The Nigerian Senate has slammed the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire and his deputies over their absence at a COVID-19 summit put together by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on Coronavirus.
Ehanire, Adeleke Mamora – his Minister of State for Health and the Permanent Secretary at the ministry were all conspicuously absent at the summit organised in conjunction with the Senate to brainstorm on solutions to control the COVID-19 pandemic and restore the nation’s economy.
The summit which reviewed the country’s COVID-19 response from February 2020 to November 2021 also sought to identify successes, gaps as well as lessons learned in the fight against the disease.
With the theme, ‘Pushing through the Last Mile to End the Pandemic and Build Back Better’ the summit focused on identifying resources and developing strategies to actualize the country’s international commitments towards ending COVID-19 by 31st December, 2022.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan who was visibly outraged over the absence of the health ministry pilots said it was abnormal that Ehanire, Mamora and the permanent secretary were all absent at an interventionist summit designed to support their work.
“Before I begin my remark, is the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health here? Well, I asked that question because the two Ministers of Health are not here, the Minister of Health, the Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary are not here. I believe that is not good.
“Because everything we do here, the Federal Ministry of Health is supposed to be here to garner all the resources that will come out of this.
“The PSC is simply an interventionist outfit. And as politicians and political leaders, we are supposed to be very serious and committed to the health of our people.”
Health experts at the summit, in reaction to the Senate President’s observations, lauded him for speaking truth to power.
They alleged that the current leadership at the ministry of health have succeeded in burying the already comatose sector with their incompetence.
An expert who did not want his name in print claimed, “The Senate President had done what true leaders are supposed to do by his comments”
He accused the health ministers
and top officials of the ministry of being in the habit of not attending forums where issues concerning the sector are on the front burner.
”They are never at events organised for the improvement of the health sector. Most times if they attend, they come late, making people to wait for them for hours”.
“The Minister of Health has killed the health sector because since he came, nothing is working in the sector. It is shameful that the summit they could not organise, the PSC has done it, yet, they did not show up,” he alleged.
“It is not good enough for the minister not to create time to sit at the summit from the beginning to the end. This is like calling people to come help you carry some load and when they come, you abandon the load for them. As the Senate President said, this is not good.”
Also at the summit was Prof. Oyewale Tomori, a renowned health expert where he maintained that Nigeria will continue to fail in the health sector, except it builds on the foundation of National Health Security, stressing that National Health Security must be laid on the foundation of personal health security.
He warned that the real enemy is not the pandemic but the attitude of Nigerians to home.
“No matter what plans we formulate to respond to pandemics and disaster, we will surely fail, if we do not seriously address the issue of culture and environment.”
He said, ”the real enemies of Nigeria are lack of patriotism, the main destroyer of our nation; self-interest, the burial ground of our national interest; corruption, the executor of our orderly development and shamelessness, the destruction of our national pride.
The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) summit on Coronavirus will among others generate an accountability framework for COVID-19 response, synthesize the blueprint for Nigeria’s pandemic recovery and sustainability and articulate actionable recommendations to President Muhammadu Buhari on the governance structure, resources, and policies needed to end COVID-19 in Nigeria by December 31, 2022.