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WHO Collaborates With Legislators to Improve Universal Health Coverage and Health Security

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Legislators from the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) converged at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja from 23-25 May 2021 for the Fourth Legislative Health Summit.

Every year, since the first Summit was convened in July 2017 (except in 2020 because of COVID-19), Legislators have gathered to apply their statutory functions of legislation, appropriation, oversight (accountability), and representation to raise health high on the agenda of the government.

A major output of the Summit is the Legislative Health Agenda (LHA) with actionable steps and timelines for implementation at the national and state levels. The LHA details critical interventions for legislative action that will support the attainment of UHC and health security in Nigeria.

The theme of the 2021 Summit which was chaired by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan and represented by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Sabi Aliyu, is “Universal Health Coverage and Health Security, two sides of a coin for an efficient health system”.

“This summit is coming at a time when COVID-19 has revealed the fractures in the global and indeed Nigerian health systems demonstrated by apparent disruptions in the economy and provision of essential health services”, stated Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO Nigeria Country Representative (WR) at the Summit.

“The WHO within our mandate under the GPW13 and the Transformation Agenda is committed to supporting member States in the achievement of the health agenda of their choice. With the ongoing restructuring going on including here in Nigeria, stepping up political leadership as a vehicle towards accelerating UHC and health security has, therefore, been considered an appropriate strategic shift.” He added.

To conclude his remarks, Dr. Kazadi promised WHO’s support to develop appropriate accountability mechanisms to track implementation of the Legislative Health Agenda and to extend good practices to other countries.

Earlier in his remarks, Nigeria’s Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, represented by the Minister of State for Health, Senator (Dr) Olorunnimbe Mamora, reassured Nigerians of the commitment of the Government towards UHC and health security.

“The attainment of the Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians and especially for the most vulnerable Nigerians are at the heart of the human capital development initiative of this administration. Our experience in the last year of COVID19 in Nigeria has exposed the vulnerability of our health system and the importance of preparedness, diagnosis and response mechanism. The Federal Ministry of Health is committed to the achievement of universal health coverage for all citizens through the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), revised to provide a much richer Basic Minimum Package of Health Services, to meet the common healthcare needs of all citizens.”

In an address of welcome, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Convener of the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage (LNU), Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, stated that the purpose of the Summit is to review progress against the Legislative Health Agenda set at the last Summit in 2019 towards developing priorities for the year ahead for improvement of the Nigerian health system. He underscored the challenges in the system including COVID-19 and appreciated all development partners who supported the Summit.

The First Counsellor and Deputy Head of Delegation at the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS (EU), Mr. Alexandre Borges Gomes in his goodwill message reiterated the EU’s support and urged the Government of Nigeria to improve strategic investment for UHC and Health Security. “The EU shares the very real concern, a fear, about the impact of COVID-19 on the maintenance of essential health services. Routine immunization has suffered which does not abode well for those States in Nigeria with already extremely low rates. Health is an expensive business and Nigeria, one of the countries of the world with the worst health indicators, has also one of the lowest spending ratios. It would be essential that the sector be prioritized right at the time when appropriations are set if we are to have anything like minimally effective and accountable delivery of services”.

The 3-day event which was supported by development partners including the WHO with funding from the European Union (EU), was graced by the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo represented by the Minister of State for Health Senator (Dr) Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajiabiamila who was represented by the Chairman House Committee on Healthcare Services, Hon. Tanko Sununu, and the Chairman Senate Committee on PHC and Communicable Diseases Senator Chukwuka Utazi.

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Economy

Kenya Receives $750 Million Loan from World Bank to Boost Economic Recovery

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Kenya has received a $750 million loan from the World Bank to support its budget and help the East African economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the multilateral lender said on Friday.

The Kenyan government has been pushing hard to secure foreign funding to fill a wide budget deficit before its financial year closes at the end of this month.

The $750 million disbursement is part of World Bank’s Development Policy Operations (DPO), which lends cash for budget support instead of financing specific projects.

