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PIX 6142: Cross section of participants at the year 2017 International Day of Persons Living with Disabilities at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa, Ikeja, on Sunday, December 3, 2017.

EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL: Healthcare Reforms in Nigeria; A Mere Political Statement Lacking Commitment

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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.

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Protest Rocks Alausa Over Supreme Court Verdict On Agidingbi Community

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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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Agidingbi Community leaders presents their petition on the Supreme Court judgement to the Deputy Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Jimoh Olumuyiwa Wahab (2nd right) on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Abia 2019: Why Ikpeazu Won with a Landslide

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By Jude Ndukwe

The March 9 governorship poll has come and gone in Abia, and the people have since moved into post-election mood and activities. They have also since resumed their normal businesses after the rigours of what was an intense campaign period for some and simply a test of popularity for others.

The final result as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is as follows: PDP: 261,127; APC: 99,574; APGA: 64,366

The good news about the governorship election in Abia is that while some other States are still at it, grappling with needless violent deaths of not few Nigerians starting from when campaigns were flagged off last year, the conduct in Abia recorded no violence.

The free, fair, transparent, credible and violence-free conduct of the election in Abia State can be attributed to the peaceful and gentlemanly nature of the governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who does not see any election as a Do-or-Die affair but simply the exercise of the people’s rights to freely choose their leaders. Despite all the shenanigans of his opponents, the bitterness of their campaigns, their twisting of facts to suit their warped narratives, their belligerent posturing etc, the governor never replied in kind. He was rather busy telling the people what he had done and the need to reelect him so as to continue to take Abia on the path of irreversible prosperity.

Abians are peace loving people. That is why the State has remained one of the most peaceful States in Nigeria under Ikpeazu, and it showed during the election, so that no matter how good one’s manifesto is, belligerent posturing put them off. After their ugly experiences in the past, there was no way Abians were going to elect anyone of bellicose nature to lead them and cause bitter divisions among them based on party and or tribal lines, entrench crime and criminalities and turn the state to a breeding ground for hoodlums. So, it was only natural that they queued behind Dr Okezie Ikpeazu who has been able to restore Abia to a State of peace which Abians earnestly craved for before the coming of the incumbent.

It is instructive to note at this point that in a report  by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), for election-related killings between November 16, 2018 to March 10, 2019, while neighbouring States like Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, recorded 2, 1, 8, 55, 4 and 2, respectively, Abia recorded no single casualty.

The massive infrastructural development taking place in Abia is another factor that got Ikpeazu an easy reelection. With 74 road projects completed and over 90 others of strategic importance to the people and the State ongoing, Abians knew that they have never had it so good and reelecting Ikpeazu based on this was a no brainer.

Having constructed 4 new Model Schools, 359 new classroom blocks, and renovated about 70 of them across the three senatorial zones of the State, the educational sector of Abia received a massive boost under the governor to the extent that the State sits with pride atop all other States of the federation in WASCE in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and still counting, and could not be dislodged by others no matter their resources.

Abia has remained the only State throughout the federation where all her primary school pupils are fed in school every school day. While the federal government feeds children of Primary 1 – 3 nationwide, Abia feeds her pupils from Primary 4 – 6, despite her lean resources, thereby making her the only State of the federation where all her primary school pupils are fed every school day.

The result of this massive investments keep showing in the result the State posts every year in WASCE and other external exams.

This investment has also seen the State owned university, Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), improve massively in the National Universities Commission (NUC) ranking, from 96th when Ikpeazu assumed office in 2015 to currently being in the first 10.

The revolution in agriculture where over 4 million high yielding tenera palm seedlings have been distributed to farmers is another factor that has endeared the governor to Abians of all status. Government-supported mushroom farming, poultry clusters and local rice production have all empowered many Abians.

The infrastructural development of the state and the peace she is enjoying under Ikpeazu have also given massive boost to the governor’s objective of attracting foreign investors to the state. The Enyimba Economic City, EEC, which is the governor’s prime investment creation and already labeled the “Dubai of Africa” by global investors has already attracted massive foreign direct investment to the extent that the World Bank rated Abia as the third most preferred investment destination for foreign investors after Abuja and Lagos in that order, for the last quarter of 2018.

