By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Christiana Ekpa
The federal government has urged the Senate to hasten the passage of the Bill for the establishment of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure effective control of diseases in the country.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, made the call at a Public Hearing organised by Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, chaired by Senator Mao Ohuabunwa at the National Assembly in Abuja.
According to the Minister, the process for enacting the approved legal framework that will give teeth to NCDC, should be fast tracked in view of its importance. He said that the value of the NCDC derives not only from what was achieved in 2014.
He noted that the centre in the last few months had activated the national laboratory which had enabled the ministry to provide appropriate diagnosis for many Nigerians, just as he proposed a five year single tenure for the Chief Executive of the Centre to enable the management to be focused on the assignments given them.
While noting that the bill had gone through the first and second reading at the National Assembly, he however lamented that Nigeria’s public health challenges grew rapidly.
“Apart from the challenges of the North-east, there can be no other challenge to our corporate existence and public health outbreaks that we have witnessed”, he said.
In his submission, Prof. Nasidi Abdulsalami, Acting Executive Director, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suggested that the bill should emphasise more of prevention than control.
“We should also emphasise having alternative sources of funding of the organization: It is very crucial for us to establish a special intervention fund that will empower the agency to respond and reduce our health emergency time as we showcased during the Ebola outbreak.
“We want an NCDC that will be independent, autonomous to some extent,” he said.
Earlier, chairman of the Committee, Mao Ohuabunwa noted that the goal of the centre included provision of control, prevention, coordination and facilitation of detection disease so as to achieve effective management of diseases.
He said the NCDC bill would help to provide sound health security to Nigerians especially against some opportunistic communicable disease outbreaks.
“I am aware that some of the major issues that have the most impact on the provision of effective health care delivery for Nigerians include paucity of funds and lack of political will by governments.
“Such matters are better addressed within existing constitutional Acts that clearly spell out obligations and expectations of agencies involved in the implementation process, vis-à-vis that of the citizens”, he explained.