-Cinema Bridge.
The Governor spoke on Sunday while inspecting ongoing rehabilitation work on major roads in Iju area of the state by Lagos State Public Works Corporation.
Sanwo-Olu, in company of his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said the contractor handling the bridge construction was being prepared for re-mobilisation back on the site.
Expressing concern over the pains residents go through due to regular gridlock on the alternative routes occasioned by abandoned project, Sanwo-Olu said his government would compensate for the discomfort by ensuring timely completion of the bridge.
He said: “I can assure you that we are currently in talks with the contractors handling key road projects in Ikorodu, which are Igbogbo and Ishawo roads, and also a critical project in Agege area, which is the Pen-Cinema Bridge. Our promise is that, if it is not by end of this month; then, by next month, the contractors will be fully mobilised back on sites to complete the work.
“We are particularly concerned about the pain motorists are going through because of the incomplete construction of Pen-Cinema Bridge. We are hoping that the contractor handling the bridge construction, too, will be mobilised back on site. Once we push these three critical infrastructures and get them completed, relief would come to residents in these areas.”
The Governor said the ongoing road repair across the state was an outcome of his Executive Order, which declared emergency rehabilitation of critical roads.
Sanwo-Olu said the repair was being carried out in six segments, pointing out that the highways and arterial carriages were captured in the first set of repair across the state.
He said repair work would begin on roads captured in other segments in succession. The Governor urged commuters to be patient while the repair is being carried out.
He expressed satisfaction on the level of work done, while assuring that the road rehabilitation would be ongoing to until 100 major roads marked for repair in all Local Government Areas across the state get done.
Sanwo-Olu said his administration would continue to be responsive to the challenges confronting the people, assuring the actions of his government would focus on bringing relief to taxpayers.
“We have risen up to the expectations of Lagosians and we believe there is still a lot more to do. It is a work in progress. But we can feel the immediate relief that are coming to residents of all the areas where the rehabilitation work is being done currently,” the Governor said.
Also joining the Governor during the inspection is the Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and General Manager of Lagos State Public Works Corporation, Engr. Daramola Olufemi.
EDITORIAL: Healthcare Reforms in Nigeria; A Mere Political Statement Lacking Commitment
By Manny Ita
Nigeria has since her independence in 1960 had a very robust verbiage or policies by successive gobernments on health reforms but with very little progress or success recorded in what might well be a lack of political will in reforming the health sector.
Over 90% of the Nigerian population are without health insurance coverage. The inability to effectively address the country’s numerous public health challenges has contributed to the persistent and high level of poverty and weakness of the health system.
Political instability, corruption, limited institutional capacity and an unstable economy have also been major factors responsible for the poor development of health services in Nigeria. Households and individuals in Nigeria bear the burden of a dysfunctional and inequitable health system – delaying or not seeking health care and having to pay out of pocket for health care services that are not affordable.
The health challenges of the country include:
National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS),
National Immunisation Coverage Scheme (NICS),
Midwives Service Scheme (MSS)
Nigerian Pay for Performance scheme
After many attempts at implementing legislation on health insurance since 1960, NHIS, although established in 1999, was eventually launched only in 2005 with the goals to ensure access to quality health care services, provide financial risk protection, reduce rising costs of health care services and ensure efficiency in health care through programmes such as the: Formal Sector Social Health Insurance Programme (FSSHIP), Mobile Health, Voluntary Contributors Social Health Insurance Programme (VCSHIP), Tertiary Institution Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP), Community Based Social Health Insurance Programme (CBSHIP), Public Primary Pupils Social Health Insurance Programme (PPPSHIP), and the provision of health care services for children under 5 years, prison inmates, disabled persons, retirees and the elderly.
The NHIS was expected to provide social and financial risk protection by reducing the cost of health care and providing equitable access to basic health services with the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria including children, pregnant women, people living with disabilities, elderly, displaced, unemployed, retirees and the sick.
Free health care services and exemption mechanisms are expected to provide financial risk protection for the most vulnerable populations but evidence suggest that they are ineffective and have failed to achieve this aim.
