Workers in Nigeria’s informal sector have called for more government investment in the provision of healthcare facilities, hospitals and clinics in poor communities.
The workers lamented that 15 years after the Africa Union (AU) Charter and the recent ECOWAS Protocol which recommended 15 percent budgetary allocation for healthcare by members states, Nigeria merely commits 4 to 6 percent of its allocation to healthcare, which is among the least budgetary allocation to healthcare in Africa.
The workers therefore said to address, Nigeria’s weak healthcare system, the Federal and state government must invest more in the provision of quality healthcare services through adequate funding.
This was part of recommendations of the Nigerian working group of West African Informal Sector Workers Network.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, General Secretary of Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria (FIWON), Comrade Gbenga Komolafe said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the poor healthcare system in Nigeria.
He said a study by the Nigerian working group showed that Informal workers also are excluded from health insurance scheme benefit and are canvassing for provision of subsidized drugs in the public hospitals to reduce the widespread incidence of abuse of drugs, use of fake and adulterated drugs and widespread patronage of unregulated and poorly standardized traditional medicines.
The Conference which had support from the Solidarity Centre AFL-CIO also had representatives from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC).
The group said it will use all available legitimate means to push campaigns to ensure that Nigeria fulfil its obligations of the AU charter and ECOWAS Protocol.
Komolafe said they will pay advocacy visits to the National Assembly, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Employment, and other relevant authorities, adding that the problem is not just peculiar with informal workers but on workers generally.
The FIWON General Secretary, said; “We will use all available legitimate means to push this campaign. We will do rallies and protest on the street. We are ready to employ all legitimate avenues to ensure Nigerian government fulfill its responsibilities as far as healthcare provision is concern. The slogan of our campaign is: Health is a Human Right, Health is our Human Right!”
“Our constitution is very clear on our rights. Section 16 2d of the Nigeria Constitution is very explicit, it says all Nigerians must have access to shelter, healthcare, to adequate clothing and even to feeding.
“Nigeria perhaps have the highest level of brain drain in the healthcare sector. A friend once told me that 200 doctors from Nigeria were some time ago employed by the British NHS within one week. Healthcare practitioners in Nigeria are not well paid, their allowances are hardly paid…even during Covid-19 locked down, they lack even basic PPEs. It is as bad as that because of under funding.
“It is tragic that Nigeria is among those countries in Africa that commits the lest amount of money to healthcare. We are talking about 4 to 6 per cent every year for the past 15years. Whereas even 15 percent (ECOWAS Protocol stipulated) would have been hardly enough. This under funding of healthcare sector is why doctors are on strike right now. It is not by accident that they are on strike. Beside doctors, we have also have nurses and other healthcare service givers going on strike now and then.
“So our campaign is just to hammer on the fact that healthcare deserves to be well funded. Healthcare deserves to be given sufficient priority.
“We believe that if what we have is well funded and expounded, more doctors and nurses are employed, the hospitals equipped with necessary equipments, drugs provided, medical facilities made available, more hospitals build especially in the rural communities, we will be better of. And all these cannot be done without more resource.
“That is why we are saying that government need to commit more resources. If all of that is done which is already a constitutional responsibility, we wouldn’t be talking about healthcare not being assessable in Nigeria.
“Our demand is for adequate funding so that adequate provision of healthcare facilities, adequate staffing and other necessaries are provided. If government provide adequate funding, it would go along way to solving almost all the crisis we are having in the healthcare sector in Nigeria.”
He cautioned that workers in the informalsector believe that healthcare is too important to be handed over to the private sector.
He said, “If in the most advance countries healthcare is given priority by government, on what basis then do we now expect that in a fragile economy like ours, private sector as weak as they are, would be able to take care of healthcare system? It can’t work and it’s not working.
“Our survey has also shown that even where people enroll with the so-called HMOs, the quality of healthcare provision is grossly inadequate. And that point has been stressed and stressed by most people who patronize them.”
Also speaking, John Odah, the Executive Secretary of the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) said since the Nigerian government made this commitment, it should put it into action especially that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the weakness of the country’s healthcare.
Odah explained that Social protection is key to the welfare of the working people.
He said, “We now have a responsibility to go out there to carry out advocacy to call on government to put more funding into social protection, especially healthcare.