Nigeria’s Reset Moment on Healthcare

Nigeria’s Reset Moment on Healthcare

The Chief of Staff of Nigerian President and the Governor of the state of Bauchi have both tested positive to Covid-19. We wish them quick recovery along with other patients around the world. As the nation deals with this virus, which has climbed to 44 cases in Nigeria, a famous African axiom comes to mind: “No honourable man leaves his sick father only to return when he has been healed through the help of another man”. Most Africans do not buy “old age insurance” because most have living insurance policies on their children. Yes, parents expect the kids to take care of them since we have no reliable government, and markets are yet to be trusted to serve when needed.

Where am I going? Today, the same clinics and doctors we have failed to deepen their capabilities are now the elements which are going to treat ALL patients, big and small. Unlike in the past, where London and Berlin clinics and doctors would have helped, coronavirus has offered only a choice to everyone: Nigerian doctors and clinics. Of course, London and Berlin clinics are not missing us. This is a moment to reset on healthcare.

More so, as I noted when Lagos closed schools last week, shops and markets would follow, and by next week, it would be turn for non-essential businesses. Lagos state has drawn the largest sword: all non-essential markets and shops closed. This makes this pandemic a huge economic virus because it can ravage lives, not in units but in hundreds, within days in Lagos. 

This is a moment to reset on healthcare especially now lawyers do not need to file briefs that their clients need to visit London or Berlin for urgent medical treatments. It is magical how good health has returned to politicians as none has visited London and Berlin for the usual medical checks.

Nigeria must rise to the challenge by doing all things necessary to manage the paralysis. I commend this move by the House of Reps: “Any company that does not lay off its staff till the end of the year would have the federal government refund 50 per cent of the income tax paid on its employees’ salaries, a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday”.

As COVID-19 disease ravages the land, with a looming possibility of workers being laid off, the bill seeks to grant companies a reduction on Companies Income Tax to 50 per cent of PAYE (pay as you earn), so long the companies do not retrench their staff.

Although it would be a temporary palliative, the bill seeks to grant a six-month deferral for payments on mortgages obtained by individual contributors to the National Housing Fund (NHF).

Likewise, it seeks to suspend all import duties on medicines, medical equipment and other essentials, to be determined by the minister of health, required to help in the treatment and management of COVID-19 disease.

Titled the “Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill 2020,” these exemptions are expected to take effect from March 1, 2020, and remain in force till 31st December 2020, with a clause of extension, if need be.

They need to make sure the recent freeze on the plenary would not stop that nice move which will certainly stimulate the private sector to show empathy in this challenging moment. I will prefer that the government replaces the option to “refund” with an option to “not collect”. Why? Getting more money from the Nigerian government would be hopeless in 2021 since even the law makers cannot be trusted to follow the rules!

The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari has asked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to request all members who recently returned from foreign trips to present themselves at the nearest NCDC centre for testing.

Kyari in a leaked letter to the Speaker, dated 21st of March, 2020 informed the speaker that some members of the House of Representatives refused to be screened at the airport while returning from foreign trip.

The Chief of staff said that the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire was informed of the breach in the screening process.

The letter reads: “It has been brought to the Honourable Minister of Health who recently reported to this office that some members of the House of Representatives are refusing to subject themselves to medical screening at airports.

“As you are aware, these airport screenings are our primary line of defense and refusal by any citizen to subject to these tests is a threat to our nation.

“Accordingly, you are kindly requested to direct all members of the House of Representatives who returned to Nigeria from foreign trips to turn in themselves to the nearest NCDC centre with immediate effect.”

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