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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

Heeding NIHSA’s Flood Warning

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The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) has predicted that the country
would experience greater flooding with disastrous consequences this year.
Following this prediction, therefore, the agency warned that Nigerians should make adequate preparations against the oncoming rainy season.
Director General of NIHSA, Clement Nze Onyeaso, who reportedly gave the advice at the agency’s maiden press conference in Abuja, last week, said that the rains were fast approaching and the remaining days of the dry season are the best time to prepare against flooding so as to avoid a reoccurrence of the past, especially the 2012 experience.
According to the 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) recently released by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), February 24 and June 22 are the predicted onset of rainfall in the South-South and Northern States, respectively, while the respective predicted cessation dates are December 28 and September 26. The implication of this is that Nigeria would likely experience longer period of rainy season this year than she did in 2019.
Onyeaso identified the causes of floods as high intensity rainfall of long duration, adequate drainage of low lying areas, silted channels, urbanization and severe winds over water, unusual high tides, tsunamis, failures of dams, levees, retention ponds or other water-containing structures.
He also pointed at the increasing concerns, over the years, about human actions and natural disasters that have been adversely impacting countries and regions worldwide and often posing serious ecological and environmental hazards.
“Though flooding is a natural environmental phenomenon, but it can be greatly accelerated by human-induced activities as is the case worldwide.
“Thus, with the increasing global population and the expanding activities of man, it is believed that flooding will continue to persist and, therefore, there is the need to control human activities, environmental adjustment and purposefully adopting actions in certain areas would make adjustment possible”, he said.
While The Tide welcomes this early flood alert by NIHSA, we fear that it may go the way of such previous warnings which were largely unheeded or, at best, treated with passive engagements while opting to employ the usual ad hoc measures when it had become too late for potential victims to reach for higher grounds or even salvage anything of value.
Like the NIHSA boss was said to have advised, governments at all tiers, corporate bodies and individuals should endeavour to avoid the ‘Fire Brigade Approach’ when the rain is already here. Attempts should be made to open up drainages or create drainage paths where none exists.
Also, governments should muster the will to relocate or demolish structures irrespective of their ownership, cost or beauty if such are found to be sited within the flood plains.
To be sure, the Rivers State Government has consistently desilted and expanded major water channels like the Ntawogba and Mini Waja in Port Harcourt before the commencement of every rainy season. We also commend the use of a highly reputed international construction firm in Nigeria to bring lasting solution to the persistent floods at St. John’s Campus Bus Stop, Kaduna Street Flyover (near FRSC), Rumuomasi (near Nigerian Air Force Base) and such other bad spots on the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway.
We are also not unaware of the current effort by the Rivers State Ministry of Environment to work with the state Legislature toward establishing an emergency response team. What is more, the state’s Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) has, through its Sole Administrator, Bro Felix Obuah, re-echoed the NIHSA message by urging Rivers residents to clear their drains and water channels before the rains arrive.
However, in the event of any flood disasters, we shall continue to call for the Federal Government and its emergency management outfits to enlist the services of the military as is the practice elsewhere. Apart from soldiers’ expertise in search-and-rescue operations, their helicopters are often used to identify worst affected areas and to either evacuate stranded victims or speedily convey first responders to such marooned persons.
Finally, it is no longer doubtful that climate change, natural disasters and human activities have resulted in environmental disorder across the world. For instance, Indonesia is seriously considering moving her capital from Jakarta to a new city located on higher ground for fear that the current capital is fast sinking below sea level; hence, its perennial flooding.
There are other cities in such situation across the world. We think that, here in Nigeria, the government should commission an expert examination of Lagos, Port Harcourt and the other riparian cities in the country.

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Editorial

De-Registration Of Political Parties

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ruffled not just a few feathers when it announced on Thursday, February 6, the delisting of 74 political parties from the register of political parties in the country, saving only 18.
While making the announcement at a press conference in Abuja, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission acted in conformity with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which under the Fourth Alteration vests in INEC the power to register and regulate the activities of political parties on the following grounds: “Breach of any of the requirements for registration as a political party; Failure to win at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election; or 25 per cent of votes cast in one local government area of a state in a governorship election; Failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election; Failure to win one seat in the national or state assembly election or one seat in a councillorship election”.
Prof. Yakubu stressed that the electoral umpire relied on the 2018 Fourth Alteration to the Constitution (Section 225A) which empowers the commission to deregister political parties on the aforementioned grounds.
Furthermore, the chief electoral officer of the country explained that “following the conclusion of the 2019 general election, including the court-ordered rerun elections arising from litigations, the commission was able to determine the performance of political parties in the elections. In addition, they were also assessed on their performance in the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which coincided with the 2019 general election”.
Based on these assessments, he said, the commission found only 18 political parties which fulfilled the requirements for existence as far as Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is concerned.
However, reacting to the development, a number of political parties affected by the action, including the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), the umbrella body of all registered political parties in the country have raised their voices, crying blue murder.
Tope Fasua, National Treasurer of IPAC, speaking on behalf of the body accused INEC of impunity and bias, insisting that the action of the electoral body was unacceptable and hinted that his organisation will move against it.
“We are coming out with a position on the platform of IPAC; it’s totally unacceptable. They collected our money; we ran for election once and they deregistered us. There are parties that won election in 2015, 2007, 2003, that didn’t win election in 2019 and you de-registered them. It is totally unacceptable”, Fasua who is also the National Chairman of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), one of the deregistered parties, fumed.
As IPAC and many of the affected political parties kick and threaten litigation against the Independent National Electoral Commission, the two dominant political parties in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), and a good number of Nigerians have not only hailed the action of INEC but have called for further pruning of the ranks of the political parties.
The general feeling among Nigerians is that most of the political parties have since constituted themselves into liabilities rather than assets to the electoral process. Where they are expected to provide credible opposition and alternative voices that put the government in power in check, they have rather been found to be merchants who trade their support and platforms for selfish gains.
The unseriousness of most of the 91 political parties that floated more than 23,000 candidates in the 2019 general election was underscored by the fact that they neither staged campaign rallies nor engaged in any activity that gave them visibility except the free publicity given by the media and civil societies, especially during the organised political debates and voter education programmes.
What was also done in the public glare was that, even though a total of 73 candidates got registered on the presidential ballot, most of them and their parties, got busy forming themselves into coalitions and groups that engaged in endorsing and campaigning for candidates of the dominant parties. And even when the law does not permit that, Nigerians watched in dismay as presidential candidates announced their withdrawal from the race in support of candidates of other parties only 48 hours to polling day.
The Tide believes that no well meaning individual or group will support or encourage the monumental abuse inherent in our electoral process and expect our democracy to survive. We therefore lend our voice to those of our compatriots in not only hailing INEC for the courageous action but to urge the electoral body to explore constitutional means of further reducing the number.
We are not unaware that INEC’s move to delist 39 political parties between 2011 and 2013 did not come to fruition as the parties scuttled the action through the judiciary. We hope this time around INEC’s action will not suffer the same fate as we are strongly persuaded that the efficiency and effectiveness of our election management body can only be guaranteed with a manageable number of political parties.

