By Doris Obinna
Stakeholders in the health sector have urged health practioners in the public and private sectors to collaborate in building a healthy and robust healthcare system in the country. This call was made at the launch of a feature documentary titled “UNMASKED: Leadership, trust and the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.”
The documentary screening, held in Lagos, was produced and directed by Mr. Femi Odugbemi, a Nigerian documentary filmmaker, and co-produced by Ms Kadaria Ahmed, renowned journalist and television host.
The documentary highlighted some highpoints during the lockdown as well as challenges facing the healthcare sector in the country.
Speaking, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said the central bank had disbursed about N83.9 billion to pharmaceutical and healthcare practitioners in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic.
According to him, the public health crisis along with the downturn in the economy required strong coordination, “The measures and interventions put in place by the CBN and private sector to improve government’s capacity response to the crisis was not enough to build a sustainable healthcare infrastructure.”
Emefiele, represented by the CBN’s director of corporate communications, Osita Nwasinobi, said: “Building a robust healthcare infrastructure was vital from a security perspective, as some nations had imposed restrictions on the exports of vital medical drugs as well as the use of drug patents that could aid in containing the spread of the pandemic.”
“The banking sector regulator also initiated the healthcare sector research and development intervention grant scheme, which was to aid research on solutions that could address diseases such as COVID-19, and other communicable/non-communicable diseases. Meanwhile, five major healthcare-related research projects were being financed under the initiative.
“CBN took some measures that helped to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions to respond the pandemic. Over N83.9 billion was disbursed in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners, which is supporting 26 pharmaceutical and 56 medical projects across the country. Key stakeholders were also mobilise through the CACOVID alliance.”
On his part, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, urged Nigerians should learn lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic: “There is a need to change the structure of governance to ensure development in Nigeria. The lessons from COVID-19 can be used to improve the welfare of the people. I know that indeed what COVID brought forward to us are things that, if indeed we take the positive side of it, we can use to galvanise and create tomorrow.”
Giving insight to the production of the documentary, Odugbemi averred that, “The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world on its head and hit the world’s most populous black nation Nigeria with predictable ferocity. And with its soft underbelly of corruption, poor healthcare infrastructure, weak systems and an ever-increasing number of its population below the poverty line, the portent is dire. Could this also be an opportunity for reset?” Resource persons featured in the documentary were Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Emefiele; Sanwo-Olu; and Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, among others.
National coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu; director-general of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu; Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi; and Kaduna State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Amina Mohammed-Baloni; WHO consultant virologist, Prof. Oyewale Tomori; medical director, Mainland Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Abimbola Bowale; and founder, editor-in-chief of Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Fisayo Soyombo, were also on the bill.