By Our Correspondent
The decision of the immediate past administration of Cross River State led by Senator Liyel Imoke to privatize general hospitals in the northern senatorial district continues to raise dust, over one year after the agreement was signed with mixed reactions still trailing it, just as incumbent governor Ben Ayade has publicly spoken against privatization.
CrossRiverWatch, on November 22, 2015 commissioned an online petition to find out what the views of Cross Riverians and friends of Cross River, on the issue of privatization of government owned hospitals by the immediate past government against the background of the averred stand of the incumbent governor against privatization.
Respondents were requested to choose from four options namely,
1. The present government should allow the concessionaires to continue running the hospitals under the terms agreed with the last government.
2. The present government should terminate the concession agreement and recover the hospitals and manage them properly.
3. The present government should rather review the existing agreement with the concessionaires and agree on new terms then allow them to continue managing the hospitals.
4. The government should not deal with Bakor and St. Luke at all, but look for a new set of investors entirely to execute the Public Private Partnership, PPP arrangement.”
These sparked mixed reactions from several Cross Riverians with almost all questioning the rationale.
Rights Activists and APC chieftain, Okoi Obono-Obla, in his comment disclosed that “This matter is the subject matter of legal suit pending before the High Court, Ogoja, filed by my client, Ambassador (Akpang) Obi Odu”, failing to state his stance on the matter with CrossRiverWatch yet to confirm details of the legal proceedings so far.
For Ignatius Oli, another Cross Riverian, the privatization was due to “management issues and the lacklustre attitude of civil servants in our state and by extension, Nigeria is the problem. The terms should be made clear to us so we don’t get ripped off by capitalists and excessively greedy people who just want money.”
The wife of the state Commissioner for Environment, Alorye Eraye, was blunt in her position saying “I will never support the sale of Government properties because if properly managed, the poor will be able to access services offered by these facilities just like unity schools. I remember we went on strike to stop OBJ (Former President Olusegun Obasanjo) from selling them.”
Ikung Grace, a nurse, concurred with Eraye’s stance saying “The present government should terminate the concession agreement, recover the hospitals and manage them properly. By doing so, the common man will be able to access affordable healthcare.”
Another respondent, Patrick Ugbe, also extended support to the idea. He said “It is simple, terminate the concession because even the communities donated their lands because it was to benefit them, so if they cannot afford the cost, what then is the point of concessioning?
Paul Ifere, another Cross Riverian based in China proposed five steps to be taken by the incumbent administration even as the issue was in court.
He said “Well, even though the matter is in court, it is obscene for any government to concession healthcare to private individuals especially structures initially owned by governments which makes health services availability affordable.”
He also urged the government to take the following steps; “1. The government as a matter of urgency should set up a Committee to investigate all contracts drawn for the concessions.
“2. The Committee should report to the government and government should make the discoveries public.
“3. The House of Assembly can then take a decision either to terminate contracts or review them.
“4. Where are the monies paid to the former government? It is important that the present administration go all out to seek the beneficiaries of these shady deals and force them to return or face prosecution.
“5. Most importantly, the ordinary Cross Riverian wants to see Ben Ayade independence at decision making. Such independence can be established if Ben wholeheartedly go after the recovery of the bazaar that took place in the previous administration.”
Findings by CrossRiverWatch reveals only two general hospitals were concessioned, General Hospital Bekwarra to Bakor Medical Services and Obudu to St. Luke’s Hospital Consortium, with the former already in operation while renovation work is ongoing at the latter.
Reports by some media organisations (not CrossRiverWatch) suggested a strain in the relationship between the investors and the host communities as they (as was reported) expressed dissatisfaction with the privatization of the medical facilities.
It is unclear what the incumbent administration has in store for operators of facilities either leased out, concessioned or sold off by the immediate past administration with the new helmsman, Governor Benedict Ayade reportedly not a fan of privatization of government properties.
CrossRiverWatch effort to get a reaction on the position of the new government on the concessioned agreement had not yielded result as ministry officials said the commissioner had just resumed duty and need time to study the situation before talking to the press.
Note: This report has been updated with additional reactions.
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