As Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari prepares to join Theresa May, Justin Trudeau and 50 other leaders in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the world will be watching. Boasting one of Africa’s largest economies and one of the world’s youngest populations, Nigeria is poised to emerge as a leader on the continent and in the wider world.
But it will not realise its potential without urgent investment in the health of its citizens. While wealthy Nigerians are able to benefit from world-class private healthcare abroad, most Nigerians do not enjoy the same access to treatment. Every day 2,300 children under five die in Nigeria; 15 per cent of women who die giving birth worldwide do so in Nigeria.
This is a great injustice. A local movement of millions of Nigerian citizens and health coalitions have been working to demand better. With our connections to Nigeria, we are adding our voices to calls of civil society to “Make Naija Stronger”. Mr Buhari’s government can do this by delivering on Nigeria’s National Health Act. This means at least 1 per cent (N56bn-66bn, £109m-130m) of the Consolidated Revenue Fund must be allocated to the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.
This is essential to advance universal health coverage across the country, finance primary health centres across rural communities, provide essential quality antenatal care for pregnant women as well as routine childhood immunisation for children under five.
This 1 per cent CRF allocation should be matched by a commitment to ensure spending in Nigeria’s health system is open and transparent. We add our voices to and call for Mr Buhari to “Make Naija Stronger”. After the handshakes and warm words at the summit, he must deliver on this overdue commitment to invest in the health of Nigeria.
David Oyelowo, Actor and Producer
Kate Osamor, Shadow International Development Secretary and Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Nigeria
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Vice-Chair of the APPG for Nigeria
Lord Victor Adebowale, Crossbench Peer and CEO of Turning Point
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, MBE Astrophysicist
David Olusoga, Historian and Broadcaster
Chi-chi Nwanoku, OBE Musician
Gina Yashere, Comedian
Serah Makka-Ugbabe, Nigeria Director, ONE
This letter was “first published in the Financial Times”