The maternal mortality ratio for Nigeria remain quite high at 814 per 100000 live births according to 2016 World Health Statistics. Across the country, pregnant women and children under five years are generally charged fees when accessing health care services, despite the federal government’s declaration of free health for pregnant women and children under five years in 2005.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole in 2016 announced the Federal Government’s plan to provide free health services to 100 million Nigerians in the next two years. Under this new health agenda, pregnant women across Nigeria are expected to enjoy free maternal and delivery services at the primary health care (PHC) level.
Unfortunately, Free health care services and exemption mechanisms often arise as campaign promises of political actors to the electorate and fall short in meeting the health needs of the most vulnerable populations. According to Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) in 2013, over 60% of pregnant women aged 15-49 deliver their babies at home without any antenatal care visits. In rural areas, this value reaches 76.9%. The situation is critical in North East and North West regions of Nigeria where over 79% of pregnant women age 15-49 deliver their babies at home. Over 60% of pregnant women in Bayelsa, Plateau and Niger deliver at home rather than a health facility.
The cost of health care and the low quality of care by the public have been argued to be the reason for the poor utilisation of maternal and child health services in Nigeria.
In addition, health spending in Nigeria is low and this is responsible for the over-reliance on out of pocket payments for health care services.
Despite its launch in 2005, NHIS covers less than 10% of the Nigerian population leaving the most vulnerable populations at the mercy of health care services that are not affordable. This means the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria are not provided with social and financial risk protection. Poor people constitutes about 70% of the Nigerian population. They lack access to basic health services, which social and financial risk protection should provide, because they cannot afford it.
CBSHIP was expected to meet their health needs as well as provide social and financial risk protection to this group, which mostly reside in rural areas. As evidenced in the high rate of out of pocket payments for health care services , poor people financially contribute more to health care than official care and funds programmes in Nigeria. Out of pocket payments for health care services limit the poor from accessing and utilising basic health care services.
The quality of health care services delivered is poor and remains a huge source of concern. Most of the PHC facilities that are supposed to meet the health needs of the poor and rural dwellers are in a poor state due to poor budgetary allocation.
In trying to solve these issues, healthcare in the country must be tackled headlong in order to stem the detyeriorating development therein, which could portend grave danger for citizens of the country in the no-ditant future.
Policy makers and political actors need to devise health care reforms to address the lack of social and financial protection for the poor and vulnerable populations. Part of this reform is the expansion of the NHIS. States should be mandated to provide health insurance coverage to all residents. Making health insurance optional for states over the years has affected the ability of the NHIS to increase the level of coverage for the people.
While the mandatory CBHI scheme is being scaled-up as a supplementary measure, state governments should enrol poor residents in a private health insurance plan and bear the responsibility of paying the monthly premium per person to Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs). It is not enough to have a national health insurance policy, it is important to ensure that health insurance coverage is provided to the poor and most vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health.
Although the NHIS Act made provision for children, who constitute the largest population in Nigeria, many children still have to pay for health care services in spite of being born into poor families that do not have the ability to pay for health care services and suffer financial hardship as a consequence. The free health policies and exemption mechanisms provided by some states, targeted at children, pregnant women and the elderly, are not social and financial risk protection policies, as these groups are largely responsible for the cost of health care with the free health care programme barely covering their basic health care services.
Another way of providing social and financial risk protection for poor and vulnerable populations is by establishing a legislative framework for a UHC scheme and setting aside funds for it. Evidence from Thailand has shown the effect of UHC schemes through PHC on expanding access to health care for the poor and vulnerable populations.
Political actors, policy makers and all stakeholders in the health sector should establish a government funded social and financial risk protection scheme through a general tax financing system for the poor and vulnerable, and invest in basic infrastructure for health care in rural areas for quality health care service delivery. UHC schemes are important in addressing the problem of poor coverage, limited access to health care, and poor quality of health care services.
