Civil society groups and other stakeholders in the health sector have called on states in the Niger Delta to prioritize open government approaches as a necessary ingredient for more efficient and effective delivery of health services to citizens.
The call was made during a Learning Event organized by Policy Alert and its partners under the aegis of the Niger Delta Open Government Observatory (NOGO).
The event which had the theme, “How can Open Government partnership enhance effective healthcare delivery at the sub-national level?”, was designed to create a space for public inputs to the NOGO project, which is working to improve uptake and implementation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in states of the Niger Delta.
The OGP is a multilateral initiative through which national and subnational governments make and implement concrete commitments to promote open government, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. So far 25 states in Nigeria have signed on to the partnership.
Setting the tone for the discussion, Executive Director of Policy Alert, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, noted that subnational governments are the closest to the citizens when it comes to service delivery and therefore have a huge responsibility to deliver to citizens. “While health is on the concurrent legislative list, there is a multiple layered challenge not just to deliver healthcare services but to do so in a manner that is transparent, accountable, and puts citizens at the centre.
“The country is currently undergoing a fiscal crisis and states and local governments are worse hit. We may increasingly witness trends such as cutting of financing for social services, including health care. The road ahead therefore requires more innovative and efficient solutions.”
The non-state actors Co-Chair of the OGP in Abia State and discussant at the event, Agbonma Ukaobasi, noted: “When government is open, corruption is minimized and wastage are reduced, leaving more resources to tackle health challenges. When citizens are more involved in health sector decision making, including the budget process, that becomes an incentive for them to track health expenditures and hold the government accountable. This in turn leads to better healthcare outcomes.”
Representative of the National Coordinator, OGP Secretariat Abuja, Uchenna Arisukwu, urged state governments in the Niger Delta region who were yet to sign on to the Open Government Partnership (OGP), to do so without further delay.
He noted that while six states in the Niger Delta had signed on, some of them were yet to take further action, ranging from inaugurating steering committees, approving a State Action Plan, kick starting a Permanent Dialogue Mechanism, and establishing an online portal, all of which are critical for OGP implementation. “The OGP provides a ready platform for reformers within and outside of government to jointly solve governance challenges, including those related to service delivery in the health sector,” he further noted.
Mr Aniekan Usoro, a Health Economist harped on the role of insurance in effective healthcare delivery, he posited that zero to five thousand naira account for the bulk of health expenditure, which are routinely covered by health insurance. He noted that the relevance of health insurance to the poorest citizens provides a built-in incentive for them to participate in health decision making.
The hybrid event had representation from organized civil society, private sector players, students, health experts, and the media.