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Providing Qualitative Healthcare: The Rivers State Experience



Rivers State was created in 1967 by the then Federal Military Government of Nigeria, headed by Gen. Yakubu Gowon.

Like other states in the country, the provision of quality health care delivery to the citizens in Rivers has remained a daunting task.

Concerned citizens say that the state, in spite of its relatively long history, had not been able to record appreciable progress in health care delivery to the people before the advent of Gov. Chibuike Amaechi’s administration on Oct. 26, 2007.

Their comments are, perhaps, justifiable because statistics showed that the state formerly had over 350 health centres, in addition to 10 general hospitals; and virtually all of them were in a dilapidated state.

However, the crisis was not a state-specific one but a countrywide problem, as most of the country’s health institutions were on the verge of a total collapse before the coming of the current democracy in 1999.

Irked by the dismal state of the country’s health care delivery, the Federal Government, in concert with governments of other countries of the world, ratified and adopted the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which has specific targets in health.

Three of the eight goals of the MDGs are specifically directed at reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

The programme’s focus is commendable, as available health care  indicators reveal that about one million children die before their fifth birthday, while 52, 900 women die from pregnancy-related complications in Nigeria each year.

The national scenario also depicts the situation in the states.

To enhance Rivers State’s health care delivery, the Amaechi-led administration, in the last three years, has expended huge sums of naira on various health projects.

In the area of primary health care, the state government embarked on the

construction of 160 ultra-modern primary health centres and 65 of them have been completed and equipped. The remaining centres have reached various stages of completion.

At the secondary level of health care, the government has completed the reconstruction of Kelsey Harrison Hospital, the Dental Hospital and the Rivers State University of Science and Technology Medical Centre.

Besides, the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital in Port Harcourt is undergoing massive reconstruction and its radiology department and clinical laboratories have been re-equipped, with the Clinotech Group of Canada acting as technical partners.

 An ultra-modern modular theatre complex, which comprises three operating suites, a laundry unit, a sterilising unit and an oxygen-production plant, as well as an adjoining intensive care unit, have also been set up in the hospital.

These laudable feats propelled citizens, who recently thronged the Alfred Diette-Spiff Civic Centre in Port Harcourt for the 2010 Accountability Forum, organised to mark the third anniversary of the Amaechi-administration, to pour encomiums on the governor.

Chief Andrew Uchendu, lawmaker representing Ikwerre/Emohua Constituency at the House of Representatives, said that Amaechi’s efforts in health and education remained unparalleled.

He said that citizens of the state would for a long time continue to enjoy the legacies of the Amaechi-administration, particularly in the areas of health and education.

“The health centres and model primary schools, being built by the state government, are a testimony to Gov. Amaechi’s determination to impact positively on the lives of the people.

 “Using public funds to provide quality health care and education for the people is the best thing any purposeful leader, who means well for the people could do.

“We are so happy with Gov. Amaechi; he has, within three years in office, provided what we never believe a state governor could achieve in ten years,’’ Uchendu said.

 A cleric, Apostle Eugene Ogu of the Abundant Life Evangel Mission, said that Amaechi’s achievements in the areas of health, security, education and infrastructure were very remarkable.

 “After a thorough review of the administration, I am convinced that the verdict of the Supreme Court that declared Amaechi governor on Oct.26, 2007 was divine.

 “Judging by his performance and the service delivery of the governors in other states, I know that Amaechi has done well and I commend him for his determination to take the state to greater heights,’’ Ogu said.  

Mrs Felicia Aribibia, a housewife, conceded that there has been a marked improvement in health care delivery in the state in the last three years.

“In the past, people hardly patronised the primary health centres because of derelict state of most of their facilities but the centres have now been transformed into good health institutions through the government’s policies.

 “At the centres, pregnant women and nursing mothers are given prompt attention, with free insecticide-treated mosquito nets and anti-malaria drugs given to them

 “Also, patients can now see doctors without much hassle and mothers now immunise their babies easily without foregoing their daily chores,’’ Aribibia said.

Also speaking, Mrs Florence Agala, a teacher, said that the transformation of the state’s health care delivery had restored the people’s confidence in democratic system of government, adding that Nigeria would be well developed if good leaders were voted into power.

 “If previous administrations had toed the path of the  Amaechi-administration by implementing development projects in health, education, security and road construction, our people would have been better for it by now,’’ she said.

However, Mrs Celestina Onyeukwu, a businesswoman, said that even though the Amaechi-administration deserved commendation for overhauling the health sector, a viable mechanism should be put in place to ensure the running of the health facilities in an effective way.

