Thought Leadership

In memory of Dr Ihekweazu, health centre controversy and health as cash cow

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Avid followers of this blog would have noticed that Chikwe was off to Nigeria for a while recently. This was due to his bereavement, his father Dr Umelobi Ihekweazu having passed on a few weeks ago. I’m sure our readers join me in expressing our condolences. There’s a tribute to the late Dr Ihekweazu here

Health in Nigeria was the focus of attention recently, for perhaps the wrong reasons as the new President Yaradua suspended the contract (awarded by his predecessor earlier this year) for a comprehensive health centre to be built in every local government area. Yaradua suspended the contract because the legality of deductions from local government funds by the Federal Government had been called into question. Interestingly, the contract was said to have been awarded to a company linked to a former aide of Obasanjo. There have been interesting reactions to the suspension from this editorial in the Vanguard to this from the charity Save the Children. While the debate about the propriety of the contracts rages, one wonders whether the building of the health centres were part of a cohesive strategy. Hospitals and health centres have been opened with fanfare in the past only to suffer from a lack of drugs and trained personnel to enable them function. It is time the Nigerian people began to look beyond rhetoric and ask, how does this actually improve the health of our people? The furore over the centres also underlines the need for partnership in improving health, as a unilateral approach is unlikely to be successful. That said, part of what is actually at stake is money and who gets to control it. The sooner politicians stop eyeing the health sector as a source for money to share, the sooner the health of Nigerians will improve.

It is alleged that the recent merger of the lucrative donor-funded National Programme on Immunization with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency may not be unconnected with an attempt to corner these resources. The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency is headed by Mrs Titi Koleoso-Adelekan who is said to be a close relative of the former president Obasanjo. Interestingly it is this same agency that had as far back as the year 2000 awarded contracts for the building of health centres in every local government area. This is certainly an area that may be worth further scrutiny. Stewardship of health funds in particular should be sacred as misappropriation means simply that people die.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

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