The Rivers State Government says it has made significant progress in curbing the HIV epidemic in the state.
The State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike disclosed this during the flag- off ceremony of Wike’s Waiver of User Fees and Antenatal Care Charges at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The Governor, who spoke through his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, said at the advent of the present administration, there were only 15 sites for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of AIDS, which today, has risen to 112 sites accessible for PMTCT.
According to him, “Our aim is to extend PMTCT services to every health facility in the state”, noting that “all user fees for People Living with HIV/AIDS who are accessing services including antenatal registration for new enrolees has been abolished in the state”.
The State Chief Executive, who expressed commitment to meet all the healthcare needs of Rivers people said: “we are on the verge of kicking polio out permanently in the State and Nigeria”.
He noted that the State Immunization coverage has improved from 44.6% in 2016 to 82.6% in 2018 and gave the assurance of more improvement.
Wike, who said his administration is encouraging baby friendly initiative in health facilities across the state, further said the Wife of the Governor, Hon Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike was the number one Nutrition Champion, while stressing that his administration was developing creative ways to reach communities with family planning services.
He thanked all partners like Human Virology Institute, Nigeria, Rotary International, WHO, Rivers Field UNICEF, the Challenge Initiative, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Religious Bodies, Traditional Rulers, Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Societies, the Media, Corporate Organisations, the Armed Forces, especially the Nigeria Police Medical Services and the Air Force, the academia and all stakeholders for their support and continued participation towards improved access to quality health services for all.
In their goodwill messages, Dr. Jahun Jbrahim of the Centre for Disease Control and Dr. Patrick Dakum, Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria commended the Rivers State Government for this bold initiative, noting that it would not only give succour to people living with the virus but would go a long way to stemming the spread of the disease.
The Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Health, Mrs. Caroline Wali, said the waiver of user fees for Persons Living with HIV by Wike was unprecedented in the country.
Meanwhile, in fulfillment of the pledge made by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike after he signed into law, the Rivers State Pensions Reform Law (No 4 of 2019), the Rivers State Government has commenced the payment of pensioners under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
The Head of Service of Rivers State, Barrister Rufus Godwins, who disclosed this in an interview, clarified that 800 pensioners under the scheme, who had completed their biometrics, have been paid.
The Rivers State Head of Service said that further biometric capture of other pensioners under the scheme has been scheduled by the state government in line with the directive of the governor.
“We have placed over 800 of them on the payroll, and we have started paying them. The window for biometric capture is open, and we shall continue the process for the purpose of payment of all outstanding benefits.
“Now that the process has started, none of those who fall into this category, and the labour unions have gone out to talk about it on the radio, the way they did when the administration was working to address the challenge it inherited”, he said.
He said by initiating the amendment of the state pension law, Wike set out to comprehensively tackle the challenges he inherited under the Contributory Pension Scheme from the immediate past administration in the state.
Godwins recalled that other pensioners, who were not under the Contributory Pension Scheme have been receiving their monthly pensions since Wike assumed office on May 29, 2015.
The governor, he noted, also cleared the four months’ pension arrears he inherited from the Chibuike Amaechi administration, before entrenching the regular payment of monthly pensions.
He said that “ahead of the last elections, the opposition in the state misinformed members of the public regarding the true position of pensions in the public service.
“They created the wrong impression that all pensioners were being owed by the state government, whilst those owed were under the defective contributory pension law operated by the immediate past APC administration,” he said.
“The Wike administration had to follow due process to amend the law and create the platform for payment of those under the Contributory Pension Scheme,” he added.
It would be recalled that Governor Nyesom Wike had said that the Rivers State Pension Reform Law (No 4 of 2019) would help in resolving the challenges generated by the Contributory Pension Scheme. He assured that the state government was committed to ensuring that civil servants and pensioners were catered for, with the challenges they faced completely addressed.