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Reps’ Alarm On Ebola

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Obviously agitated by the havoc perpetrated by the 2014 Ebola virus crisis, the Federal House of Representatives last week issued a fresh alarm and directive to relevant authorities and stakeholders to enforce checks at the nation’s entry points – airports, seaports and land borders so as to avert another round of disaster by the deadly virus.
Arising from its plenary, the lawmakers unanimously passed two separate resolutions on Ebola, the first being a motion by Paschal Obi entitled: “Looming Reoccurrence of Ebola Crisis In Nigeria” in which the Green Chamber directed the Federal Ministry of Health to deploy all necessary materials and personnel to immediately embark on screening of all passengers at the airports, seaports and land borders as well as for the Federal Government to set aside funds for the management of Ebola virus in the event of its re-occurrence in Nigeria.
Rep Obi, in his motion, explained that considering the proximity of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Nigeria and other West African countries, the need to put in place adequate mechanism to prevent the resurgence of the pandemic in a densely populated country like Nigeria has become imperative.
Similarly, the House called for the immortalisation of Late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh for sacrificing her life towards preventing the spread of Ebola virus from Lagos State to other parts of Nigeria in 2014 by naming a public health institution after the medic for her heroic act of patriotism and nationalism.
Well said, The Tide agrees no less with the position of the lawmakers. It is, indeed, apt, timely and commendable that the House could speak out in what is clearly a matter of public interest and urgency which constitutes a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of the citizenry.
Since the Liberian-American diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, brought the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) into Nigeria in 2014, there have been conscious efforts by all stakeholders at governmental and non-governmental levels on preventive and protective measures. Perhaps, that informed the reason why the lawmakers resolved to alert the nation on EVD before we could find ourselves in a messy situation.
Thankfully, Nigerian borders, particularly land entry points remain closed for now and we expect the nation’s security community, especially the Immigration and Customs personnel to be more vigilant and thorough in their screening following reports of Ebola scare in the DRC.
The death of Adadevoh and a nurse that treated Sawyer, still looms large in our psyche and, therefore, no effort should be spared in preventing and containing any outbreak in Nigeria again.
We recall that on October 9, 2014, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) specially acknowledged Nigeria’s positive role in controlling and containing the Ebola epidemic, “Nigeria’s quick responses, including intense rapid contact tracing, tracking, surveillance of potential contacts and isolation of all contacts were of particular importance in controlling and limiting the outbreak,” the ECDC declared, describing Nigeria’s feat as a piece of world-class epidemiological detective work and a spectacular success story.
It is against this backdrop that we think that all critical stakeholders should not relent on the achievements recorded in 2014 in the event of the current EVD scare.
Ebola is widely considered to be worse than HIV/AIDS not because it has no known cure or vaccine. Infected persons face painful death in a matter of days. Regrettably, it has claimed many lives, including heathcare providers who in the discharge of their professional duties paid the supreme price.
Infected persons exhibit symptoms ranging from diarrhea, bleeding, high temperature, haemorrhagic fever, sore throat, among others. This is why we need sensitisation of the populace to track patients that exhibit such symptoms for early treatment and isolation.
With the report of the virus and breakout in the above-named Central African country, Nigerians more than any other time need to be very cautious as conditions that predispose the populace to the virus appear to be everywhere, even as medical experts warn against consumption of ‘bush meat,’ physical contact with infected persons by way of handshake, sexual intercourse and exposure to wild animals and birds. It is worrisome that we cherish the bush meat delicacy as well as live in slum settlements which make our people more vulnerable in case of the virus outbreak.
Our consolation, however, is that the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Union (EU), the Federal Ministry of Health and other critical stakeholders have been striving hard to put in place strategies to combat the scourge.
The time for the media and all stakeholders to synergise towards providing the much-needed sensitisation is now or never. In the main, the least any Nigerian could do, for now, is to remain vigilant and prayerful.

