Whether at home or abroad, all Nigerians have the same burden and share the same desire to see our country working more effectively and becoming truly greater by harnessing all of the existing potentials and really transform the nation.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, expressed this view during a meeting yesterday with a delegation from the US-based Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, ANPA, and a team of Nigerian doctors from diaspora including those who have relocated back to the country to establish private hospitals.
At a meeting which discussed the challenges in the health sector and reviewed some detailed policy proposals, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “practically everyone, whether you worked abroad or you worked here (in Nigeria), all have the same burden and desire in our hearts – to see the huge potentials here in this country transformed into something real.
“I think that it is a constant burden for people who are here, let alone people who are abroad, to see how well things can be done and how well things are going.”
According to the VP “we must find a way of harnessing and galvanizing so that we can work towards making this country to really work, not just for those who can afford it, but for the vast majority of our people who are disempowered.”
Speaking about the work of Nigerians in diaspora, particularly doctors, Prof Osinbajo acknowledged that, “physicians in diaspora, especially in the US and Americas, have contributed very considerably to healthcare in Nigeria. Almost at every turn, they are contributing in terms of services in rural areas, medical teams everywhere providing all sorts of care, and this has gone on for years and years.”
Praising the work of physicians, the Vice President noted that “if there is any group of professionals good at giving back and showing that level of altruism, it is physicians in diaspora.
“I commend you for that and to say that we are seeing a good number of physicians returning home to set up and establish businesses here.”
Admitting to the challenges being in the business environment, the Vice President disclosed that “it is a good thing that we have acknowledged the problems and issues in respect to establishing businesses here, including access to credit and power.
“I think that improving the environment generally will make a huge difference.”
He added that “we must prioritize healthcare being that it is essentially a matter of life and death, but I want us to understand the context, which is to improve the business environment and ensure that it is one where local businesses can work very well.”
While addressing some of the concerns of the delegation with respect to healthcare financing, he said “one of the major issues for a population our size is that we can’t depend on budget alone because we don’t have enough resources.
“The way to go is to do a lot more in terms of health insurance and for government to provide a pool of resources from everyone, one way or the other, and begin by paying for some of those who cannot afford to.”
In his own remarks, the Secretary to the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, who led the delegation to the Presidential Villa, Engr. Dr. Sule Yakubu Bassi noted that “we are happy to deal with both Nigerian doctors in the diaspora and those who are returning to set up practices here in Nigeria thereby turning the brain drain to brain gain.”
Also speaking, the President of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, ANPA, Dr. Christopher Okunseri, described the organisation as one that has been in existence for over “27 years, registered in the United States of America, representing over 5000 dentists and physicians across the US.
Speaking on behalf of doctors who have returned home and established private practice in Nigeria, Dr. Modupe Elebute mentioned that “from our point of view, it has been tough and difficult but it has given us a huge amount of joy, the impact that we are able to make on the access to healthcare on the patients we are seeing.
She noted “the impact we are able to make to raise the standard (of healthcare) by bringing back years of experience, teaching, training and consultant level attained abroad and trying to do research here (in Nigeria).
Members of the delegation were top physicians in specialized fields of medicine such as Neurology, Gynecology, Paediatrics, and Orthopaedics.
The meeting was organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM.