From Tony Osauzo, Benin
The announcement by the Edo State Government yesterday that possession of the State Health Insurance Compliance Certificate/Health Insurance Identity Card is now a prerequisite for business premises registrations, renewal and permits for public and private organisations and for obtaining any form of Government authorisation in the state, has been shot down by the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a statement, Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq., said “the Government is committed to improving the social and economic wellbeing of Edo people and calls on the general public to collaborate with the government in achieving her vision to engender sustainable growth and development.

“The State Government through the Edo State Health Insurance Commission hereby brings to the notice of the general public that Edo State Health Insurance Compliance Certificate/Health Insurance Identity Card is now a mandatory document for obtaining any form of Government authorisation which include business premises registration, renewal and permits for public/private organisations, SMEs, NGOs, etc.

“This certificate is a prerequisite for any individual/business who wishes to carry out any form of government process through any of the Ministries and Government parastatals in Edo State.

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“Consequently, all organisations, private and public, including Non-Governmental Organizations that are yet to obtain the Edo State Health Insurance Commission Certificate are hereby advised to visit Edo State Health Insurance Commission, 6th and 8th Floor, Block C, Secretariat Building, Sapele Road, Benin City, for more information”, the statement said.

But in a swift reaction, the APC in a statement signed by its State Assistant Publicity Secretary, Victor Ofure, recalled that the PDP government of Edo State under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki launched the state’s healthcare insurance scheme on Thursday, 31 October 2019 sequel to the bill for a law earlier passed by the Edo Assembly and signed by the governor.

The party said it “has gone through a copy of the law and has not found the section that gives the Governor or the Edo State government powers to make it compulsory or mandatory for citizens and organizations to key into the scheme. Perhaps the government has forgotten about the law and has now resorted to self help. Edo people are very weary of the many failed promises of the Obaseki government right now.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the Edo State Health Insurance Commission law 2019, which the governor signed, says the state government must provide improved and affordable healthcare services to residents. The government is not doing this. It  also empowers the State government to access funds from National Health Insurance Scheme of the Federal Government.
“The law also seeks to protect Edo people from the untold hardship of huge medical bills in public hospitals, which are presently, grossly underfunded and poorly equipped and lacking in vital personnel under the PDP government in Benin City.
“The law appropriately labelled the Edo state contributory health insurance scheme is different from the Edo state mandatory health insurance scheme as the public announcement, two years later, by the Secretary to the Edo State government will erroneously have the public believe.
“The law also did not in any section provide for an Edo Health Insurance compliance/health insurance certificate or identity card for citizens or organizations. It did not provide for the mandatory possession of such a document before the public can do business with government or its agencies. Even the Federal government operating the NHIS has never  imposed it on Nigerians.
“The APC holds the view and very strongly too that the state government is out of order by insisting that the public including non-governmental organizations obtain its illegal Edo Health Insurance compliance/health insurance identity card. This is because since the law did not provide for it, the government cannot manufacture it.
“If the government is confused or short of ideas about steps to take to wake up the almost comatose Edo state contributory health insurance scheme, the APC in Edo State will advice that it do more in awareness creation and civil sensitization campaigns, to collaborate with it. This is the most civilised way to appeal to the public, not the arm twisting and dictatorial antics the government has embarked upon. Nigeria is still a democracy and freedom of the citizens is guaranteed by the Constitution, which the State governor swore to uphold”, the statement said.