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Editorial

Checking Medical Tourism Abroad

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After spending 217 days mostly on health grounds abroad in three years, 10 months, he has been in office, President Muhammadu Buhari has also been the one recently lamenting the country’s loss of over N400 billion yearly to medical tourism is curious and worrisome.
Unfortunately, President Buhari who attributed the precarious healthcare situation attributed to government’s inability to address various health challenges at the inauguration and handover of a completed project to the management of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki , has since coming to office, embarked on several medical trips abroad including seeking medical attention for ear infection outside the country.
Represented at the event by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the President said, “Government has shown strong commitment in the revitalisation of the health sector. These efforts notwithstanding, our health sector is still characterised by low response to public health emergencies, inability to combat outbreak of deadly diseases and mass migration of medical personnel out of the country. This has resulted in increasing medical tourism by Nigerians in which Nigeria loses $1 billion on annual basis.”
Doubtless, this is a national embarrassment because if the President who has a responsibility to address the anomaly is lamenting, who will address the challenges? If the President is helpless on the issue of access to health care, who has more powers to help him? Lamentation is not a strategy anywhere.
The Tide holds that the poor access to health care in Nigeria may not also be unconnected with the disturbing degree of deterioration that has characterised the health sector. The deterioration, we believe, has been due to neglect by successive administrations. In fact, the nation’s health sector is groaning and now in a near total collapse and there is no glimmer of hope.
Worrisome is the fact that the dismal situation is in spite of the billions of naira expended on some tertiary hospitals by successive administrations including Buhari’s to equip some strategic departments in some tertiary and teaching hospitals as ‘centres of medical excellence.’
Worse still, even the State House Clinic established to take care of the President, Vice President, their families as well as members of Staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja joined the league of hospitals that cannot deliver quality healthcare services. This came to the public glare when Mrs. Aisha Buhari took ill in 2017 and was advised to travel abroad because of the poor state of the clinic.
So, some of the factors hampering access to quality health care in Nigeria include obsolete equipment and the brain drain that began since 1985; not discounting the not-so-conducive operating environment. Again, inadequacy of medical facilities, high cost of drugs, sub-standard drugs, wrong diagnosis, poor attitude of health workers occasioned by poor remuneration and resulting in the neglect of patients by medical personnel, long waiting time for patients, etc. are all responsible for the unhealthy situation in Nigeria.
On brain drain, reports have been consistent that even as the nation grapples with shortage of medics, more are fleeing the country. Besides, most of those highly educated and talented medical professionals, who are out in foreign countries are excelling, where the conditions and atmosphere are relatively better.
So, it is obvious that Nigerian doctors are competent to manage a healthcare delivery system in Nigeria if the right environment is put in place.
Therefore, The Tide thinks that the continuing exodus of doctors should be a concern to people in authority. Against this backdrop, duty bearers must address the rising deficit in medical personnel occasioned by migration. Specifically, conscious policy must be formulated to attract health technologies and experts in the diaspora back to Nigeria for a more effective and efficient health service delivery. Hence, government ought to recognise that the country is in trouble if there are no adequate healthcare personnel for its teeming population.
So, as a country in need of more medics, the leadership must develop plans on how to retain trained medics. Against this backdrop, we suggest that the situation can be reversed by making the National Insurance Scheme (NHIS) compulsory for all citizens, which we hope will provide enough funds to improve the conditions of service and working environment for health professionals.
Also, we urge government to provide adequate remuneration and make conditions of service attractive for medics to live decently. Authorities at all levels should also provide the infrastructure and cutting-edge technologies needed for quality service delivery by medical professionals. Furthermore, we appeal to Nigerian medics in the diaspora to return and set up world-class medical facilities in the country. Their regular medical outreach programmes in Nigeria can’t be enough.
What is more, the President has to build on his positive experience in the health systems of other climes while receiving treatment, to impact on the Nigerian healthcare system by replicating what he saw and experienced in London at least to take care of the masses who do not have the resources to fly abroad for medical care. He should encourage health authorities in the country to replicate the medical equipment he saw abroad during his treatment.
Specifically, Buhari should make healthcare his personal agenda, and contribution to the growth of the Nigerian health sector. He should see his health challenge and experience in a London hospital as a wake-up call by revamping the health sector. This should be pursued so that Nigerians would stop going through this embarrassment for the good of the people and the protection of our national image.
Similarly, we demand that the ninth National Assembly should demonstrate good leadership, which is a critical variable in dealing with the current crisis in the health sector. The legislators should show good representation in the area of health sector reform. Hopefully, by amending the National Health Act, 2014 and with more investment in the health sector, many citizens will have access to quality and affordable health care, while the capital flight occasioned by medical tourism will be a thing of the past.