The deliberate policies put in place by the Ikpeazu administration for Ease of Doing Business have also earned the state a rating as the fifth best state in that area, hence, giving the State the needed edge above others for investors.

Also, Dr Ikpeazu’s commitment to SME development in the State has earned him several awards including one from the federal government even though he is of a different party from the government at the centre. He has been aggressively leading the “Made in Aba” campaign to a huge success to the extent that the military and some paramilitary organisations have ordered for thousands of pairs of booths from Aba entrepreneurs. This is in addition to the fact that the government of Ikpeazu sponsored thirty of the Aba shoe and other leather works manufacturers to China to enhance their skills and acquire the requisite modern technological know-how to improve both quality and quantity of their works. The thirty young entrepreneurs have since returned and are in the process of cascading down their newly acquired knowledge to others back home. This is more so as the governor has acquired the needed advanced shoemaking machines for their use.

There have been revolutions also in the health sector where medical facilities are now easily accessible to all citizens of the State just at the dial of a number in the Dial-a-Doc Telehealth Initiative. This is particularly beneficial to the aged who might not have the strength to visit a health facility and are either attended to via telephone or visited by the mobile medical staff of the state. These are all in addition to 4 new General Hospitals built by the governor and strategically located in different parts of the State in addition to the already existing ones.

There is hardly any sector or population group in Abia State that the governor has not touched directly. It is therefore not surprising that long before the March 9 governorship election, Dr Ikpeazu had received a gale of endorsements from notable groups including political blocs, religious groups, traditional rulers, civil servants, artisans, traders, entrepreneurs, professional bodies, student and youth groups, women groups etc.

Among all the contenders, it was only Dr Okezie Ikpeazu who ran a comprehensive and energy sapping campaign that took him round all the 17 local government areas of the state despite his extremely tight schedule as governor. His wife, Deaconess Nkechi Ikpeazu also took to the streets vigorously campaigning for her husband from one local government to the other. While all these were on, the other candidates locked up and made themselves comfortable within the confines of their air conditioned campaign offices without reaching out to the people even if in, at least, five local governments of the 17 in the State. Throughout the campaign, a majority of Abians could not reach nor interact with them in person. They cordoned themselves off from the people and only made feeble attempts to reach out to the electorate through the media and social media which, most rural people where the bulk of votes come from, do not even have easy access to. While Ikpeazu was busy selling himself, his programmes and projects to the people in person, and even featured several times on all the radio stations in Abia State in no holds barred phone-in programmes, others were relying on “federal might” and “red eyes” for magic! Tragic!

From the foregoing, no objective political observer would be surprised at Ikpeazu’s landslide victory at the last governorship poll.

His case was even made easier by the Charter of Equity as bequeathed by Abia’s founding fathers which stipulates that, for the sake of fairness and peace, the Abia State governorship should be rotated among the three senatorial zones of Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South. Having taken their own turns from 1999 – 2007 (Abia North through Orji Uzor Kalu), and from 2007 – 2015 (Abia Central through Senator T.A. Orji), it was only fair and just that the people of Abia South where Ikpeazu hails from be allowed to complete their own eight years of two tenures as did his predecessors. This is more so given the achievements of the incumbent which have more than justified the Charter.

There was no way Abians were going to jettison the Charter just to satisfy the selfish yearnings of few politicians who hail from the same senatorial zones that had already taken their turn at the governorship in the past. That would have been a recipe for disaster in the State. To avoid such a political catastrophe, Abians overwhelmingly rejected the other contenders and stuck with Ikpeazu in order to preserve the sanctity of the Charter of Equity that has been an effective template for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the other in the state, hence, Ikpeazu’s landslide victory at the polls had long been foretold by political historians and scientists, and unfolded as expected based on the variables enumerated above and even more!

An attempt by anyone to challenge this people-oriented election in court will court the people’s anger against such a person and will further diminish the little of what is left of the person’s image before the people.

jrndukwe@yaho.co.uk; Twitter: @stjudendukwe

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