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How case of Boko Haram survivor questions billions spent on Nigeria’s healthcare annually

Last Monday, Ali Ahmadu, a boy from the Chibok Community in Borno State, who was confined to the wheelchair after suffering damages to his spinal cord in a Boko Haram attack, retuned to Nigeria. He had been flown to Dubai on September 11, 2017 for corrective surgery.

During his stay in Dubai, the six-year old underwent a six-hour surgery and had one-week confinement at the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital and observed a one-month recovery schedule. Ali had been left to his fate in the hands of traditional medicine practitioners after the Boko Haram attack. Orthodox Medicare was not available to him.

National attention to his plight was called by Global Initiative for Peace, Love and Care (GIPLC), a Non-governmental organisation (NGO), coordinated by Mr. Nuhu Kwajafah.

Ali left Nigeria in pains. He arrived beaming with appreciative smiles that spoke volumes. Those smiles breathed hope into so many Nigerian kids waiting on wheelchairs, or crawling the streets and abandoned to their fate.

A few months earlier, Ali was a sorry sight. He had no hope in his country. He was made to realise that despite the humongous sums spent annually by federal, and state, governments on healthcare, he still had no hope of walking again. His government, for which ‘welfare and security of citizens’ is, constitutionally, primary reason to be, failed him. It turned out, sadly, that budgetary allocations to the health sector have still not made any positive impacts.

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In 2013, federal government’s budgetary allocation to health was N279 billion. It was down to N262 billion in 2014. In 2015 Nigeria budgeted N259 billion which dropped to N257 billion in 2016. In 2017, the national budget increased to N7.298 trillion but health got some N304 billion which was just 4.17 percent of the budget.

Broken down among 180 million people, the total budget for 2017 translates to N1,688 per Nigerian. That is not even enough to pay for a patients’ card and file if Ali had been taken to any Nigerian hospital to fix his broken spine. None of these sums has made any meaningful impact on the life of Nigerians.

However, the State House Clinic, which is managed by the Presidency, and is equipped to take care of the health of the President, his deputy, their families and top echelon of government, received N3.87 billion in the 2016 budget for capital projects. The figure was more than the budgetary allocation to all federal government-owned teaching hospitals in Nigeria.

For instance, University of Lagos Teaching Hospital was allocated N212, 539,245 for capital projects while Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital was allocated N230,904,795. University College Hospital, Ibadan received N230,904,795 while University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu had N218,355,906 allocated to it for capital expenditure.

Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital Ile-Ife and University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital received N163million each while University of Jos Teaching Hospital and University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital received N228.7 million and N169.4 million respectively. No University teaching hospital got up to N280m from the 2016 budget for capital expenditure. No details have been published anywhere as to how much was allocated to medical research.

In the 2017 federal budget, State House Clinic received zero budgetary allocation for capital projects. After an embarrassing visit of wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, to the State House Clinic where she queried the lack of common syringes and other facilities, the permanent secretary in the State House, Jalal Arabi, disclosed that only 33 percent of budgetary allocation to the clinic was released in 2015. He said this to debunk claims that over N11billion was allocated to the Clinic since 2015.

Despite these allocations, no Nigerian hospital is equipped enough to fix Ali’s spinal cord. There is not even one spinal cord specialist treatment center for 180 million people. The situation is worsened by the knowledge that Nigerian-born medical specialists dot the international landscape, winning laurels and applause for their efforts in medicine.

A Nigerian, Oluyinka Olutoye, is acclaimed for his feats in foetal surgery in the United States of America. Bennet Omalu, another Nigerian blood, is acclaimed in the US for his work in forensic pathology and neuropathology.

He discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy in American Football. Oluyemi Badero is also named as one of America’s best cardiologists. The list is endless in America as it is in other parts of Europe. And Asia.

The difference? While facilities for medical care, including state of the art equipment and technologically advanced gadgets are developed, and provided, to help in healthcare management in Europe and America, same are attended to with levity and shadowed with corrupt practices in Nigeria. Many Nigerian physicians who are making their marks in the US, are persons who were frustrated out of Nigeria by the healthcare system which is landmarked by incessant industrial action, lack of electricity, lack of equipment, absence of drugs and sadly, lack of dedication by medics.

The world is awash with medical breakthroughs and it’s generally acknowledged that Nigeria has the resources to invest in them. Indeed, there were high expectations that after President Muhammadu Buhari confessed to having experienced what technological advancement had done to healthcare management in Europe, as same was used in the management of his health, that, at least, one national health facility would have been upgraded, and equipped with the latest medical equipment, to stop the medical tourism that, even the president had said, costs Nigeria about N10billion annually.

But this is where Nigeria failed Ali. This is where Nigeria also continually fails its citizens and exposes them to alternatives in the hands of miracle merchants, quacks and unqualified alternative medicine practitioners. This is why Ali’s smile also makes mockery of Nigeria.
By Femi Qudus …

 

 

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