HEDA Advocates for Social Health Security Law

HEDA Advocates for Social Health Security Law

…Calls for Transparency in Management of Local, International Donations In the wake of the COVID-19 threat which has seen cases rising to 373 in the country, a Social Security and Health Insurance Law for all Nigerians is the most important issue at the moment, the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) said on Wednesday.

…Calls for Transparency in Management of Local, International Donations

In the wake of the COVID-19 threat which has seen cases rising to 373 in the country, a Social Security and Health Insurance Law for all Nigerians is the most important issue at the moment, the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) said on Wednesday.

In a letter addressed to President, Muhammadu Buhari, the group urged the Nigerian leader to compel the Health Ministry to initiative 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 said even after dealing with the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, many Nigerians will 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 foremost 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, minimize 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), Mr Boss Mustapha 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 Mohammadu 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 SGF, 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 further “We need a radical approach judging from the experience learnt due to COVID-19. President Buhari should issue an executive order banning all public officers from seeking medical test and treatment abroad, with a moratorium of one year for the uplifting of our health facilities and transfer of their medical records to Nigeria.”

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 many 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, the group said, is present in both public and private hospitals.

In a related issue, the Federal and State Governments have been cautioned to stop confusing the three-year old Conditional Cash Transfer with relief package designed to alleviate people confronted with fresh conditions of poverty brought by the COVID-19 lockdown.

HEDA accused the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Mrs Sadiya Umar Farouq, for confusing the Conditional Cash Transfer programme launched in 2016 with the palliative measures aimed at reducing the economic hardship associated with the COVID-19 spread and governments’ lockdown directives. The group also called for due process and transparency in the disbursement of local and international donations the FG and States are receiving in the fight against the coronavirus.

HEDA in the statement signed by Mr Suraju said “The least we owe Nigerians is not to play politics with the misery of millions of people. The fact is that the CCT began in 2016. It should not be confused with any measure of any Government to tackle the hunger and poverty occasioned by the lockdown. They are two different distinct programmes. One cannot substitute for the other.” 

The group also calls for “Democratic and Legislative” inclusion in any economic measures being taken by all tiers of government to deal with COVIP-19 fallouts, adding that the process must involve the National and State Assemblies and also the civil society.

HEDA said for hanging on the CCT as a palliative measure suggests that the State Governors have no indigenous means of responding to the economic hardship brought by the lockdown.

The group berated state Governors launching the CCT as if it is a palliative conceived by them, adding that the N20,000 being transferred belongs to the people who ought to know the source and the motive.

Suraju said it is important for the Federal and State Governments to be “honest and transparent” with the people they govern, noting that some state Governors are already presenting the CCT in their state as a new measure conceived, designed and being implemented by them. This is, he said, is tantamount to setting the tune for diversion of fund originally meant for the palliative measures.

HEDA said the CCT was sourced from stolen funds recovered from the late dictator, Gen Sanni Abacha and that the disbursement to indigent people began in 2016.

The group said the Minister recently set the unfortunate tune and precedence with a misleading announcement of responding to the situation with payment of N20,000 to the beneficiaries whereas this payment is the accumulation of outstanding four months payment under the CCT scheme.

Suraju said, “The Minister is suspected to have deliberately acted in this manner to blur the line of accountability, disguising the conditional cash transfer as payment under the COVID-19 intervention and relief package. The payment presently is only made to about 900,000 households and not over 2 millions as claimed by the Minister.”

“We are hereby calling on State Governors suddenly launching the payment of CCT, a programme that began three years ago as if it is a new intervention and project. They should desist from this misrepresentation and come forward with their latest intervention to cushion the effect of the lockdown on their citizens,” HEDA said

The anti-graft group said in partnership with other civil right groups, HEDA is monitoring the entire process and would demand accountability for all the donations to the states and Federal Governments.

“The citizens are also hereby informed that the N20,000 being paid is part of the recovered Abacha loot paid to the country since 2015 under the National Social Intervention Programme and not part of contributions from private citizens and organizations,” HEDA said.

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