Thousands of women protesting the delay in the passage of the National Health Bill were prevented from carrying their protest to the National Assembly protest grounds until they threatened to go nude at the assembly gate.
The women, some of whom were visibly angry, were not happy with what they said was the tardiness of the lawmakers over the passage of the Bill with days to the end of the session of the assembly, but they were stopped at the gates of the national assembly by police officers.
The women, though armed with only placards, were only let into the premises of the national assembly to use the protest ground after they threatened to go nude.
The protesting women, mostly members of the Federal Capital Territory Market Women Association and several other health pressure groups, said the lawmakers were dilly-dallying over the bill, whose passage would strengthen the primary healthcare system and reduce cost of medical care for rural dwellers.
Delay on variables
The protesters were later addressed at the protest ground by the Senate chairman on Health, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (PDP Ogun State) and Gyan Dantong (PDP Plateau State). They soothed the protesters with an assurance that work on the bill was in progress.
Mrs Obasanjo-Bello said the delay in passing the National Health Bill was due to the need to ensure that all necessary variables that will make it people oriented and especially beneficial to women and children, were added.
“We have worked on this bill night and day so that healthcare in Nigeria can be adequately funded; the conference committee of the National Assembly has met over the bill and by tomorrow the work would have been done, leaving the rest for bureaucracy and executive,” Mrs Obasanjo-Bello said.
Felicia Sani, chairperson of the FCT Market Women Association, however, rejected Mrs Obasanjo-Bello’s assurances.
In her response on behalf of the protesters, she threatened they would stage a repeat protest if, by next week, the harmonised bill has not been passed.
Mrs Sani told the senators that the National Health Bill confers key benefits on the weak Nigerian Health System and will contribute towards accelerating the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
She added that the bill will be most beneficial to women and children who cannot afford to travel overseas for medical checkups and treatment, unlike the families of the lawmakers.