President Muhammadu Buhari has explained that the N100bn loan disbursed to indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare investors by the Federal Government was to boost local production of medicines and medical consumables.
Buhari gave the explanation in Abuja on Tuesday, while receiving the new executive members of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
The loan is expected to aid local production of pharmaceutical products, as against the current practice where Nigeria and other African countries currently spend at least $14 billion on the importation of pharmaceutical products needed in the continent.
Vera Songwe, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) executive secretary, in 2019, revealed that over 16 million jobs are lost annually to the importation of drugs by African countries.
Buhari confirmed that the loan was extended to the beneficiaries through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
According to him, the health sector reform committee chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is currently exploring models for the revitalisation of the nation’s healthcare system, in ways that improve the quality of care to the people.
On brain drain in the health sector, the president said he has directed the minister of health to look into ways of turning “brain drain” to “brain gain” by engaging top Nigerian medical experts in the diaspora in knowledge and skills repatriation.
He urged the association and other stakeholders in the health sector to support initiatives by the government and work with the committees set up to chart a fast-track healthcare system that best meets the needs of Nigerians.
The president commended the NMA, which is the umbrella body of all medical practitioners in Nigeria, for consistently choosing peaceful resolution of differences on matters relating to the national health system.
“I commend our medical professionals for their contribution to Nigeria’s exemplary management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the control of malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis, and other feats also achieved by Nigerian doctors in the diaspora.
“Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been praised internationally and your members are key parts of this success.
‘‘I recall that in the last quarter of 2021, the immediate past NMA executives visited me and presented recommendations for the health sector, which included, the review and amendment of NHIS Act; upgrading and equipping existing health institutions; loans to fund hospital equipment; the repeal and re-enactment of the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act; and appeal for more funding for the four newly established universities of medical sciences.
‘‘I am pleased to inform you that most of these recommendations have been addressed, while further action is being taken to study those involving cross-cutting administrative processes with legal implications.’’
Buhari congratulated a former president of the body, Osahon Enabulele, the president-elect of the World Medical Association, the first Nigerian to hold the position.
While wishing him a successful tenure, the president expressed hope that Enabulele would use his position to support improvement in healthcare delivery in Nigeria and lower income countries.
He also wished the new executive members of NMA a successful tenure, urging them to continue to serve as arbiters of peace and progress.
Osagie Ehanire, the minister of health, who led the medical practitioners to the audience, affirmed that the doctors have been good partners with his ministry, helping to regulate the health profession as well as stressing quality service delivery.
Uche Ojinmah, the NMA president, said the new national officers committee (NOC) was elected on May 21, 2022.
He commended Buhari for assenting to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act which will “improve the health indices of our nation;” the constitution of the Health Reform Committee under Osinbajo; and the various infrastructural projects undertaken by the Buhari-led administration.
Ojinmah urged the president to ensure full and appropriate implementation of the NHIA Act; provision of “adequate work equipment, conducive work environment and necessary budget support;” as well as elongation of the retirement age for medical consultants to 70 years and 65 years for non-consultant doctors and other healthcare workers.
Others include: implementation of the Hazard Allowance circularised in December 2021 with the arrears; as well as the setting up of a health bank.
He also requested for a representation of the Federal Government at the inauguration of Enabulele in Berlin, Germany, later in the year.