While addressing stakeholders at a special session of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja on Thursday,, March 22, 2018, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates faulted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Federal Government.
He is reported to have said that the ERGP, which must reflect the people’s needs, should also give priority to human capital development over physical capital as it is designed currently.
The founder of Microsoft Corporation and one of the richest men in the world is said to have told the meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that “To anchor the economy over the long term, investment in infrastructure and competiveness must go hand in hand with investments in the people.
“People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads,, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”
To underscore his call for intervention in the healthcare services and education to the people of the country, Mr Gates lamented that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate ahead of only Sierra-Leone, Central African Republic and Chad.
In the face of this, right after the meeting at the Presidential Villa, Governor Nasir el-Rufai told newsmen that Mr Gates assessment was incorrect.
The Kaduna State governor and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), said “it is not correct to say that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan does not give primacy to human capital, it is not correct.”
Even though Governor El-Rufai admitted that “if a child loses quality education, he is done for life. If a child doesn’t get quality healthcare in the first two years, he is destroyed for life, he said “it is not the ERGP that needs adjustment, it is the budgeting that needs to be ramped up in these two key areas because these are where problems are.”
Of course, Nigerians across all strata and segments of the society have since been engaged in heated arguments and discussions over the issue.
However, the National Project Coordinator of the International Trauma and Critical Care, Managers of the Prof. Kelsey Harrison Hospital in Port Harcourt, Dr. Sidney Ibeanusi has advised the Federal Government not to see Bill Gates’ statement as an attempt to diminish the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari but as a constructive criticism aimed at goading the government to turn things around for the good of Nigerians.
In an exclusive interview with The Tide in his office in Port Harcourt, Dr. Ibeanusi said Mr. Gates observations, though scathing, should be taken seriously since the American was neither a Nigerian nor a politician and therefore could not have been influenced by political calculations in making utterances.
The expert in trauma medicine regretted that politics was getting too much in the way of government’s ability to deliver critical welfare services to the people of the country and called on the authorities to redirect and refocus their attention towards giving Nigerians a new lease of life.
“He is not a Nigerian and he is not a politician that you’d say he is playing politics with words”, he said adding that “Government should take it as constructive criticism and not to look at it as if somebody is out to demean the government”.
According to him, the facts upon which Mr. Gates based his criticism were in the public domain locally as well as the international community and therefore the Federal Government only needs to face the truth and make adjustments in order to reverse the ugly trend and avert grim consequences for the country in the near future.” The health sector has not fared well just like the education sector in terms of budgetary allocation. The government may be working on that but so far it’s been a struggle and this is showing in terms of statistics coming out of the country” he said, stressing that Mr. Gates should not be condemned for declaring Nigeria as one of the worst places in the world to give birth.
“You heard last week, Bill Gates who is partnering Nigeria in terms of polio actually said that Nigeria is one of the worst places to give birth in terms of survival. That is an indictment actually but I don’t think he should be crucified for that”, he said .
According to Dr. Ibeanusi, the Federal Government needs to nmuster the political will to set things right by investing more in healthcare and education as, in his opinion, all other sectors are bound to take their bearing from these.
“I think that part of what we need to do is to invest more in health, invest more in education (and) then you will get others right.
“If your children are dying before they get to age of five years or they’re getting stunted, it will affect the quality of human beings you turn out later”, he emphasised.
“I think the government needs to do something and do that urgently” in the area of not just adequate budgetary provision but the implementation of appropriated allocations, he said, adding that “As a country, we should actually first of all look at capacity building, look at investment and resource provision and then provide the enabling environment. You cannot have a system where you have a private sector that comes in today and then you come up with laws that will stifle them. It will discourage more persons from coming”.
Dr. Ibeanusi said that Ghana was fasting becoming very attractive to investors in the health sector and warned that except something was urgently done by the Federal Government, the West African neighbors would soon become a destination of choice not only for those seeking medical solution but for experts as well, including those from Nigeria.
He said the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did not miss the point when he indicated that the government appreciated what Mr. Gates said and expressed the view that they were going to tackle the matter head on.
“I think that should be the approach, take it head on; look at the things we haven’t done and start doing things we should do right away rather than saying it is in the pipeline,” he said, pointing out that with as little as N10 billion annually, the Federal Government could provide free emergency medical care for all Nigerians.
“What it takes to provide emergency medical services to Nigerians free may not be more than N10 billion every year,” he noted, insisting that “that alone can provide emergency medical services to every person in this country. Within 24 to 48 hours, you have an emergency, you walk into a hospital and get treated and nobody asks you for a kobo.”
He, however, lamented that Nigerians were dying needlessly for lack of money to pay for medical expenses even though government could do so little to save them.
“A lot of Nigerians die because they don’t have money to access medical care. They go to the hospital, they are not able to pay deposits and by the time they leave there to another hospital, they die on the way,” he noted with regret, adding that sometimes the situation catches up with the politicians as well.
“You are aware that recently a Senator slumped and died before he could get to the hospital. If he had had medical personnel nearby, probably the person would have tried to keep him alive until appropriate help arrives.
“When these things are lacking, we are all exposed to becoming victims of our own inefficiency, of our own inability to do the things we ought to do. And I think every politician should think twice, if it is not you today, it could be your brother, it could be your sister, it could be your parent,” he cautioned.
While he admitted that politicians had a right to play politics, Dr Ibeanusi argued that healthcare services and education are fundamental rights of the people that must not be politicised irrespective of the government in power.
“You know politicians always talk about numbers, how many votes and all that. But things like health care, things like education don’t talk about numbers; those are social services and these are fundamental rights of the people.