“Recently, my son fell sick and I took him to one of the newly constructed primary health centres in Port Harcourt. After consultation, he was placed on three days’ injection.

 “They administered the first injection on him on Friday and asked us to return the next day for subsequent ones. It was, however, surprising to me that when we got there on Saturday, a security man on duty told me that nobody was around to attend to us.

“My husband had to make alternative arrangements for a nurse to continue our son’s treatment,’’ she said.

Onyeukwu stressed that if adequate managerial arrangements were not put in place for the government’s facilities, the people might not be able to reap the full benefits of the government investments in health and education.

Mrs Erewari Owhonda, a matron in one of the health centres, said that more than five health centres were constructed in Port Harcourt alone, adding that the centres had resident doctors, nurses and other health personnel, as well as ambulances and laboratories.

She noted that the workers of the health centres were now giving quality service delivery partly because of the conducive working environment.

Dr Lolia Koko, Medical Officer in charge of Churchill Health Centre in Port Harcourt, noted that the overhaul of the health sector by the government had resulted in an unprecedented number of patients

patronising government clinics.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr Sampson Parker, said that the state government had adopted a health care delivery system, which thrust was anchored on primary care.

 “We have a health care programme that is based on the provision of quality health facilities, the provision of efficient, effective and affordable health services, the availability of well qualified and motivated staff and the provision of health care services to the vulnerable groups at government’s cost,’’ he said.

Parker said that the government had embarked on the construction of 160 primary health centres across the state, out of which more than 70 had been completed and now in operation.

He also said that the 150-bed New Niger Hospital  at Garrison Junction and Kesley Harrison Hospital at Emenike, all in Port Harcourt, had been completed, awaiting equipping.

Besides, the commissioner said that the construction of a modular theatre for open-heart surgeries at Braithwaite Memorial Hospital had been completed.

He said that the hospital’s laboratory had been upgraded to a reference laboratory and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.

Parker said that government had funded specific health programmes to check maternal and child diseases such as maternal neonatal tetanus and polio, HIV and AIDS, malaria, as well as communicable and non-communicable diseases.

As part of activities lined up to mark the third anniversary of the Amaechi-administration, Parker said that 60 fully equipped primary health centres would be handed over to 60 communities soon.

He, however, stressed the importance of community participation in health care delivery, adding that government intended to mobilise community members to play pivotal roles in the utilisation and maintenance of the health facilities via a public awareness campaign.

Parker said that public awareness campaign would aim at building confidence and trust between the government and the people, in efforts toward sustainable management of the centres.

“It is for this reason that government is handing over the primary health centres to gatekeepers in the communities to engender community support, participation and ownership of these facilities.

  “The community will watch over the activities of the health centres’ staff to ensure that government derives value for the money it invested in the projects,’’ he said.

Parker said that disease-control schemes, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis programmes, would be handled by the health centres, adding that plans were underway to come up with appropriate legislation for the health centres’ management.

Corroborating Parker’s accounts, Amaechi said that the government had placed high premium on the people’s health, adding that the focus of the government was to reposition the state for pragmatic development.

“Our recognition of the place of primary health care in our health care delivery system has led us to establish 160 health care centres, with at least five centres in every local government area.

“Over 70 of these health centres are already in use, complete with resident doctors, midwifery and nursing care units, standby generators and ambulance services, as well as modern facilities necessary for their optimal operations,’’ the governor said.

 “Like education, the state government is going beyond a regime of free health care services, already being provided for patients under 6 years or above 60 years, to universal free medical care at each of its primary health care centres.

“We believe that the massive investment we are making is fundamental to the birth of a new Rivers State, where its secured citizens will be able to demand their inalienable rights to good governance,’’ he added.

The governor’s sentiments are obviously not an ego-massage, as many of the state’s citizens have been commending him for quality service delivery, particularly with regard to health care delivery.

The observers say that the Amaechi-administration, within three years of its existence, has blazed the trail for subsequent administrations to follow in health care delivery and management.

Onyeukwe writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)


By Francis Onyeukwu

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What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?



As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met.  So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House



The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.

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Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria



In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines  more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations  to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network  (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim,  according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan,  explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is  also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area –  career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him,  it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in  workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun  Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank  will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
 According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch  of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency,  points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should  have courage and confidence in taking risks within  organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer,  Standard  Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
 She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
 For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but  about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
 Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian  women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population –  mainly women –  economically unviable.
 A First Bank customer,  Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN –  benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
 “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to  enhance gender parity.

By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

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