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Editorial

Fresh Call For National Unity

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Fifty years after the Nigerian Civil War, which claimed well over 2.5 million lives, destroyed hundreds of thousands of properties, and rendered millions permanently maimed and traumatised in just about three years, principal actors, survivors, political leaders, historians, activists and other players in the Nigerian Project, last week, converged to provoke a sombre reflection, and warned against utterances and actions capable of triggering the disintegration of the country while advising that the catastrophe of the war years should serve as pivotal driving force for the promotion of peace, national reconciliation, cohesion and unity.
The warning was accentuated by diverse leaders across the nation from different professions, religious and ethnic orientations at the ‘Never Again Conference 2020’ organised by the Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo Lagos, in collaboration with civil society organisations. At the core of the conference was an x-ray of the major causes and consequences of the ill-fated Civil War and a critical appraisal of the present state of the nation which shows a seemingly dangerous replay of events in virtually all spheres of the Nigerian state.
Consequently, speaker after speaker noted that the complex dynamics, including heavily diverse cultures, tradition, religious affiliations and social backgrounds which have made it difficult for Nigerians to forge a strong, virile, progressive, peaceful and united nation, should be quickly harnessed, coalesced and weaved together in harmony to shut out any tendency to plunge the country into another Civil War. They regretted that the failure of Nigeria to move forward in peace and sustainable progress was because of the brazen disrespect of the majority and crass insistence of a minority group to foist its interests in the workings of the executive, legislative, judicial and even military and security superstructures without regard to the consequential violent implosion which such could unleash on the nation.
The leaders pointed at the various unfolding events of the last few years, including rising cases of abuse of power, outright impunity, looting of national treasury and assets, disregard for the rule of law and constitutionality, nepotism, tribalism, lack of compliance with the federal character principle, and targeted systemic violent attacks, killings and acts of war against people of other ethnic groups, and warned that the situation was capable of forcing the majority to fight back, thereby pushing the country into the brink of another civil war.
The Tide completely agrees that the songs of war, inciting, toxic and inflammatory attacks on people of other ethnic groups are heightening tension. We worry that violent attacks, killings, and kidnapping of people of certain tribes, religion and/or perceived to be of a given social status are taking a dangerous crescendo too. Even the deliberate government strategy to recruit and appoint people from a section of the country into virtually all critical sectors, agencies or departments at the federal level calls for concern.
We, therefore, caution harbingers of discord and war to remember the atrocities of the civil war and realise that so many things have changed and that the result of another potential war may never be the same. We say so because history tells us that no nation has ever survived two civil wars intact.
While we insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, we appeal to all players to respect the expressed interests of others, and allow the divergent views to co-exist for the peace and unity of the nation. Indeed, the best way to bring this to life is to key into the urgency to restructure the country with the objective of giving the people a true and acceptable federal structure under which each federating unit would deploy its resources to conquer poverty amongst the people while the rich and the poor cohabit in harmony.
We believe that only a patriotic commitment to peaceful and united Nigeria would lead the present and future generations to a country with tolerant and inclusive political, economic, social and security systems for all. To achieve these, our leaders must entrench the core values of democratic principles and eschew ethnic, religious differences so that the country’s driving force can revert to the ideal: merit, hardwork, creativity and innovation.
For us, there is no better time to raise the alarm than now because the fabric of the Nigerian state has been threatened and weakened by years of degenerate government tactics aimed at marginalising and alienating the majority in governance, repression and deployment of brute force to crush opposition, glorification of injustice and inequality, and other antics that enhance division and incite people to hate.
This is why we urge leaders in various sectors to heed the lesson of the civil war and the clarion call to do everything within their powers to promote peaceful coexistence and national unity. This is a call to duty and a task for all Nigerians.

