Nigeria: pushing the National Health Bill
The much-advocated National Health Bill is on the move again. It was recently passed for the second reading in Nigeria’s Senate. Isah Ibrahim of the EVERYONE Advocacy Team joined other representatives of civil society organisations to witness the reading of the bill that took place on 12 December 2012. He shares this:
After undergoing a series of legislative protocols that lasted for seven years, and many months later in the presidency without been signed into law, Nigeria’s health bill is back to the national assembly for another reading.
Considering the obstacles the bill suffered in previous years, questions are being raised by those concerned about the bill.
What stops the president from assenting the bill? Who is behind the presidential attitude? Do our leaders really have concern over the poor state of Nigeria’s health system? Is the bill an executive bill or a private bill? Can this second reading ensure its successful passage into law?
During the recent reading, comments by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, senator Gyang Dantong, and the ten other senators, were very encouraging. Most of the senators that contributed before the Senate decried the attitude of the presidency for not assenting of the bill.
“Our country claims to be the giant of Africa, but we are one of the few countries in the region that remain backward in our health sector. None of the previous governments neither military nor civilian has made any serious attempt to address our health sector problem,” said senator Abubakar Bagudo.
Senator Nenadi Usman also disclosed, “We spent a lot of resources on MDG 4 and 5 with poor outcome. The bill will help in achieving those goals.”
According to the constitution, after 30 days of the president’s inaction, the bill is to be recalled to the National Assembly for a two-thirds majority vote to override the inaction.
Benefits of the National Health Bill
The National Health Bill is an important tool aimed at addressing the funding gap in the health sector and to ensure improved quality of the healthcare delivery system at all levels.
The bill is also meant to strengthen Nigeria’s weak health system, which the World Health Organisation has described as the fourth worst in the world, and will also entrench primary care as the entry point for healthcare.
Other benefits include:
- Provision of free medical care for all children below the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly above 65 and people with disabilities.
- Guarantee of a basic minimum health package for all Nigerians, permit universal acceptance of accident cases by all health facilities in Nigeria, both public and private.
- Ensure quality of healthcare services through standard certificates to all health institutions.
Nigerians wait keenly to see if the presidency would sign the bill this time around, and whether the national assembly could exercise its constitutional power to override the inaction of the presidency in case he might fail to act again.