Saturday 10 May 2008

Nigeria: The Senate Health Bill is rejected

A retreat in retreat

The Senate Committee for Health headed by Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello presented their National Health Bill to the Senate where the quality and standard of the bill was panned such that the deputy Chairman of the committee had to withdraw the bill.

You will remember, the committee was given N10 million from the illegally disbursed N300 million that the Ministry of Health should have returned to the treasury on the orders of the President.

Committee apparently went on retreat to Ghana to discuss this bill and finalise what they were to present to the Senate, the developments now show that the retreat achieved none of the objectives to make the bill suitable for presentation.

It sounds like a bad school report to have a results that indicate in the words of the Senate officials your work has irregularities.

The profile of the Health Committee

I am really saddened that this committee headed by someone who holds a PhD in some health delivery field, albeit veterinarian and was once a state health commissioner failed to grasp the remit of her brief.

However, when you see that the committee also includes that instigator of the indecent dressing bill (Senator Eme Ufot-Ekaette), the quality might have been dampened by ideas of someone given to frivolities. As a pharmacist, she seems to have no medicine for Nigeria’s health needs; she chairs the Women and Youth Committee.

The quality of the presentation does not seem to have exhibited the presumed talents of Senator Chris N. Anyanwu who as a journalist suffered incarceration for her profession. She is the vice-chairman - Committee on Defence & Army

One senator and former governor refused to put his name to the bill that was Senator Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State who seems to be preoccupied with causing ructions in his old state.

Senator Mohammed I. Ahmed was a senator in the last legislative session, so should be conversant with senate procedures, he was once a Secretary to the Kwara State government and holds the coveted title of Member of the National Institute.

He also chairs the Establishment & Public Service Committee; in a position like that, he should have known better not to accept money from a ministry that his committee oversees, maybe he knows nothing about possible conflicts of interest.

Senator George Akume was once the governor of Benue State, a Director General and Permanent Secretary; he holds degrees in Library Science and chairs the Integration & Cooperation Committee.

Senator Adego Erhiawarie Eferakeya holds a PhD in Pharmacy (1975) and is a Doctor of Medicine (1977), he was Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Benin, and he is the vice-chairman of the Ethics & Petition Committee.

Senator Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora is a medical practitioner and the vice-chairman of the Federal Character & Inter-Governmental Affairs Committee.

Senator Umaru Dahiru is a legal practitioner, he was a Senator in the last legislative term and is now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator Hassan Gusau was a member of the last legislative term and is the vice-chairman of the Employment, Labour & Productivity Committee.

Senator Mujitaba Mohammed Mallam holds a degree in educational biology and chemistry and he was once the commissioner for health of Jigawa State, he is the vice-chairman of the Housing Committee.

Senator Manzo G. Anthony is the vice-chairman of the Information & Media Committee.

Senator Gyang Dalyop Dantong was a member of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003 and a Senator since 2003, he is the vice-chairman of the Health Committee, he presented the bill and voluntarily withdrew it after the criticism of the quality and standard of the bill - he should at least know how things are done in the Nigerian legislature, one would think.

It beggars belief

This committee has 5 people who are either highly qualified health practitioners or have held positions of state health commissioner, it has 5 chairmen of Senate committees and 7 vice-chairmen of Senate committes, 2 were governors, 3 were Senators in the last legislative term, they all must have been involved in report preparations either academically or professionally.

This was no committee of nonentities, they were probably the best qualified of all senators to produce a bill of the standard that really addresses the health problems of Nigeria.

We have record numbers of people dying from malaria, religious organisations impeding their adherents from using health delivery programmes, sub-standard drugs are found in our teaching hospitals, Ministers of Health do not seem to have the right priorities and we do not have any institution in the country to treat our President when he has an allergic reaction and we end up with a bill for a junket in Ghana and no sound bill on health.

It is a disgrace.

Address the issue objectively

The Chairman in the person of Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello has responsibilities to manage, if her personal troubles are getting in the way of performing her duties with dispatch she should honourably resign her chairmanship and allow the committee to deliver without being hindered by these external factors.

I am disappointed that some political movements have failed to address the issue of the problems that Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello is having with her business dealings and indictments as completely separate from other matters that concern the activities of the regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd.) the erstwhile President of Nigeria, who happens to be her father.

One is not surprised because from my observation Nigerians have a tendency to forget the issues and get carried away with peripheral subjective matters such that all objectivity necessary to address and scrutinise the real issue is lost.

If indeed Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello is answerable to any charges, she should be dealt with as an individual in her own right and she be accorded all the means and courtesies to defend herself vigorously in any chosen forum of accusation, rebuttal, consideration and judgment.

The daughter is not the ex-President

She however should never be used as a conduit to get at her father who obviously has many enemies but is looking like a Teflon demi-god – if no one can legally and confidently indict General Obasanjo as an individual or head of a past government that is presumed to have been less than scrupulous, then he should be left alone to live out his years in pseudo-retirement.

This lack of objective focus on the issues allows the Senator to plead that she is being victimised and suggest that her life is in danger; it helps generate unnecessary sympathy for what should be a straight-forward legal issue whilst exciting commentary that could lead to exonerating her long before her cases are properly tried and proven.

It does no serve us well at all and it skews our criminal justice system.

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