Nigeria mourns as we currently grapple with more than one pandemic: COVID-19 and corruption.

A recently collapsed 21-story building in Ikoyi, an upscale part of Lagos city, has killed 36 people and, according to one estimate, more than 100 are still trapped. These people survived the COVID-19 pandemic, but the corruption that allowed an unapproved building to stand killed them, including the owner.

This unfinished structure was completed in June because it did not meet the necessary structural specifications. Yet months later, someone approved the resumption of work without anything being sorted out.

Unfortunately, this corruption is not limited to the creation of control agencies in Nigeria. It is everywhere, including in our health care system. Our health care system has been collapsing for years and we are slow to act. A few months ago, I wrote about my father’s ordeal in trying to get a bed in a hospital, which almost cost him his life. We were told there was no room, but we saw others willing to pay some money to get a bed faster than those who couldn’t. Someone is definitely paid to look away.

Likewise, when the pandemic began, Nigeria received aid and protective gear that never reached many rural health workers, risking their lives on the front lines.

Even the medical education system is no slouch these days. Favoritism and nepotism in accessing medical education have now become mainstream, where family is preferred over passion, talent and skill. Plus, as a recent medical graduate, you’re almost stuck between never finding an internship and paying your way. Sometimes you find doctors who have been at the peak of their class struggle for two years just to get a place on an internship. Sometimes Nigeria is about who you know or what you are willing to pay and it kills us.

Nigeria now ranks 149th in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index, making it the second most corrupt country in West Africa. Obviously, the corruption has worsened over the years.

Transparency International reported that one in five people had to pay a bribe in an attempt to access medical care. This shows that the thin line between life and death in our healthcare industry is corruption. It amplifies inequalities and the majority of people living in rural communities today are more of the beneficiaries. This sometimes means a death sentence for those who cannot pay their way. It must stop.

However, corruption in the health sector is not just about bribes. Whenever funds or resources acquired for a particular purpose are misappropriated, it prevents essential health services from reaching the right person. It is corruption. Anytime a rural child is forced to lose a tooth due to a lack of dental facilities, it is corruption. Every time a child’s hope is dashed by the inability to access education, it is corruption. Anytime health workers have to pay salaries for work done despite putting their lives at risk on a daily basis, it is corruption. We have to kill him before he takes no more lives. And that is our entire responsibility.

We do not hesitate to point our hands at our leaders first when it comes to corruption. But leaders are raised in houses and built by systems. There is no secret weapon to fight corruption. But it definitely starts with us. It is our individual responsibility to stop this pandemic called corruption!

Families must start educating and training children to refuse to participate in corrupt practices. The family has a crucial role to play in ethical behavior. Children tend to partially model their parents’ behaviors. This means that there is a chance that a child will see corruption as normal if the parents are indifferent to it.

Let’s start by holding ourselves accountable in our smallest community first. From airport security willing to bypass a vaccination card for cash, to teachers willing to hoard free books for students to pay for. We have to start calling them. Thanks to technology and social media, reporting corruption is now within reach.

As citizens, we also need to launch a campaign similar to ‘zero rupee banknotes’ where an imitation of the country’s currency banknote is printed and shared at protests to raise awareness of corruption and fight bribery. of-wine. The aim is not to pass it off as real money but to create national awareness.

Healthcare professionals must also start exposing allegations of corruption within our healthcare and medical education systems. Call on ourselves to do the right thing, from our consulting rooms. Corruption has a negative effect on our health sector and the country as a whole. This creates a huge barrier for vulnerable and underserved communities to access health care.

We owe it to ourselves to protect ourselves and future generations from collapsed buildings and systems before it is too late.

  • Dentist Dr Adekemi Adeniyan is a member of the Aspen Institute New Voices in 2021

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