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COVID-19: Time to reboot in Nigeria?
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COVID-19: Time to reboot in Nigeria?

It may sound bizarre for one to say that the coronavirus pandemic has a positive side, but it does. How about we take a small break from discussing the negative effects of COVID-19 and examine the flipside of the pandemic on Nigeria, writes Commonwealth Correspondent Folmi Yohanna, 29, from Abuja in Nigeria. What gains can COVID-19 provide to the country’s health sector, and to an economy that is over-reliant on revenues from oil exports in the face of a global decline in oil prices? 

Nigeria’s health sector is organised into primary, secondary, and tertiary health care levels, with the private sector playing a complementary role. Local government is responsible for primary health care, the state governments are responsible for providing secondary care, while the federal government is responsible for policy development, regulation, and tertiary care. 

The entire health sector is weak due to poor funding. The end result is massive brain drain, poor services, and medical tourism. It will be unfair not to acknowledge the excellent work done by some private hospitals in the country. However, their charges are on the high side. 

As coronavirus spreads, the big question is—will Nigeria’s weak health care system cope with the pandemic? Most countries, including Nigeria, resolved to impose lockdowns and restrict travel as measures to manage the pandemic. 

The repercussion is that Nigerians who would ordinarily seek medical attention out of the country will not be able to do so. Furthermore, the inadequacies of the health sector have been put in the spotlight. The irony is that the health care system persistently neglected by the political elite is the very system they would now have to rely on for treatment should they contract the virus.

Oil accounts for more than 90 per cent of Nigeria’s export revenue

Rethinking the economy

Nigeria’s economy is driven mainly by revenues accruing from crude oil sales, which accounts for up to 90 per cent of Nigeria’s export revenue. Talks of diversifying the Nigerian economy have been going on for a long time—in fact, it has become a bit like a broken record.

But this call became louder when oil prices dropped globally, coupled with the pandemic, which aggravated the decline of the price and also demand. However, until now, the idea of diversification has remained almost like rocket science. 

Nigeria is now chalking up losses for every barrel it produces, negatively impacting the economy. And with the naira under intense pressure from the dollar, the 2020 budget had to be slashed and reviewed twice. 

Re-imagining the future

But here’s the silver lining. The drop in the price of oil might be Nigeria’s way out of dependence on crude oil. Hopefully, the leaders will quit paying lip-service to diversifying the economy and actually work on doing so. 

Already, the Nigerian government is looking inward to alternative sources of revenue generation in addition to loans sourced from IMF and other international financial institutions.

The global decline in oil prices presents Nigeria with a golden opportunity to seriously and rigorously explore other avenues of income generation considering the abundance of natural resources at the country’s disposal. These include natural gas, tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc, and arable land. Not to mention having one of the richest rainforest regions in Africa, game reserves, and of course, its highly motivated and youthful population.

Meanwhile, since Nigeria reported its first case in March, the health sector–especially the poor state of health facilities and the welfare of health workers in the country–has moved to the front burner. 

Government, wealthy individuals, and the private sector have been donating towards combating the virus through the purchase of medical equipment, and constructing new structures in hospitals and makeshift health centres for isolation. The pandemic has been the catalyst needed to give the health care sector in the country the face-lift and attention it needs.

If Nigeria fails to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the pandemic to revamp its health sector and diversify the economy, it will be a great loss indeed!

Photo credit:

Main photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels

Oil platform photo by Zukiman Mohamad from Pexels

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About me: I am legal practitioner practicing in Nigeria. I would love to be at the top of my career and hopefully, publish books. Also, be an agent of positive change in Nigeria and the world. I love reading, practicing my profession, doing voluntary humanitarian activities, watching and playing of football and I love playing video games.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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