“Whatever government in power should focus on them,” he reiterated.
APC, PDP Bandy Words Over Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have argued over President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval to borrow $4 billion and €710 million to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Recall that the president made the request in a letter he addressed to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in reaction to the development, cautioned the NASS against approving the request, saying it could set the country’s debt profile skyrocketing without a feasible repayment plan.
With the approval to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans by its legislative body barely two months ago, Nigeria’s debt profile risks reaching over N40 trillion.
“More alarming is that the debts that APC is hanging on Nigerians are for nebulous projects whose scopes, utilities, locations and contractors are largely vague; a development that validates apprehensions of a huge swindle on our nation at the expense of innocent Nigerians, including generation yet unborn.
“Our party holds it as an act of wickedness that individuals who know that they will be leaving office in less than two years will be accumulating debts instead of seeking ways to reduce the liability they have brought upon our nation.
“The APC knows it will not be around after May 29, 2023. That is why it is pushing our nation into a deeper economic quagmire with foreign loans, which are largely diverted to the personal pockets of their corrupt leaders,” the opposition PDP said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday.
But responding to the PDP’s criticism, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, said the loans are for “the good of the country” and well-being of the citizenry.
The ruling party also accused the opposition party of looting foreign loans obtained during its 16 years rule rather than spending on infrastructure and economic growth as, according to it, Mr Buhari-led government is doing.
“It was in PDP’s era that loans to fund power generation, purchase arms and ammunition to fight a raging insurgency were misappropriated and diverted to fund PDP activities; and the borrowed money ultimately found its way to the pockets of cronies, friends and family members of administration officials. Nigeria is still servicing a $460 million loan taken from China to fund a phoney Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract awarded in August 2010.
“Nigerians should also reflect and recall that the PDP had in its 16 years of misrule pushed the country into a dark ditch of insolvency, and a period in which most state governments could not pay workers salaries, not even the minimum wage, or settle contractors’ bills and cater for patients in hospitals, to name a few,” the APC interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said.
A’Ibom Gov Signs Anti-Open Grazing Law
Akwa lbom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law a bill to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches in the state.
The Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Udom (SAN), presented the bill for signing on Wednesday at the State Executive Chambers, in the Governor’s Office, Uyo.
The governor, after signing the bill into law, stated that the new law was no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre.
He instructed relevant authorities of government to ensure that the law was implemented and enforced to the letter with strict compliance, stressing that, culprits must be brought to book accordingly.
The new law will promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state.
It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.
The state Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, directed the Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the decision of the House to the Governor for his assent.
Also at the Executive Chambers, the Speaker who was accompanied by the Leader of the House, Udo Kierian Akpan, and the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to the signing ceremony witnessed the inauguration of two C\committees by the Governor.
The committees are the Akwa Ibom State Gender Based Violence Management Committee, chaired by the First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, and Akwa Ibom State Road Safety Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo.
NASS S’East Caucus Moves To Reconstruct Federal System
Members of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly have resolved to join hands with other patriotic Nigerians across regional, religious, political, and ethnic divides to reconstruct a federal system where the rights, happiness, and prosperity and those of unborn generations are guaranteed.
Making their feelings known in a communique issued at the end of an extraordinary meeting held at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja last Wednesday, the law makers said the topic of the meeting centered on review of developments in the South East, particularly the security situation in the region vis-à-vis the sit-at-home orders by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“We expressed solidarity with our people of the South East over the marginalisation of the region in the scheme of things within the Nigerian commonwealth. The Caucus feels the pains of our people and their quest for equity, justice, and protection of their lives and property in every part of the country. The Caucus, therefore, resolved to continue to fight for a level-playing ground and an enabling federal system where Ndigbo are able to develop their homeland at their own pace and equally pursue their happiness and actaulise their enormous potentials in every part of the country, unmolested.
Reviewing the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of the people, the Caucus equally reviewed and rued the incalculable economic losses and hardships these have brought upon the region.
They, however, condemned in strongest terms the disruption of the ongoing Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the South East, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, where the English examination organised by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, on Monday, September 13, 2021, was ruthlessly scuttled by armed men, who chased away the students, teachers, and examiners before setting ablaze motorcycles belonging to the teachers.
“This is certainly not who we are as a people. On the contrary, we are a people, who have always cherished and encouraged learning from the ages. We are a people that fully appreciate the place of education in the liberation and enlightenment of the human mind and the socio-economic and political emancipation of a people”.
The South East legislators equally condemned in strongest terms the incessant killings in the South East, adding “This must stop immediately. We call on the security agencies to unravel the culprits behind these wicked acts and ensure that they are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“ Noted with delight that IPOB has called off the Monday sit-at-home order and resolved to ensure that nobody uses them as façades to bring ruination on Igbo land.
“ Call on our people to go about their lawful businesses and enjoin our governors and the security agencies to rebuild confidence in our people by not only ensuring the security of their lives and properties, but also ensuring that our people feel safe as they undertake their legitimate businesses.
”Elaborately discussed the issue of Mazi Nnamdi and resolved to intervene. To this end we resolved to set up a committee to constructively interface with relevant stakeholders, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies towards finding a political solution. We will keep Ndigbo abreast of developments in regard.
“Appeal to our people not to allow anyone to destroy the South East region. The post-war South East was not built through government patronage, but largely by the sheer determination and sacrifices of our people, who refused to resign to fate or bow their heads in defeat.
“It is in Igbo land that you easily find hospitals, schools, roads, and other social amenities built by individual or communal efforts of the people, home and abroad, through the instruments of the town unions and other community organisations such as the age grades, Umuada, etc.
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