• Thursday, July 18, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Obi calls for reform of Nigeria’s healthcare, says life expectancy among lowest

Peter Obi, NLC meet to address LP leadeship crisis

Peter Obi, the 2023 Labour Party presidential candidate,  has criticised the federal government’s handling of the health sector and called for immediate reforms to improve access to quality medical care for all Nigerians.

Expressing his views as a guest speaker at the 6th Public Lecture of the Board of Fellows, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, held in Awka, Anambra State on Wednesday, Obi pointed out that Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) ranking remains low, even after 25 years of democratic governance.

He emphasised that health, particularly life expectancy, is a critical measure of development.

“When you want to measure this Human Development Index, the most critical measure number one is Health – life expectancy.

“Life expectancy as we know today in Nigeria is among the lowest in the world. We are about 65 years, compared to India at about 70, Bangladesh at about 72, Egypt at about 71, and the Philippines at about 70,” Obi stated.

Obi outlined several issues plaguing Nigeria’s healthcare system, such as the country’s minimal functioning primary healthcare facilities, alarmingly high infant mortality rates, that the majority of drugs are imported, making them costly and frequently out of reach for many Nigerians, and the impediments to local drug manufacturing caused by government support gaps and regulatory obstacles.

The former Anambra State governor criticised the government’s approach to healthcare, stating, that the government does not understand what they are supposed to do to help our citizens.

Obi also highlighted the economic impact of poor healthcare.

“Many people with many illnesses can no longer be able to afford treatment. Nigerians now spend more than their income on food because everything has tripled.”

Obi further called for a complete overhaul of the system, emphasising the need for committed and compassionate governance.

He suggested several solutions including, investing in critical areas of healthcare, supporting local drug manufacturing, designing affordable insurance schemes and lifting people out of poverty to enable their participation in healthcare programs, among others.

“We must dismantle this criminality called Nigeria today and make it a country where people will know that they are elected to serve the people and they focus on doing the right thing,” Obi added.

Taking to his X page on Wednesday, Obi added, “Access to quality medicines remains vital for all human beings whether sick or well, who seek medical consultation, and it is proven that 90 per cent of all medical consultations end in one form of prescription or another. Therefore, the availability of quality medicines remains the key armoury for the fight for well-being, while pharmacists remain the armourer.

“The reason we lack quality medicines is due to the same socio-economic problem affecting production in the country, where regulatory agencies now function as revenue collectors rather than as enablers and access to financing is not available or at an excessive rate.

“There is hardly any health insurance regime in place to guarantee access to those who cannot afford immediate cash payments.

“Excruciating poverty and severe economic hardship have also kept functional healthcare and quality medicines out of the reach of the poor. The only medicine our people take now is prayer,” he wrote.