BOF-PSN Public Lecture: Obi Charges FG to Prioritise Healthcare

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Mr Peter Obi

Former Governor of Anambra State and Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 general elections, Mr Peter Obi, on Wednesday, called on the Federal Government to take decisive steps towards ensuring that the ailing Nigerian health sector is optimised and repositioned in order to meet global standards, going by the country’s enormous endowment with human and material resources.

Obi made this call during his remarks as Guest Speaker in the public lecture to mark the 6th edition of the annual conference of the Board of Fellows (BOF) of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). He bemoaned the fact the Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) has remained low, in spite of the country’s 25 years of democratic governance.

The public lecture chaired by the Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe (Agbogidi), had in attendance Nigerian pharmacists drawn from the manufacturing, regulatory and academic sectors as well as other stakeholders in the Nigerian health sector.

While emphasizing that health remains the number one item on the list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as espoused by the United Nations, the former governor of Anambra state said that Nigeria still ranks low among countries in terms of life expectancy. He further observed that, only about 4, 800 primary healthcare centres are functional out of the over 30, 000 that are scattered all over the country.

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He attributed this dismal record to leadership failure in the country. “Why can’t we manufacture our own drugs? It is only in Nigeria that a regulator has become a revenue-generating body. The unstable forex system in the country is crippling the local manufacturing sector”, he lamented.

Obi recounted how a vaccine facility in Yaba, which had helped Nigeria weather the storm of health emergencies such as chicken pox and small pox was abandoned because a group of people decided that they would rather place more emphasis on drug importation in order to make money at the expense of local manufacturing. “Unless such a criminality is stopped, we cannot move forward as a nation. Nigerians are now spending more than their income on food and would rather go from church to church in search of divine solutions for their health challenges”, he added.

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Speaking extensively on the theme of this year’s public lecture – “Access to Quality Medicines in an Unstable Environment”, held at the ASUU Hall, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Obi said that quality healthcare boils down to the way the government of the day approaches it.

“All we need is to have people who are passionate and committed to governance; people who can invest our resources in critical sectors such as health”, he said.

The Labour Party stalwart also described as unacceptable the fact that countries like India, China and Indonesia with more human populations than Nigeria are getting things right with their healthcare delivery systems. To this end, he admitted that Nigeria is in dire need of leaders who understand the healthcare needs and challenges of the Nigerian people and are ready to make the necessary sacrifices in order to provide long-lasting solutions that would engender a paradigm shift from the abysmal position the country is currently occupying in terms healthcare delivery.

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Obi also lamented the fact that the annual budget of the National Assembly is more than the budget of six of Nigeria’s teaching hospitals which are supposed to be referral medical institutions. He also wondered why the budgetary allocation of the Aso Rock Clinic stood at N21b whereas majority of Nigerians cannot access quality healthcare.

“A professor of pharmacy earns about 500, 000 naira monthly while Nigerian lawmakers are riding in cars worth N150m each. The money used to maintain one public official can train many students through pharmacy school”, he said.

Describing the exit of multinational pharmaceutical companies from Nigeria as a very unfortunate development, Obi blamed the development on the harsh economic situation in the country. He therefore urged the Nigerian government to empower pharmacists as custodians of medicines and armourers of the healthcare sector to enable them perform optimally in terms of local manufacturing so that access to quality and affordable medicines can become a fundamental human right of every Nigerian, irrespective of social status, tribe and political partisanship.

 

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