New Incentives to Align its Interventions with Government Policies

By Victor Habila, Kaduna

​The New Incentives – All Babies Are Equal Initiative (NI-ABAE) says it will continue to align its programs with Nigerian Federal and State laws and policies, including routine immunization plans and priorities.

This was part of their resolution at the just-concluded stakeholders’ meeting of NI-ABAE program in Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara States held at Tahir Guest Palace, Kano State.  

NI-ABAE described immunization as one of the most effective public health interventions that saves about 2 to 3 million lives every year, saying there is evidence that suggests a 27 percentage points increase in the likelihood that children would be fully immunized by a conditional cash transfers for routine immunization program (NI-ABAE RCT Impact Assessment 2017-2020).

This was contained in a communique jointly signed by Health Commissioner of Katsina state, Engr. Yakubu Nuhu Danja, Health Commissioner of Zamfara state, Alhaji Yahaya Muhammad Kanoma, and the Rep. of the Perm. Secretary of Jigawa state ministry of health, Dr. Kabir Ibrahim.

After extensive deliberations and discussions on the Conditional Cash Transfers for Routine Immunization (CCTs for RI) program of NI-ABAE, it was resolved that the Stakeholders in Katsina, Jigawa, and Zamfara States will provide all the necessary support to expand the conditional cash transfers for routine immunization programs to more LGAs and health facilities.

The communique reads; “The New Incentives – All Babies Are Equal Initiative will continue to support demand creation and other components of routine immunization in the three States and at the national level.

“Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara States health authorities agreed to greater ownership of the conditional cash transfers for routine immunization program, confirming that this program is in line with its routine immunisation and public health plans and priorities.”

NI-ABAE further said “The Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development reinstated its support for the Conditional Cash Transfers for Routine Immunization program, assuring that the MoU between  Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development and New Incentives – All Babies Are Equal initiative will be signed in due course.

“The Department of Health Planning, Research and Statistics of the State Ministries of Health committed to support New Incentives – All Babies Are Equal Initiative to strengthen its monitoring and evaluation (M&E) through rapid assessment and analysis of DHIS2 data.”

The forum said it would Continue to provide transparent and regular updates, and will support stakeholders on routine immunization, health and social protection.

They promised to facilitate meetings between the Governors of their States and NI-ABAE representatives by encouraging the Governors to present the NI-ABAE program gains and successes at the federal level, adding that it will engage the Governors to speak to the relevant federal health stakeholders to support the NI-ABAE program before the end of 2021.

NI-ABAE also stated that it would provide needed guidance to ensure expansion of NI-ABAE program to at least 17 LGAs in Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara States with a goal to exceed the target.

A total of 22 participants were in attendance including Commissioners of Health from Katsina and Zamfara States, Representative of the Permanent Secretary of SMOH Jigawa State, NPHCDA North West Zonal Cold Chain Officer, Directors of Health Planning, Research and Statistics of the SMOHs, Executive Secretaries of SPHCDAs, Primary Health Care Directors of SPHCDAs, and Program Managers of SERICCs in Jigawa, Katsina and Zamfara States. Others include Director of Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development (SFPD), media organizations, NI-ABAE Government Relations Advisors and staff of NI-ABAE

Zulum Returns from Vacation Prioritizes Security, Teachers, Health Workers Recruitment

Borno State Governor, Babagana Umara Zulum has resumed work after 21 days vacation, during which he transmitted power to his deputy, Umar Usman kadafur to act as Governor.

Zulum arrived Maiduguri on Wednesday afternoon.

Addressing thousands top government officials, party leaders and supporters, the governor assured that his administration’s top priority will remain the restoration of peace in the state to enable the revival of mass livelihoods through agricultural and other businesses.

Our correspondent reported that Governor Zulum embarked on a vacation from April 29 to Wednesday May 19, 20121.

Zulum had before his departure, written to Borno State Assembly, requesting that his Deputy, Kadafur be given full constitutional powers to take decisions without recourse to him (Zulum), to which the assembly granted.

Zulum’s request was in compliance with provisions of section 190 (1) of the constitution, his letter to the assembly had noted.