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Editorial

Pains Of NIN Registration

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Controversies have been trailing the ongoing National Identity Number (NIN) enrollment as the exercise imposes severe hardship on Nigerians in various centres across the country. The process has left a good number of people with frustration on an unprecedented scale.
NIN enrollment activities seldom succeed without physical altercations. An enrollee is expected to visit a designated (NIMC) centre to undertake biometrics after filling a form. Then they are asked to return for the NIN, usually after a minimum period of two weeks.
NIMC officials, their cronies and security agents among other concerned personnel, have made the process a fiendish complexity for Nigerians in dire need of the registration by extorting them. In some enrollment centres, there are stipulated amounts of money NIMC officials demand from applicants to get them registered.
In other centres, NIMC officials work in close collaboration with security agents to perpetrate the illicit act. The officials usually demand between N500 and N5,000 depending on the corresponding multitudes in the affected centres and the exigencies of the enrollment. Those who pay the money are given preference while others who fail to comply wait perpetually in exasperation.
Some applicants get desperately far to refuel NIMC generators to prevent officials from finding reasons to end registration for the day. Those who cannot bear the rigours of waiting and returning each day, gratify men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to expedite the process. The resentment has made many Nigerians move to other cities to have their enrollments effected.
In profoundly populated areas across various states and cities, the enrollment modus has been tough on applicants, particularly with the development that requires students seeking university admission to have NIN as a criterion.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) had in September last year directed prospective candidates for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to enroll for NIN in order to check examination fraud, address the challenges of underage and multiple registrations, and cut down enrollment costs.
However, in a sudden wrench, the examination body announced a pull back from the initial plan to implement the policy with effect from next year, citing technical issues, stakeholders’ concerns, and difficulties faced by candidates in the NIN registration.
Going by the galling experiences of Nigerians in the NIN centres, it is doubtful whether the NIMC/JAMB collaboration will be successful. While registration centres are few and far between, the NIMC grossly lacks adequate staff and equipment to discharge the exercise.
Given the grisly situation, the House of Representatives advised JAMB to suspend the NIN-for-UTME policy. While we commend JAMB for putting off the scheme to next year, we urge the Board to extend the time furthermore until there are enough awareness and preparations.
To facilitate efficient NIN registration process, therefore, we suggest that more centres be created across the country while additional equipment and staff be mobilised for the exercise. We equally urge NIMC to end the massive corruption in the registration centres and hope the culprits get the sanctions they deserve.
Also, the commission needs to establish active collaboration with states and local governments for valuable and less-stressful registration. It is unbelievable and quite grotesque that policy administrators in this country only mull over the benefits of policies without any careful consideration for their execution.
We recall a recent statement by the Director-General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, admitting that the NIMC had succeeded in registering only 35 million Nigerians. We are doubtful if half of this number has been issued the permanent registration card. For a country of about 200 million people, the performance of the commission in this task is hardly good enough.
The Tide deeply deplores the chaotic nature of the NIN registration exercise nationwide and impetrates the authorities involved to ensure that the task is seamless and less hazardous. There is a need for those in charge to simplify the registration process. We hope that NIMC management is aware of the many obstacles that stand between Nigerians and a successful NIN registration.

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