Ogun workers suspend strike after four days
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Nigeria is mourning as we are currently battling more than one pandemic: COVID-19 and corruption.
A recently collapsed 21-storey building in Ikoyi, a luxurious neighbourhood in the city of Lagos, took away 36 lives and with an estimate of more than 100 still trapped. These people survived the COVID-19 pandemic yet the corruption that allowed an unapproved building stand killed them – including the owner.
This uncompleted structure was sealed off in June because it failed to meet structural specifications needed for it. Yet, months later, someone approved resumption of work on it without things being set right.
Unfortunately, this corruption is not only limited to building control agencies in Nigeria. It’s everywhere including our healthcare system. Our healthcare system has been collapsing for years now and we are slow at acting. A few months ago, I wrote about my dad’s ordeal in the bid to secure a bed in a hospital, which almost cost his life. We were told there was no space, yet we watched others willing to pay a sum to get a bed faster than those who could not. Someone is definitely being paid to look away.
Likewise, when the pandemic started, Nigeria received aid and protective gear which never reached many rural healthcare professionals risking their lives at the frontline.
Even the medical teaching system is not left behind these days. Favouritism and nepotism in access to medical education have now become common, where family is chosen over passion, talents and skills. Furthermore, as a recent medical graduate, you are almost stuck between never finding a placement and paying your way through. Sometimes, you find doctors who were at the top of their class struggle for two years just to get a place for an internship. Sometimes, Nigeria is about who you know or what you are willing to pay and this is killing us.
Nigeria is now 149 on the Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index, making it the second most corrupt country in West Africa. Clearly, corruption has worsened over the years.
Transparency International reported that one in five people have had to pay a bribe in a bid to access medical care. This shows that the thin line between life and death in our health sector is corruption. It amplifies inequities and the majority of the people living in the rural communities today are more at the receiving end. It sometimes means a death sentence for those who can’t pay their way through. This needs to stop.
However, corruption in the health sector is not only about bribes. Every time funds or resources acquired for a particular purpose are diverted, it stops essential health services from getting to the right person. This is corruption. Every time a rural child is forced to lose a tooth due to lack of dental facility. This is corruption. Every time the hope of a child is dashed due to inability to access education, this is corruption. Every time health workers are owed salaries for work done despite risking their lives on a daily basis, this is corruption. We need to kill it before it takes more lives. And it’s all our responsibility.
We are quick to first point hands to our leaders when it comes to corruption. But leaders are raised in homes and built by systems. There is no one secret weapon to fighting corruption. But it definitely starts with us. It is our individual responsibility to stop this pandemic called corruption!
Families must begin to educate and train children to refuse to participate in corrupt practices. Family has a crucial role to play in ethical behaviors, children tend to partly model the behaviors of their parents. This means that there are chances that a child will see corruption as normal if parents are indifferent to it.
Let’s first start holding ourselves accountable in our smallest community. From the airport security willing to bypass a vaccine card for money, to the teachers willing to hoard free books so students have to pay for it. We need to start calling these out. Thanks to technology and social media, reporting corruption is now at our fingertips.
We as citizens need to also start a campaign similar to the “Zero Rupee Notes” where a banknote imitation of the country’s currency is printed and shared during protests to spread awareness on corruption and kick against bribery. The aim is not to pass it off as the real currency but to create a national awareness.
Healthcare professionals need to also start exposing alleged corruption within our health and medical education systems. Let’s call ourselves out to do what is right, starting from our consulting rooms. Corruption has a negative effect on our health sector and the country at large, it’s creating a huge barrier for vulnerable and underserved communities to access healthcare.
We owe it to ourselves to protect ourselves and generations to come from collapsed buildings and systems before it is too late.
Dr Adekemi Adeniyan, a rural dentist breaking down barriers to oral health for underserved communities, is a 2021 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow. Twitter @PstDrKemi
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