… Hints on teachers, health workers recruitment

Zulum while interacting with journalists also revealed that in the next two years of his tenure, government will focus on the recruitment of more teachers and health workers to address demands of the increasing population in the state.

The Governor said, the recruitment is to provide effective service delivery in the healthcare sector and education.

​Doctors strike may end today as FG, NARD reach agreement

The Federal Government and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have reached an agreement raising hope that the striking doctors may end their industrial action any moment from today.

The agreement was signed Friday after a conciliation meeting between both parties at the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, fine-tuned the Memorandum of Action (MOA) signed by both parties on March 31, 2021, a few hours before NARD embarked on the indefinite strike on April 1.

Leaders of NARD are expected to communicate the Minister of Labour and Employment the outcome of their in-house meeting before the end of today on the strike situation.

The Friday meeting had addressed all the six demands of NARD, namely, the Non-payment of House Officers/ Non-recruitment of House officers, Abolishment of the Bench Fees, Non-payment of National Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment Arrears, Residency Training Allowance, Hazard Allowance and Payment of Resident Doctors on GIFMIS platform.

Briefing after the meeting, Ngige said they noted that the payment of the House Officers’ salaries experienced some irregularities as double payments were made to some house officers in some centers and a few have not been paid as of date.

According to the Minister, in view of this situation, a 5 man Committee was set up to harmonise the list of the names submitted by NARD, Chairman, Committee of Chief Medical Directors (CCMD) with MDCN.

He explained that the Committee was to work for 72 hours and produce a valid list to IPPIS through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), while IPPIS is to as soon as possible create a platform where all payments made and the recipients would be made available for accessibility and information, without which it would be difficult to determine those that have been paid and those not paid.

“IPPIS should adopt the folio number of H/Os as a means of identification of them as they are being engaged and for their payments.”

On the abolishment of the bench fees which was earlier agreed as part of the MoA, Ngige said the Permanent Secretary FMoH is to issue a circular to this effect and send a Memorandum on this for ratification at National Council on Health (NCH) whenever convened.

Regarding the non-payment of national minimum wage consequential adjustment arrears and salary shortfall in 2014 – 2016 of resident doctors, Ngige said NARD and CCMDs should immediately submit list of affected institutions and personnel strength in order for it to be captured in the 2021 Supplementary Budget. The arrears should be from April 2019 to December 2019 as in MoA1.

“The CCMDs and the Permanent Secretary of the FMoH are to work on this with the assistance of the Budget Office (BoF) in order to also capture it in the Supplementary 2021 Budget. The special issue of the 2014 – 2016 Salary Shortfall is to be treated here too. Two (2) weeks is dedicated to this.”

On the issue of Residency Training Allowance, he said 558 people who are not Residents were wrongly paid and 1003 bonafide Residents were not paid.

He disclosed that those not paid will be captured in the 2021 Supplementary Budget while those wrongly paid will be requested to refund same.

“The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is to provide a special account for this remittance. The Post Graduate Medical College is to henceforth compile the list of all Residents eligible for this payment and transmit to the Budget Office (BoF) through the Federal Ministry of Health.”

Coming to the issue of hazard allowances, he said the meeting noted that the issue is not peculiar to NARD but cuts across the entire Health Sector and her workforce.

‘The meeting was informed that the Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS) would be meeting on Monday, 12th April, 2021 at the Federal Ministry of Finance to examine the hazard allowance issue with National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) after which the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), NARD and other stakeholders will meet on Wednesday, 14th April, 2021 in the Federal Ministry of Labour (FML&E) with their position papers with the PCS. NARD is to come with their position paper as part of the NMA team.

“On Group Life Insurance claims for deceased NARD members, NARD should facilitate the compilation of the list of deceased members by CMDs at the appropriate desk in their institutions. This will be forwarded to the relevant insurance Companies for payment through the FMoH. This should be accomplished on or before end of April 2021.”

On the issue of doctors being paid on the GIFMIS platform, he said the meeting noted that NARD is happy with the progress being made to migrate affected doctors to IPPIS platform before the end of April 2021, adding that IPPIS confirmed that one week after getting the verified list from BoF, payment will be made.

