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Healthcare deficiency in Nigeria: FIWON engages FG on robust funding

…Tells FG to respect constitutional stipulations on Healthcare Provisions

By Appolos Christian

Healthcare is a human right. You must respect the stipulations of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ECOWAS Protocol and United Nations Human Rights Article  15, on provisions for quality and accessible healthcare for Nigerians. This was the core demand of the Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria (FIWON) at its media briefing in Abuja, recently.

Disclosing that it has taken it upon itself to engage the Federal government of Nigeria, specifically the Federal Ministries of Labour and Employment and Health, as well as the National Assembly (House Committee on Health and the Senate Committees on Health and Labour) in demand for more funding for healthcare, FIWON stated that the inadequate state of healthcare service delivery in the country has worsened to the level it can no longer be ignored.

FIWON conspicuously stated that it’s demands and decision to embark on the campaign was necessitated by the findings of it survey on healthcare service delivery and accessibility across Nigeria during the COVID-19 lock down.

Noting that its campaign is in collaboration with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), numerous Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other interest groups, FIWON General Secretary, Mr Gbenga Komolafe, said; “We will use all available legitimate means to push this campaign. We will do rallies and protest on the street. We are ready to employ all legitimate avenues to ensure Nigeria government fulfill its responsibilities as far as healthcare provision is concern. The slogan of our campaign is: Health is a Human Right, Health is our Human Right!”

Calling on Nigerians to wake up and demand for their rights as no government is willing to give to the citizens anything without it being demand for, he said; “Nigerians need to come to the realization that we are humans, citizens and therefore have rights. As citizens it’s high time we woke up and demand our rights from government.

“Our constitution is very clear on our rights. Section 16 2d of the Nigeria Constitution is very explicit, it says all Nigerians must have access to shelter, healthcare, to adequate clothing and even to feeding. It mention food, it is there, go and read it. You can google it, it is there. Session 16 2d is very explicit about government’s responsibility to provide this basic social services.”

Earlier, Komolafe said; “Nigeria perhaps have the highest level of brain drain in the healthcare sector. A friend once told me that 200 doctors from Nigeria were some time ago employed by the British NHS within one week. Healthcare practitioners in Nigeria are not well paid, their allowances are hardly paid…even during Covid-19 locked down, they lack even basic PPEs. It is as bad as that because of under funding.

“It is tragic that Nigeria is among those countries in Africa (not Europe), that commits the lest amount of money to healthcare. We are talking about 4 to 6 per cent every year for the past 15years. Whereas even 15 percent (ECOWAS Protocol stipulated) would have been hardly enough. This under funding of healthcare sector is why doctors are on strike right now. It is not by accident that they are on strike. Beside doctors, we have also have nurses and other healthcare service givers going on strike now and then.

“So our campaign is just to hammer on the fact that healthcare deserves to be well funded. Healthcare deserves to be given sufficient priority.

“We believe that if what we have is well funded and expounded, more doctors and nurses are employed, the hospitals equipped with necessary equipments, drugs provided, medical facilities  made available, more hospitals build especially in the rural communities, we will be better of. And all these cannot be done without more resource.

“That is why we are saying that government need to commit more resources. If all of that is done which is already a constitutional responsibility, we wouldn’t be talking about healthcare not being assessable in Nigeria.

“Our demand is for adequate funding so that adequate provision of healthcare facilities, adequate staffing and other necessaries are provided. If government provide adequate funding, it would go along way to solving almost all the crisis we are having in the healthcare sector in Nigeria.”

Furthermore, the Federation warn: “We also believe that healthcare is too important to be handed over to the private sector. These idea of handing everything over to the private sector won’t work with health and  education sector. Already we are suffering heavily by the damage being done by the effort or attempt to cede social services to the private sector.

“If in the most advance countries healthcare is given priority by government, on what basis then do we now expect that in a fragile economy like ours, private sector as weak as they are, would be able to take care of healthcare system? It can’t work and it’s not working.

“Our survey has also shown that even where people enroll with the so-called HMOs, the quality of healthcare provision is grossly inadequate. And that point has been stressed and stressed by most people who patronize them.”

Earlier explaining the Federation’s campaign agenda, Mr Komolafe stated; “We shall be visiting the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Assembly as well…where we’ll focus on the House Committee on Health and the Senate Committees on Health and Labour. We also intend to engage a few other agencies like the NHIS.

“Our focus is to see how we can make what we have work. Because I personally don’t think that what we need is a legislation. The ECOWAS Protocol is very clear, and it stated that 50% of member country budget should be committed to healthcare provision.

“Locally too, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear… Section 16 (2d) is very explicit about the responsibility of government to provide healthcare, and it went on to talk more about health, shelter, child support system etc. Even the United Nation’s human rights article 15 also states the need for  social security and social  protection. I think really the devil is in the commitment of government to implement these legal instruments.

“In the letter we have addressed to these identified government institutions, we made reference to all these instruments. And we have canvassed that we want  them address the specific recommendations of these legal instruments.

“Interestingly the Abuja agreement which also has explicit statement on healthcare was a government affair. They were the ones who said they will do it. And it is of interest to know that several African countries (this can be checked), have gone ahead to implement this specific provisions of this agreement which was made here in Abuja under the ECOWAS Protocol.

“I think the onus lies on us to also see how we can prevail on our government to respect and implement these (Healthcare provision) instruments/agreements. We are not pushing for a new legislation but our focus at this point is on what we already have on ground, and how to ensure that government actually implements it. We are definitely going to engage ECOWAS on this matter too.”

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