Nigeria is yet to adopt innovative ways to protect the poor and vulnerable populations against financial risk of ill health. It is important to guarantee by law the right to health care of all citizens in Nigeria. Although the National Health Act (NHA) that was signed into law in 2014 stated that all Nigerians are entitled to basic minimum package of health care services, it is not clear if the provisions made in the NHA are capable of achieving UHC in Nigeria. In addition, the NHA is yet to be implemented over two years after its signage into law.
Some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have been able to provide social and financial risk protection schemes for poor and vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health. Therefore, there is a need to provide social health protection schemes targeted at these groups in Nigeria. The poor and vulnerable populations should not become impoverished because of failure to obtain much needed health care services. Governments must reduce out of pocket payments for health care services by households through the adoption of a tax financed non-contributory UHC scheme.
Protest Rocks Alausa Over Supreme Court Verdict On Agidingbi Community
Scores of community leaders and residents of Agidingbi area of Ikeja on Thursday embarked on peaceful protest against the judgment of Supreme Court which awarded ownership of 398 acres of landed property in the community to a traditional land-owning family, Akinole-Oshiun.
The possession order is said to cover a large section of the Lateef Jakande Road, Acme Road, Fagba Close, and other streets around the area, totaling over 2000 buildings.
The protesters, who marched from Agidingbi to House of Assembly complex in Alausa, said Akinole-Oshiun family, which is the judgment-creditor in the case, had already given them seven days ultimatum to vacate their houses, urging the government to quickly intervene to avert bloodshed.
They displayed placard of various inscriptions such as “There is no ancestral link between Akinole and Agidingbi Land, Land Grabbers are enemies of Lagos State,” among others.
Leader of Ojodu Legislative Arm, Hon Wasiu Bolaji-Seidu who is also a community leader in Agidingbi said the news of the possession order came to the community as a big surprise as nobody from the area was served with the court process that led to the judgment.
He said: “On Friday, they (judgment-creditor) brought a judgment and placed it on our houses and said they have taken over the entire Agidingbi land. The issue is Agidingbi was not mentioned in the judgment; nobody from Agidingbi was part of the case and I don’t know how you will enforce a judgment against a person that was never part of the case.
“Agidingbi has been in existence for over 200 years ago. I was born and bred in Agidingbi; my forefathers were born and bred in Agidingbi and I don’t see any reason why somebody will just wake up and say they are the owner of the community.
“I am over 50 years; my father lived for over 90 years in this community before he died; my great grand-father died at the age of 150 years and I don’t know where Akinole is coming from and we have people like Habibatu Mogaji who was the Yeye-Oba of Agidingbi; we have Femi Okunnu who is our father in the community and we don’t know where Akin-ole came from.”
He particularly urged the State Government to activate the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of the State, and prevent the matter from degenerating into a full blown crisis.
“To the best of my knowledge, I know that Lagos State has enacted a law duly signed by the Governor prohibiting land grabbing in the State because this is a clear example of such case. That is why we are here to call on the Lagos State House of Assembly to look into it and find a lasting solution, failure of which there will be bloodshed,” Bolaji-Seidu said.
Also speaking, Baale of Agidingbi, Chief Ganiyu Ayinde Haruna, said they were embarking on the peaceful protest to call the attention of government to the silent crisis that is brewing in the community.
Narrating how it all began, Haruna said: “On Friday last week, we woke up to see people posting possession order on our property and we don’t know these people. We have been living here for several years and the issue is we don’t know this family that is laying claim to ownership of our land.
“We have never heard any relationship with this Akinole family and so it is surprising to us. Nobody knew anything about the court case. I mean how can you enforce court judgment against a party that was never part of the case? We are peaceful people and we are urging the Lagos State Government especially Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the House of Assembly to intervene urgently in this matter because we don’t want bloodshed in our community.”
Also speaking, an 83-year old resident and Iyalode of Agidingbi, Evang Dorcas Faworaja said her great grand-parents were born in the area, therefore the claimant cannot just come from anywhere and lay claim to the community.
Receiving the protesters, Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon Olumuyiwa Jimoh commended them for conducting themselves peacefully, assuring that the House would look into their case.
“Let me assure you that we are going to look into your petition without any fear or favour and I can assure you also that you will receive judgment at the end of the day,” Jimoh said.
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