“In view of these understandings, NARD National Officers Committee (NoC) will consult urgently her Executive Council with a view to giving this conciliation process a chance for industrial peace by calling off the strike embarked on 1st April 2021.

NARD is to communicate to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment on their decision before 12 noon of 10th April, 2021.No member of NARD is to be punished for this strike,” Ngige said.

​Buhari approves the transformation of PTF to PSC with modefied mandate

The mandate of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has expired but President Muhammadu Buhari has approved its transformation into a new Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) with modified responsibilities.

This followed the terminal report of the PTF submitted to the president in March at the end of its initial tenure.

Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed this during a media briefing in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said the President considered the report and approved that the PTF will transition to a PSC on COVID-19, effective from 1 April 2021, with a modified mandate to reflect the non-emergent status of COVID-19 as a potentially long-term pandemic;

The structure of the PSC will reflect the new focus of the response with a targeted approach on vaccine oversight, risk communication, international travel quarantine processes and sub-national engagement.

Its tenure will last till 31st December, 2021.

The PSC will maintain the present constitution, functions and strategies of the PTF and be supported by a slim technical and administrative structure.

The current National Incident Manager, Dr Mukhtar Mohammed, is to formally take over from the National Coordinator and function as the Head (Technical Secretariat) and member of the Committee.

The PSC is to establish a Policy/Leadership Secretariat from the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF) that will sustain institutional memory and records; and a private sector supported Transition Consultant that will sustain the multi-sectoral relations and policy guidance.

According to Mustapha, the PSC will coordinate the Vaccine Roll out, deployment and administration; improve on the multi-sectoral systems; meet less frequently while maintaining effective communication with Nigerians; and monitor and audit on going systems, reforms and infrastructure development in the health sector;

Mustapha also disclosed that a consignment of 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccines has been received by Nigeria donated by the Government of India.

The doses manufactured at the Serum Institute of India, arrived at the Abuja airport from Mumbai via Addis Ababa on 26 March, 2021.

The consignment was delivered to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) by the High Commission of India.

The bilateral donation of 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccines is in fulfilment of the announcement earlier made by the High Commissioner.

The India government had maintained that the supply to Nigeria is in keeping with India’s longstanding, age-old and time-tested ties with Nigeria, based on close friendship and deep mutual trust

Every healthcare centre deserves clean water and toilets, says WaterAid Nigeria

As G20 finance ministers meet this week in Rome to discuss how they will build back from the pandemic, WaterAid has urged global leaders to commit to new funding of at least $1.2 billion, to ensure all hospitals and clinics, particularly within the world’s poorest countries, have clean water, decent toilets and proper handwashing facilities. 

WaterAid said since the onset of Covid-19, rich countries have spent significant sums, an average of nearly 10% of their GDP, and a total of $20.6 trillion, on stimulus packages to help bolster their economies and to recover from the pandemic. 

According to a statement  by Oluseyi Abdulmalik, Communications and Media Manager, WaterAid Nigeria explained that the  sum needed, $1.2 billion, equates to just thirty minutes-worth of the past year’s spending, saying the investment would bring these vital frontline defences against future pandemics to all healthcare facilities in the poorest nations.

“In Nigeria, millions of people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases as 96% of all healthcare centres in Nigeria lack access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services – putting the lives of doctors, nurses, midwives and patients at risk. Providing doctors, nurses and patients with somewhere to clean their hands is one of the most effective ways to halt the spread of disease.”

“Whilst vaccines and therapeutics are urgently needed, lives are being put at risk every day because the very basics of disease prevention are being ignored. An essential injection of finance by the G20 would prevent millions of avoidable deaths through infections and diseases. Not only has research shown that washing hands with soap helps reduce the spread of coronaviruses by one third but it would also help curb the growth of antimicrobial resistance as antibiotics are too often used in unclean health facilities as a ‘quick fix’ in place of proper hygiene – Which is contributing to an increasingly alarming situation as antibiotics lose their power to fight infections.”

