The Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) has called on the Federal Government to reinvest the petroleum subsidy funds into the country’s health sector.
The HSRC’s chairperson, Mrs. Chika Offor, speaking at a press conference today in Abuja, to analyse the health manifestos of the four front-running political parties in Nigeria, said in the light of the cross-cutting commitment to the removal of petroleum subsidy which gulped over 20 per cent of the country’s budget in 2022, the coalition “strongly suggests a substantial reinvestment of the subsidy package in the health sector”.
Offor clarified that the idea was not only because the removal created ample fiscal space to achieve the Abuja Declaration, but because health is one of the few sectors capable of providing immediate dividends of productivity for the people and economic growth for the country.
The expert said it was necessary to inform Nigerians of the recent activities to help shape the political conversation around healthcare in the build-up to the long-anticipated 2023 polls.
Offor pointed out that HSRC is a coalition of more than 100 civil societies and other non-government actors who came together to drive citizens-led health sector reforms in the country.
“Since this period, HSRC has continued to pursue the implementation of the Act and other sectoral reforms which have a strong potential for transforming the health care landscape in Nigeria through the provision of primary healthcare (PHC) services to all Nigerians and providing a roadmap to universal health coverage (UHC).
“Effectively, the group, in line with its mandate of advancing the rights of Nigerians to UHC and health security, commissioned a scientific analysis of the plans of the top-contending political parties and candidates in the forthcoming presidential elections.
“Beyond activating a culture of holding the political class accountable to their health promises, the overarching goal of this exercise was essentially to visualise to Nigerians the various health roadmaps of the top candidates to inform voter decision-making,” she explained.
Offor, however, congratulated the political parties and candidates for heeding citizens’ call for a more comprehensive health agenda to, indeed, earn their positions as front-running candidates in this election, since health is directly at the heart of human development.
Recall that Chapter two of the 1999 Constitution in section 17 (3) provides for the rights to health of Nigerians, stating that: “The health, safety and welfare of all persons in employment are safeguarded and not endangered or abused; there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons”.
Also, the recently signed National Health Insurance Authority Act, 2022, has an overriding objective to promote, integrate and regulate all health insurance schemes; improve and harness private sector participation in the provision of health care services and do such other things that will assist the authority in achieving universal coverage in Nigeria.
The protection of the right to health in the country cannot be over-emphasised, given that the nation has very poor health indicators.
Meanwhile, some health experts said that the four frontrunning parties made a common promise to increase the number of persons enrolled under the health insurance scheme but they were unclear on how they would raise the funds to achieve the set targets to increase health insurance coverage, which is in line with the strategic objective of attaining universal health coverage.
The UHC has a goal to improve healthcare by accelerating reforms to adequately finance the health system and realign resources in line with the responsibility for health across the tiers of the healthcare delivery system.
To achieve this, whoever emerges winner of the 2023 presidential election will implement the NHIA Act that makes health insurance mandatory for all residents in the country.
The imposition of an insurance levy on all residents of the country will generate the required funds necessary to fund the health sector.
The next president will also commit to allocating 15 per cent of the entire annual budget to health, in line with the Abuja Declaration of African leaders.
Meanwhile, the coalition said its demands were directed to the four front-running parties – the Labour Party, the Peoples Democratic Party, the All Progressives Congress and the New Nigeria Peoples Party – out of the 18 registered political parties.