In the wake of the COVID-19 threat, a Social Security and Health Insurance Law for all Nigerians appears to be the most important issue now, the Lagos-based Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) said on Wednesday, April 14, 2020.
In a letter addressed to President, Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, the group urged the Nigerian leader to compel the Health Ministry to initiative a Social Security and Health Insurance Law that will cover every Nigerian irrespective of class or status.
Buhari was also asked to give express instructions to ban public office holders from going abroad for health related issues with a moratorium of one year to enable the country lay the foundation for a new beginning in the floundering health sector and allow some of the officials transfer their health profile from foreign hospitals.
The group disclosed in the letter that, even after dealing with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many Nigerians would face very tough economic challenges that will leave them battered and wounded especially in the absence of any Social Security and Health Insurance for the teeming population.
“The most important issue before Nigeria now is the urgent need for Social Security and Health Insurance. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to compel the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other relevant ministries and agencies, to initiate the bill. The law will save millions of vulnerable Nigerians who are on the lowest point of the ladder and will help tame the rising wave of social discontentment,” HEDA said in the letter signed by its Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju.
The anti-corruption group urged the Senate and the House of Representatives to prepare themselves for a speedy passage of the bill which will protect Nigerians from imminent economic downturn. The group said the uprising in some parts of Nigeria due to the lockdown was not unconnected with the poor conditions, the lack of opportunities and the absence of any legal economic safety nets.
“A social security and health insurance law will guarantee hope for Nigerians, minimise public aggression, crime and deviant behaviour that we see on Nigerian streets today, largely induced by poverty,” Suraju said.
He said many Nigerians were shocked to learn from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) that he was unaware of the state of public health in the country, adding that his statement was a reflection of the huge gap between the people and policy administrators.
HEDA said the only way to cause automatic government interest in the development of public health institutions is for President Buhari to give an executive order banning political office holders from going abroad for medical treatment.
“Nigerian health facilities will remain extremely bad, even worse than what was recently experienced by the SG, as long as elected public officials know that they may never need to use the facilities since they have the option and state resources for going abroad. The surest way now is to ban public office holders from medical trip abroad. President Buhari needs to take that decision now,” Suraju said.
He said the only exception is that medical treatment abroad should be restricted to referral from competent medical personnel and can only be in those areas where local capacity is lacking, adding that such referrals must be investigated by the EFCC, due to the compromise of some medical officials who collect bribe to procure fake medical reports for political office holders either to evade litigation or to leave the country for other purposes.
“This sad compromise of some medical personnel is present in both public and private hospitals,” he lamented.