According to the Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, “Spending at least £1.2 billion on water, sanitation and hygiene for healthcare centres is a no-brainer investment, both saving lives now and also protecting against future pandemics and the devastation they cause. This sum equates to just thirty minutes-worth of what has been spent over the last year on Covid response packages. Yet it could change everything for the millions who have no option but to seek care from the 50 per cent of health care facilities in the poorest countries which don’t have clean water.  ”

“We must find the money needed as a matter of urgency, to make sure all healthcare facilities in the poorest countries have clean water and soap before another pandemic hits. If frontline health workers can’t wash their hands, keep patients clean or have somewhere decent to go to the toilet, a hospital is not a hospital at all – it’s a breeding ground for disease.” she said.

World Health Day: NGO calls for equal access to healthcare

By Habila Victor, Kaduna.

To commemorate the World Health Day, the Development Communications Network (DevCom) has called on the Nigerian government at all levels to provide equitable health care coverage to all citizens to reduce the impact of health emergencies on Nigerians. 

DevComs condemn the unequal access to health care delivery between the general populace and government officials, political leaders, traditional rulers, and the majority of the affluent in the society. 

In a statement signed by Akin Jimoh, Program Director, DevComs said many Nigerians struggle daily to make ends meet and put food on the table, that most of them still live below poverty lines, saying the advent of COVID-19 has shown the unequal distribution of wealth in the country.

“The ongoing Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic has shown the fragile nature of health care services and coverage in the country a situation has been worsened by the ongoing strike by resident doctors across the country.  The actions of the doctors are a direct result of age-long disagreements with the government, an action that impacts more on vulnerable groups across the country.”

“Though Nigeria is a resource-rich country, the majority of citizens continue to wallop in poverty.  This has led to a lot of problems in the country from insecurity to lack of many social amenities including steady electricity supply,  portable water, and so on.  All these impact on the health of the populace and lack of good health indices is an indicator that we are not thriving as a country.”

Jimoh reiterated the need for Nigerian government to do more for the populace no matter who is in power in the country.

He added that, “COVID-19 has hit all nations with a greater impact on communities and vulnerable groups, with limited access to high-quality health care and a high burden of disease and infirmities.  According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that “some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others – entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age.”

DevComs charged Nigerian government to address health inequalities in the country and provide a conducive environment for citizens to thrive in good health, adding that failure to provide equitable access to quality healthcare is unfair to Nigerians.

​FG to striking doctors: We’ll invoke ‘no work no pay clause

Chris Ngige, minister of labour, says he will invoke “weapons in the labour laws” on resident doctors, if they refuse to back down on the ongoing strike — after government meets some of their demands.

On Thursday, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on an indefinite strike over salary arrears and owed allowances.

Speaking on Friday, when he featured on Politics Today, a Channels Television programme, Ngige said employers of the resident doctors can invoke the no-work-no-pay rule.

“By Tuesday, I will invite them back (referring to NARD). If they become recalcitrant, there are things I can do,” he said.

“There are weapons in the labour laws I will invoke. There is ‘no work, no pay’. Their employers have a role also to keep their businesses afloat, to keep patients alive. They can employ local doctors.”

He noted that he is optimistic that the matter will be resolved within a few days, as meetings have been arranged to clear the backlog of owed salaries and allowances.

Ngige, however, maintained that government will not hesitate to invoke relevant sections of the law on labour against the resident doctors if they refuse to resume work.

“We won’t get there. If we are going to get there, we’ll use that stick,” he added.

Kaduna Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Execute Projects to Battle COVID-19, others

The Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Kaduna has executed projects worth hundreds of millions of naira aim at combating COVID-19 and mental illness.

Projects executed are in two categories COVID 19 and other projects executed via internally generated revenue and Government assisted. COVID 19 projects include provision of Personal Protective Equipment to all service rendering staff, construction of Modular Laboratory, provision of ten bedded intensive care units with four dialysis machines along with 10 ventilators.

Other projects under COVID 19 are provision of 2 new ambulances, construction of isolation centre with Intensive Care Unit.

Speaking after inspection of projects, the Medical Director Professor Jika Yusuf who commended the Governing Board under the Leadership of Ambassador Babagana Ajimi expressed satisfaction on the level of work done and observation of COVID-19 protocols in the Hospitals. He revealed that projects executed will be judiciously utilized to tackle COVID -19 in the state and beyond.

