By Obioma A.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has raised concerns over the proposed health sector reform programme of the Federal government. The Labour Centre, warn that government must practically ensure provision of benefits that would cushion the excruciating suffering of Nigeria rather deepen the the social inequality divide and poverty in the country, if the reform must take place.
NLC also said it’s falsehood for government to continue telling Nigerians it can no longer sustain the funding of basic socioeconomic sectors like education and health as evidence of the volume of public funds recently stolen by officials of government has proven otherwise. It further stated that human beings (Nigerians) are at the center of whatever makes meaning to life and existence in Nigeria, and must therefore be the core consideration of policies and action to which they are beneficiaries.
“We debunk the lies being persistently told to Nigerians and the master profiteers of privatization that the government lacks resources to modernize the health sector and provide quality health care service to Nigerians. This can only be a ploy to further exploit Nigerians while increasing the wealth of a few.
“Indeed, this fact of government capacity to fund the health sector is further provided by the National Bureau of Statistics. In its 2020 report on Social Statistics in Nigeria shows that; about $32.1m and N179b were recovered from stolen public funds between 2017 and 2019. Between 2020 and 2022, more than N200billion have been stolen and all these publicized thefts are a fraction of the leakage that is daily going on in the oil and gas sectors.
“On the challenge of paucity of funds which incidentally is not peculiar to the health sector alone, the government needs to be sincere, willing, and decisive in addressing corruption and leakages in the system. Health and Education are critical human resources that facilitate development and which performance is key indicator of a responsive and responsible government that is accountable to its citizen.”
Contained in its Memorandum to the Committee on National Health Reform, that was signed by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, NLC remind the Federal government that the proposed reform recommendation tasks the government to increase budget allocation to the health Sector from the current average of 5 percent to 6 percent while expanding Health insurance coverage and access.
“While we are aware that the wave of changes in the global development paradigm is being reflected in local socio-economic indices and we agree that consequent to the changing social reality, it behooves on the government that rules, regulation and policies must reflect the evolving pattern. However, we are of the strong conviction that human beings are at the center of whatever makes meaning to life and must therefore be the core consideration of policies and action to which they are beneficiaries.
“This means that changes or development of policies and programs that are expected to be beneficial to people must undergo critical impact analysis such that it leads to a progressive outcome rather than a tendency to further deepen the social inequality divide and poverty. The core of the reform seeks control of teaching hospitals through a ‘hospital modernization’ program with an initial pilot of six teaching hospitals spread across the geopolitical zones.” NLC, said.
Furthermore, the memorandum in part said; “With much appreciation of the desire to make health services accessible and available to all we are concerned that:the timing of the plan for the implementation of a New Health Sector Reform Programme for the country comes at a time when the current administration has less than eight months to conclude and bearing in mind the legislative and administrative process that is required to conclude any policy that must pass through universal standard test.
“The possibility to rush through the process before the expiration of the current government will very likely exclude key stakeholder consultation and impact analysis as is evidenced in the gap from the terms of reference and the poor stakeholder consultation.
“The seeming exclusivity of the process counters the claim of this government to policy of due process, transparency, accountability, and good governance which should precede the birth of a new policy especially one that affects human wellbeing with implication for human capital development.
“The diagnostic report developed by Vesta Healthcare which is basically advocating for privatization of the tertiary health facilities and services which provides the guiding principle for the envisaged reformed has neither been made public nor shared with stakeholders for proper interrogation.
“That the published call for memoranda is not sufficient without a direct request sent to all critical stakeholders in the health sector since some important stakeholders may have missed the published call for Memoranda, including relevant MDAs at the state and National level.”
NLC went on to declare, “Our mandate here on behalf of the workers and the working class is to emphasize our total and unreserved rejection of the privatization of the health sector. We are not against providing the private sector with more space to participate in the provision of health service delivery in Nigeria, but we are emphatically opposed to the sale of government facilities to either local or foreign investors because health is life and life should not be a commodity to be subjected to the vagaries of the market.
“The sincerity of a reform process that can deliver on the above objectives should therefore focus on the following: Governance, financing, Health work force, Health information, medicine and technology.”