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Editorial

Against FUNAM’s Provocative Utterances 

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In a manner that depicts a descent into barbarism, a relatively known Fulani group that calls itself the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) recently stoked the ember of ethnic nationalism with its claims of Fulani ownership of Nigeria.
Apparently contemptuous of other ethnic groups that make up the country, the group claimed that Plateau-Benue and the rest of Nigeria is an indigenous territory of the Fulani people and gave a notice of a planned conquest of the entire country from Sokoto down to the Atlantic Ocean.
While FUNAM’s statement could be taken to be an empty boast by a faceless ethnic group routing for relevance, its claim of the existence of a Fulani Strike Force that coordinated what it called a retaliatory attack against Birom people in Barkin Ladi in Plateau State, in which 15 persons were killed by armed Fulani herdsmen, is provocative and senseless.
More nauseating is the fact that the president of the infamous group, Badu Salisu Ahmadu, was unapologetic about the killings. He said that the killings were justifiable as the Fulani had been attacked before the counter attack.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our heritage is that any attack on a single Fulani is an attack on all. Any of such attacks must be countered with triple measure”, Ahmadu said.
We consider this statement as highly provocative and reckless, and capable of igniting an arms race by Nigeria’s various ethnic groups.
The group, in its violent, crude and barbaric merchandise, went further to lay a warped operating philosophy of its dominance on other ethnic nationalities in the country.
It boasted, “We are the first to settle in Plateau-Benue axis thousands of years ago. We shall take and possess every inch of this land; a conscious attempt to rewrite history and distort, manipulate or destroy our past will be resisted with all the might at our disposal.
“We have said it over and over that Nigeria is the only inheritance we have in Africa and anywhere in the world. This land belongs to us, from Sokoto to the banks of the Atlantic Ocean. This was the destiny bestowed on Uthman Dan Fodio which would have been fulfilled since 1816 if not for the obstruction of this great assignment by the British.
“It is no longer time to play the ostrich (sic). Our men are waiting. We are eager to fight. We are boiling with the zeal to actualise our dream; enough of double dealing and ambivalence by Fulani political leaders who unfortunately think the Fulani can only take back what belongs to us through appeasement and elections destined to reflect cultural values antithetical to the preaching of Uthman Dan Fodio”.
Claiming that there is an agenda to divide Nigeria and exterminate its people, FUNAM again threatened: “We are aware of this plot. We call on Fulani all over Africa to prepare for the inevitable war and set our people on an offensive path rather than being weaklings that choose a defensive strategy in warfare”.
We recall that the irritant Fulani group made similar provocative statements in 2018, while defending the Benue massacre by Fulani herdsmen. Now, it has returned to its infamous familiar territory with a statement that further exposes it as a bunch of ethnic bigots who have lost touch with the present reality in the country.
Ordinarily, The Tide would not have dignified the irascible group and its incongruous conquest theories with a response, given its historical knack for seeking relevance, but the undignified silence of the Federal Government in the height of these provocative statements by FUNAM is discomforting, hence, the inevitability of our views.
We consider FUNAM’s statements as not only insensitive but also highly provocative, and we expect the Federal Government to take proactive measures against the group.
Besides the fallacy and pure distortion of facts and history which its claims of Fulani ownership of Nigeria tend to represent, FUNAM’s deliberate attempt to stoke the ember of ethnic nationalism and set various ethnic groups in the country on a war path is treacherous and treasonable.
It is sad that in a nation of diverse ethnic nationalities as Nigeria, an ethnic group would be so bold and daring as to make reckless statements that threaten the unity of the country without the government batting an eyelid. This smacks of double standard by the government that was roused and irked by similar provocative statements from the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which it proscribed.
We believe that this over indulgence of Northern ethnic groups by the Federal Government led by a Northerner and whose security apparatchiks are also dominated by Northerners fuel ethnic cleavages and high insecurity in the country.
We, therefore, call on the security agencies in the country to, without further delay, fish out the leaders and sponsors of FUNAM and any other groups with similar sinister motives for immediate interrogation and possible prosecution.
We warn that no section of the country has the monopoly of violence. Therefore, any attempt by any section of the country to lord it over other ethnic nationalities or try to annex their lands would be counter-productive.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to rein in on all ethnic bigots under the aegis of ethnic nationality to stop making further provocative statements capable of igniting war and disunity in the country. And the earlier this is done, the better.

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