Other projects executed through internally Generated revenue and also sponsored by Federal Government include Administrative block, New Drug ward, New Emergency blocks, 2blocks of classroom, and offices.

Drug Ward Rehabilitation ward is an abandoned project of 2006 by previous administrations and the Medical Director was able to complete it in record time of 6months. Internally generated revenue was used to renovates all dilapidated suck away toilets, bedsheets, beds, mattresses, broken windows, Hospital fence

​COVID-19:AstraZeneca vaccine is the best vaccine for us,says Ehanire

Even as reactions continue to trail the use of Astrazeneca vaccine in the country,the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said it was the best in protecting Nigerians from getting infected with Coronavirus.

Speaking at the sensitisation meeting of Muslim scholars and Imams on COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Friday in Abuja, the minister also noted that about 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine has so far been administered in over 70 countries across the six continents.

He urged political and religious leaders to openly take the vaccine to boost the confidence of Nigerians on the safety of the vaccine.

He said: “There is a lot of misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines but I want to assure you as has been confirmed by the European Medicine Agency and also by NAFDAC that the vaccine is safe.

“Most of our leaders have taken the vaccine, our religious and traditional leaders have also endorsed this vaccine, there are also Embassies and Ambassadors that have come to us to ask for this vaccine because they cannot go back home to take it.

“This vaccine has virtually passed all the quality test by the WHO and NAFDAC. The two organizations have given the AstraZeneca vaccine a clean bill of health.

“As far as government is concerned, AstraZeneca vaccine is the best so far, it is what we are using and it is working for us. The vaccine is being used in over 70 countries in six continent of the world and there is no side effect. About 17 million doses of the vaccine has administered globally and 37 cases of blood clothing has been reported which is very insignificant.

“Although NPHCDA and state governments have put in place security measures to secure the vaccine, we also ask everybody to be vigilant about its use, safe keeping and to report any negative activities to the Police or Ministry of Health.”

Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha who advised Nigerians not to let their guards down, as some countries were already experiencing a third wave of the pandemic, charged the scholars and religious leaders to use their exalted positions to drive the vaccination campaign in order to help Nigeria achieve herd immunity to the virus.

“I wish to reiterate that the virus is very potent and people still get infected. It has been reported that some countries are recording a third wave of cases. I therefore urge all Nigerians to recognize that we are not yet out of the woods. The PTF shall continue to emphasise and promote the strict adherence to the NPIs and for people to take the vaccines.

“Another and more lasting layer of prevention is the COVID-19 Vaccination rollout to enable us achieve herd immunity so that we can have our lives back to normal. As leaders of the Islamic faith and custodians of the people’s religious values, have a great role to play in guiding our people aright.”

Water Sanitation Hygiene: NGO trains Kaduna Community

By Habila Victor, Kaduna

As part of efforts to promote SDGs, the Transfer of Appropriate Sustainable Technology and Expertise (TASTE) an NGO headquartered in Plateau State has commenced a 3 day Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) training for members of Gwagwada community, Chikun LGA in Kaduna state.

Declaring the program open, the executive Chairman Chikun LG, HON. Samaila Leeman encouraged participants to take the training seriously as the growth and development of Gwagwada community largely depends on it.

He further called on the organizers to extend their hands of charity to other communities who suffer similar water related issues.

The Program Officer, TASTE NG, Jonathan Makan, said the project through the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is aimed at helping communities combat the many effects of water borne diseases and to promote healthier societies.

“Government cannot do everything, so there are organizations that help communities like yours to compliment what government is doing, that is why USAID saw it for to support local government and state to reach out to your community with the provision of water to see how they can curtail water related diseases and infections.

According to Makan, the participants will be trained as health promoters who will also train other members of their community about the importance of hygiene and the hazards of poor sanitation, like indiscriminate dumping of watse and open defecation which have boomerang effects on the environment and general health of society.

“It is your responsibility to take care of the water project and ensure that it is maintained so that members of the community can benefit from it for a long time to come”.

He further stated that the training is a pre-requisite activity towards the establishment of bore hole in a beneficiary community, and for every borehole drilled, four toilets are built along side.

Gwagwada community will be the first community to benefit from this USAID sponsored project with a total of three boreholes to be constructed.