Health Don Criticises WHO Over Nigeria Snub For Regional Director Role

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Prof. Oyewale Tomori.
Prof. Oyewale Tomori.

Following Nigeria’s exclusion from being considered for the role of regional director for the World Health Organisation (WHO), virologist and former Vice Chancellor of Redeemers University, Prof. Tomori Oyewale has expressed deep disappointment over what he termed “Nigeria’s continuous exclusion from the role…”

In an interview with Science Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja, the renowned Nigerian virologist shared his concerns about Nigeria’s ongoing absence from this significant position.

The document “Code of Conduct for the Nomination of the Regional Director” outlines guidelines established during the 68th session of the regional committee for Africa in Dakar, Senegal, held from 27–31 August, 2018. The code is meant to enhance transparency, fairness and credibility in the nomination process for the regional director of the WHO African region. It includes principles such as fairness, equity, transparency, and non-discrimination. The document details specific guidelines for the nomination process, including submission of proposals, electoral campaigns and the conduct of member states and candidates.

The document emphasises ethical conduct, mutual respect and the avoidance of conflicts of interest among candidates and member states. Key provisions include standardisation of curriculum vitae submissions, restrictions on campaign activities and guidelines for maintaining confidentiality during the nomination meetings. The adoption of this code aims to harmonise practices across WHO regional committees and uphold the integrity of the nomination process for regional directors in Africa.

Oyewale pointed out that, despite having highly qualified candidates, Nigeria has never held this influential position. He attributed this to a lack of governmental support, especially from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Nigeria, which he alleged often shows bias in favour of candidates from specific ethnic groups rather than supporting the most qualified individuals.

Oyewale highlighted that this persistent geopolitical favoritism and calculated negligence have frustrated capable Nigerian candidates, resulting in Nigeria’s absence from a significant role in global health leadership, undermining the country’s potential contributions to WHO Africa’s mission. 

Science Nigeria reports that the names of the candidates who could be elected as the next regional director for WHO African region were sent by WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to the relevant member states on June 14, 2024. The candidates include Dr. N’da Konan Michel Yao proposed by Côte d’Ivoire, Dr. Boureima Hama Sambo proposed by Niger, Dr. Richard Mihigo proposed by Rwanda, Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall proposed by Senegal and Dr. Faustine Engelbert Ndugulile proposed by Tanzania. The election is scheduled during the 74th session of the WHO African Region’s regional committee from August 26–30, 2024 in Brazzaville, Congo.

The newly appointed regional director will assume office on February 1, 2025 for a five-year term and be eligible for reappointment once. The regional director is appointed by the WHO executive board, in agreement with the WHO regional committee for Africa. Any member state of the region may propose one or more people for the role. The regional director is elected by secret ballot at a private meeting of the regional committee.

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