Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed has said President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical tour abroad does not indicate that the nation’s medical sector has collapsed.
The minister said this in Washington DC during his engagements with international media organisations, including British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio and Television, Bloomberg and Politico.
Speaking with News Agency Nigeria (NAN) after a separate interview with the three media organisations, Mohammed said the president had the right to choose his physician.
He noted that Buhari was not the first head of state going abroad for treatment.
“As Minister of Information and Culture today, if I have had a history of using a particular doctor in my life and I have confidence in him, I don’t think the fact that I am now a minister will change that.
“Irrespective of the nationality of that doctor, it is my personal decision to choose the doctor to use
“Like I explained to them, he is not the only head of state that has gone abroad for treatment.
“If Mr President has a personal physician for over 30 years, who understands his case and has been managing him, why will it be an issue of contention to seek medical attention from him.
“It will not be right to say that because of what people are going to say, he has to stay in Nigeria to seek treatment,’’ he said.
The minister berated those who criticised the president’s action of seeking medical attention abroad, stressing that it was an inconsequential attempt to de-market him.
He said despite challenges, the nation’s health sector was not in comatose to warrant a vote of no confidence on the sector.
Mohammed disclosed that despite criticism of the sector, the World Health Organisation had rated Nigeria fourth in terms of the national response to COVID-19.
He said the country attained the feat, notwithstanding the two-pronged challenges of vaccine nationalism and hesitancy.
He explained that vaccine nationalism was when countries like Nigeria were denied access to procure vaccines to administer to its teeming population.
“In countries where they have less population, they have received tens of millions of doses whereas in Nigeria we have received just about eight million.
“This is a far cry from the 70 per cent population that we need to vaccinate before we can achieve herd immunity.“
Mohammed’s claim is contrary to a recent Chandler Good Governance Index (CGGI) report, which indicated that the Nigerian healthcare system was on the verge of collapsing.
This year, the Nigerian healthcare sector was ranked third at the bottom of the countries under the good governance index. Out of the 104 countries on the list, Nigeria emerged number 102.
The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) is currently on strike due to poor working conditions, unpaid salaries, hazard allowance, and COVID-19 inducement allowance. As the strike continues, patients are reportedly abandoned in public hospitals across the country.
In 2017, the Nigerian government announced its plan to renovate 10,000 Health Care Centres (PHCs). In 2021, data show that out of 30,000 PHCs in Nigeria, only 6,000 are functional, but they lack adequate equipment.
As a result of ill-equipped PHCs and underpaid health workers, Nigeria contributes not less than 20 per cent of global maternal deaths.