The bank said some of the funds would go towards setting up an electronic procurement system for government goods and services to improve transparency.

The World Bank said the concessional loan will have a 3.1% annual interest rate. Typically, World Bank loans have zero or very low interest rates and have repayment periods of 25 to 40 years, with a five- or 10-year grace period.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Ukur Yatani presented to parliament the 2021/22 budget, with a deficit of 7.5% of gross domestic product, reduced from 8.7% for the current fiscal year ending this month.

The finance ministry forecasts a economic growth of 6.6% this year, recovering from 0.6% in 2020 when sectors like tourism and related services collapsed due to restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The World Bank forecasts Kenya’s economy will grow 4.5% this year, and 4.7% in 2022.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who took the helm in 2013, has overseen a jump in public borrowing. Total debt stands at 70% of GDP, up from about 45% when he took over – a surge that some politicians and economists say is saddling future generations with too much debt.

The government has defended the increased borrowing, saying the country must invest in its infrastructure, including roads and railways.

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Economy

FG Spends N612.7 Billion on Domestic Debt Servicing in Q1 2021

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Naira Exchange Rates - Investors King

The latest report from the Debt Management Office (DMO) has revealed that the Federal Government spent a total sum of N612.71 billion on domestic debt servicing in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021.

In the report released on Wednesday, the DMO said the Federal Government paid holders of mature Nigerian Treasury Bills (NTB) N17.23 billion in January, N12.3 billion in February and N5.49 billion in March 2021. Indicating that the Federal Government paid a combined sum of N35.03 billion to NTB holders in Q1 2021.

Similarly, the Federal Government paid N537.783 billion to holders of Federal Government of Nigeria bonds in three instalments of N201.95 billion in January, N79.26 billion in February and N256.58 billion in March 2021.

The Federal Government also paid N308.38 million in three tranches to subscribers of mature FGN Savings Bond. FG paid N111.65 million in January, N97.074 million in February and N99.65 million in March 2021.

Another N8.16 billion was used to settle FGN Sukuk Rentals in March 2021. No payment was made in January and February 2021.

The Federal Government released N31.44 billion as principal repayment “in respect of promissory notes during the quarter under review.

A monthly breakdown revealed that a total sum of N219.29 billion was released to service domestic debts in January, N123.09 billion in February and N270.33 billion in March. Therefore, bringing the total amount spent on domestic debt servicing in the first quarter of 2021 to N612.71 billion.

Nigeria’s total debt rose to N33.1 trillion in the first quarter of 2021, according to the report released by the DMO.

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Economy

Togo, Niger, Others to Acquire Nigeria’s Idle Electricity

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Electricity - Investors King

Four West African nations are collaborating to acquire unutilised power produced in Nigeria, stated Sule Abdulaziz, the Chairman of the Executive Board of the West African Power Pool (WAPP).

Abdulaziz, who doubled as the acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, listed the four West African nations as Niger, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso.

He said the nations were collaborating to make the purchase via the Northcore Power Transmission Line presently under construction.

Abdulaziz disclosed this at the WAPP meeting held on Wednesday in Abuja.

He said, “The power we will be selling is the power that is not needed in Nigeria.

“The electricity generators that are going to supply power to this transmission line are going to generate that power specifically for this project. So, it is unutilised power.”

The WAPP chairman said the country was expecting new generators to take part in the energy export for the 875km 330KV Northcore transmission line from Nigeria through Niger, Togo, Benin to Burkina Faso.

Abdulaziz said, “In addition, there are some communities that are under the line route, about 611 of them, which will be getting power so that there won’t be just a transmission line passing without impact.”

He further stated that the project, financed by the World Bank, French Development Council and the African Development Bank, had recorded progress, saying that the energy ministers would be addressing security issues for the project at another meeting in Abuja.

He added that “Nigeria has the greatest advantage among these countries because the electricity is going to be exported from Nigerian Gencos (generation companies).

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