By Hassan Zaggi
Stakeholders in the health sector under the umbrella of National Advocates for Health (NA4H), have appealed to President Buhari Muhammadu, to, as a matter national interest, give assent to four health bills recently passed by the National Assembly.
Speaking at a media briefing in Abuja, yesterday, the group expressed concern that if President Buhari fails to give assent to the bills before June 9 which will mark the end of the 8th National Assembly, it would be a huge setback for the health sector.
The Vice Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health Care Services, Hon. Mohammed Usman, who spoke on behalf of the group, reiterated that the health of majority of Nigerians will be at a higher risk if the president declined assent to the 4 bills before the inauguration of the 9th Assembly.
The four health bills recently passed by the 8th National Assembly awaiting the presidential assent, according to Usman, include, “the National Health Insurance Commission Bill which provides a policy framework that made Health Insurance MANDATORY in Nigeria
“The bills to establish the FCT Health Insurance Agency and the FCT Primary Health Care Development Board. The amendment of the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria Establishment Act which provides for task shifting endeavors and also to promote private investments in the pharmaceutical sector and bills to establish the Health Information Practitioners Council and Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria which will help to achieve professionalism and promote global best practices among health information practitioners and chemists respectively.”
Hon. Usman, further reiterated that: “As you are all aware, the tenure of 8th National Assembly will expire on the 9th of June 2019, it is imperative to urgently and respectfully call on Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, to assent the Health Bills as mentioned above as soon as they get to his table as a matter of national interest and taking the health sector to the next level.”
He, however, noted that: “The implication of not giving assent to these bills before June 9, is the fact that the bills will have to be returned to the 9th National Assembly for consideration and undergo another long legislative process. We hope Mr President will do the needful by assenting these passed bills.”
Hon. Usman however, applauded Mr. President for approving the implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) and the Catastrophic Health Fund (CHF) as appropriated.
These, he said, will help to improve the health of many poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
He commended the immediate past Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, for ensuring the disbursement of N12.7 billion to the respective CBN dedicated account of the NHIS, NPHCDA and NCDC for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.
Hon. Usman, therefore, called on the leadership of the NHIS, NPHCDA and NCDC to follow suit and disburse funds to the state government agencies within the shortest possible time in line with the signed and agreed operational manual.
This, he stressed, will improve insurance coverage for the vulnerable women and children, improve primary health care and immunization and response to diseases outbreaks and preparedness.