Increased tertiary healthcare access beckons as stakeholders back medical university in Niger

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The people of Niger State and environs will soon have more access to tertiary healthcare services which were hitherto minimal in the north-central state.

Critical stakeholders, including legislators and members of the executive, have thrown their weight behind the proposed Federal University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Bida in Niger State.

The stakeholders spoke at the public hearing organised by the House Committee on Health Institutions in Abuja on the bill for an act to establish the university and four other bills.

In his presentation, sponsor of the bill, Saidu Abdullahi (APC, Niger), lamented that Niger is the only state in the North-Central that has no degree-awarding institution in medicine and health sciences.

Abdullahi, who is also vice chairman, House Committee on Finance, said this was unacceptable considering the strategic importance of Niger State in the scheme of events in the country.

“Aside from being the largest state in the country with 76,363 square kilometres, accounting for about 10 percent of the nation’s total landmass, Niger State is home to Nigeria’s major hydroelectric power stations, the Kainji Dam, Shiroro Dam, and Jebba Dam as well as the Zungeru Dam, which is currently under construction,” Abdullahi said.

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“The overall objective of this bill is to secure a national mandate to teach and train high calibre health-care professionals, provide healthcare services and to operate various schools and specialties that offer exemplary training and quality research in health care.

“Once the university comes on stream, it will provide more opportunities and a fair chance for Nigerians seeking to pursue careers in the medical sciences and most importantly address the medical workforce shortfall in the country.

“At the moment there are 1,335 health facilities in Niger State, out of which two are tertiary health facilities, 21 secondary health facilities and 1,322 (99 percent) are PHC facilities. 1,095 (83 percent) of these PHC facilities are publicly owned while the remaining 227 (17 percent) are privately owned,” he said.

Health Minister Osagie Ehanire also supported the bill but said the nation has to develop the entire healthcare chain, adding that care must be taken to avoid undue proliferation of such institutions.

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Ehanire said there should be at least one primary healthcare in every council ward and one general hospital in every local government area, adding that the priority of the Federal Government was to build primary and secondary healthcare centres and rebuild tertiary health institutions for optimal performance.

While declaring the hearing open, House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila noted that public hearings are an important part of the legislative process and an exercise in collaborative governance, allowing citizens and stakeholders to contribute their experience and perspective to the legislative process and ensure that legislative outcomes reflect the concerns and expectations of the greatest number of the nation’s citizens.

“I assure you that your contribution will neither be ignored, nor taken for granted. I ask you also as you make yourselves heard, to do so with circumspection and respect for opposing views,” said the speaker, who was represented by Deputy Chief Whip Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia).

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He said each of the bills seeks to alter the architecture of the nation’s public health services in ways that will hopefully improve the lives of the people, either through increasing options available for medical training or providing access to medical facilities in places where there is an evident need.

Also supporting the bill, Abdullahi Sabi, leader of the Niger State caucus in the National Assembly, urged all stakeholders to exercise their right to express their support to the bill.

In his submission, JAMB Registrar Ishaq Oloyode said universities should not be established just for the sake of siting institutions but it must be done in collaboration with the NUC and Federal Ministry of Education.

“I believe that for the success of this initiative we get accurate statistics and carry along the NUC. A lot of background information can be got from NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education,” he said.

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