Nigerian Minister of Health delivers his midterm report – judge for yourself

In his recent widely publicized “midterm report“, our President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, GCFR, BNER, GCON barely mentioned the health sector, other than a few references to the “achievements” of his SURE-P programme. So, we were excited when we gathered that our Minister of Health, Professor C. Onyebuchi Chukwu was asked to brief the press on the achievements of his Ministry. Much credit must be given to the Ministry of Information, that has put this session in its entirety online for Nigerians to watch and judge for themselves.

If you read this blog – please share the link! Our leaders often accuse us of ignorance, but now we have the tools, we must use them!

The comical nature of the banter that opened the Honourable Minister’s feedback session was uncomfortable to say the least. It felt like a nursery school teacher addressing his 5 year old pupils. He started off by asking the journalists present; …”is prevention better than cure?”…then asking those “not sick” in the room to clap for themselves! The journalists present duly responded….and clapped. With a smirk on his face, the Honorable Minister concluded that the clapping of hands indicated that his Ministry had done well on prevention, which is, as he had noted, “better than cure“! There’s the evidence! The straw polls continued throughout the session! While this approach to communication may be appropriate for a small dinner table conversations, this is definitely not the case in an important formal feedback session on progress of two years of using taxpayer’s funds for a sector that is so important to Nigerians, especially one that will be transmitted to the rest of the world and be available online forever.

Watch the entire session here!

To start his formal feedback, the Honorable Minister reminded Nigerians that the Federal Government was only directly responsible for 56 hospitals, and the rest of the sector was in the control of the state and local governments as well as the private sector. Then he went on to severally praise Mr Presidents’s “Transformation Agenda” in the health sector….

So, what exactly has been “transformed” in the health sector? This is what the Minister reported: 
  1. The Midwifery Scheme: a well intentioned vertical programme to support primary health clinics. 
  2. The “Saving 1 million lives initiative”: another well intentioned vertical programme using funds “recovered”from previous petrol price subsidization to support maternal and child health
  3. The Community Based Health Insurance Scheme – Minister provided no coverage data.
  4. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control – Minister provided no data on their activities.
  5. 60 Nigerian doctors sent abroad last year for training – Yes…60. 
  6. New policy on oral health (championed by Senator David Mark – he added!)
  7. New National Drug Distribution policy.
  8. New National Health Bill ..(yes, the same one) …is being “reconsidered”
  9. Obafemi Awolowo University now doing laparoscopic surgery
  10. New National Trauma Centres …almost completed. 
  11. Open Heart Surgery has re-started in UNTH, Enugu.
  12. Several hospitals can now do kidney transplants, and joint replacements.
  13. 4 years – no case of guinea worm.
  14. Distributed 58 million mosquito nets.  
  15. NAFDAC is now using their brain (not my words!), they have gone digital!
  16. New template for training medical professionals. 
  17. Herbal medicine will be introduced in Nigerian medical schools. 
The entire speech contained almost no data – no burden of disease data, no data on targets, no data on impact and no data on costs. The speech was filled with anecdotes….and lots of use of phrases – “we are doing well“, …”we are working“. The Honourable Minister implored members of the press to go round themselves to see the many blessings of Mr President’s transformation agenda.

How “transformative” the above points are, we will leave readers to judge for themselves. Nigerians will decide how well our Ministry of Health has done, and how their lives have been affected. It is a democracy after all….

And while you are it, please do watch 2 fascinating sessions with the Minister for Agriculture, and the Minister for Finance. At least it gives us some comparison to how his colleagues delivered on their own feedback sessions.

You be the judge….

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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