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SOMETIME IN 2006, the Republic of China had at the Beijing Summit of China–Africa Co-operation Forum, promised to build 30 hospitals in Africa in order to assist in raising the standards of living of Africans, as well as help in boosting the cordial relations between China and African countries.
Nigeria was one of the African countries chosen to benefit from the project.
And it was in fulfilment of this promise that on January 28, 2013, China, through its Ambassador to Nigeria, Deng Boqing, formally handed over the $12.5 million world–class Federal Staff Hospital, fully equipped with modern health facilities, to Vice–President Namadi Sambo, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan at the ceremony in Abuja.
Since diplomatic relation was formally established on February 10, 1970 between Nigeria and China, the mutually beneficial relations between them and their peoples have reportedly waxed stronger.
Apart from the health sector, China is said to have during the past 42 years, embarked on measures aimed at deepening its relationship with Nigeria, especially in the areas of politics, the economy, cultural and social developments, as well as information technology.
It is also noteworthy that due to the strengthening of economic ties over the years, Nigeria is currently China’s third largest trade partner and second largest export market in Africa.
Although this development is heartwarming, there is still room for improvement to ensure Nigeria gets a fairer deal from its present bilateral economic ties with China.
We commend China for its recent donation of hospital equipped with modern health facilities of global standard to Nigeria. There is no doubt that this kind gesture will not only help to raise the level of healthcare delivery in the country, but it will also further promote genuine and result–oriented bilateral relations between Nigeria and China.
However, it is regrettable and shameful that the Federal Government had to wait for China to donate this all–important health facility to Nigeria.
The Federal Staff Hospital, built in the early 20th Century, known as Creek Hospital on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos continued operations at Apo Legislative Quarters following the movement of federal civil servants from Lagos to Abuja.
It is gladdening that with China’s invaluable gesture, the then ill–equipped and underfunded 28–bed hospital has now metamorphosed into a 150–bed world–acclaimed modern hospital where medical treatment for which top public officials and their families troop abroad at public expense, is readily available.
It is unfortunate and also regrettable that despite the billions of naira pumped into the health sector every year, most of the hospitals can best be described as consulting clinics. The healthcare system has virtually collapsed with nothing appreciable to show for the huge funds reportedly allocated by government annually to rehabilitate existing infrastructure or establish new hospitals.
At present, not less than three Nigerian state governors amongst other eminent personalities, are receiving medical treatment for undisclosed ailments abroad. Notable countries top public officials and other prominent Nigerians go for medical treatment include China, India, Saudi Arabia, United States, Britain, South Africa and Germany. Whereas nobody from any of these countries will ever choose to come to Nigeria for medical attention due to its unreliable and fast-deteriorating health facilities, amongst other reasons.
President Goodluck Jonathan said the hospital donated by China “will help to reduce the number of patients that need to be referred abroad for advance medical treatment because it can be done here in Nigeria”. This is laughable!
Is the president sincere? How committed is his administration to the urgent need to finally fix the decaying health sector using holistic approach? Can the president assure Nigerians that with the hospital donated by China on ground, top public officials and their families, including himself and his wife, will stop seeking medical treatment abroad?
When will the government introduce a policy to stop top public officials from going abroad for medical treatment at government expense?
It is time for the president and his administration to cultivate the habit of having confidence in the country’s healthcare system. This is where they should demonstrate leadership by example. Those in government continue to treat the health sector with utter neglect because they have unhindered access to public funds with which to receive medical treatment abroad. This is unacceptable and should be discontinued.
The government should stop abandoning its sacred responsibility to the citizenry by promptly providing them essential facilities and services they deserve instead of waiting for foreign donors to do same. After almost 53 years of independence, Nigeria does not deserve to experience another form of colonisation through donation of “Greek gifts”.