Queen of Netherlands, Her Majesty, Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti on Tuesday paid a courtesy visit to the Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode as part of efforts to advance the United Nation’s financial inclusion advocacy as a vehicle to alleviate poverty and fostering equitable economic growth in Nigeria.
Queen Maxima, who was visiting Nigeria for the first time in the last five years, in her capacity as the Special Advocate to United Nations’ Secretary General on financial inclusion for development, said she was impressed by the initiatives of the State Government to improve service delivery especially towards expanding access to affordable healthcare.
While noting that it was important for governments to prioritize access to affordable healthcare, Queen Maxima particularly lauded the health insurance scheme of the State Government, which legal framework had already been put in place, saying that Governor Ambode deserved commendation for coming up with such laudable effort.
She said: “Today I had opportunity to visit two clinics in the State where I saw the new pilot project in which you (Governor Ambode) has also started looking into which is to make health insurance possible even to the poorest of the people.
“I was very impressed by the leadership that the State of Lagos has taken as to coming up with a law which makes health insurance mandatory and also to able to plan for the future and you are already doing some credit to some health facilities which off course will improve efficiency of a lot of these institutions. I commend you for your efforts and I will like to know from you Mr Governor what is your commitment on the future in this field,” she said.
Responding, Governor Ambode said the Health Insurance Scheme of the State Government aimed at expanding access and scaling up healthcare delivery in the State will commence in early 2018.
He said the legal framework to guide the implementation of the policy had already been put in place, while every necessary efforts to ensure the success of the scheme were being put in place.
Governor Ambode, who received Queen Maxima alongside his wife, Mrs Bolanle Ambode and other top officials of the State, commended the visitor for her efforts at advancing issues relating to healthcare and financial inclusion.
Speaking on the health insurance policy of the State Government, the Governor said: “We are on the path of positive improvement on the things that have to do with health. Like the Queen rightly said, we have a law that allows us to do the Health Insurance Scheme which is targeted at the most-needy and the poor that cannot afford ordinary healthcare. We believe that if we pull the resources of every other person in the State together, those that cannot afford will be able to have a chance to access healthcare which is the main objective why the Queen has been going round to promote good healthcare for people generally.
“We want to say that we are deeply committed to that vision and we are committed to that ideals and also say that we will do everything possible to make sure that the Health Insurance Scheme starts up early next year and we can now allow people to have some sense of inclusion which is one of the basic principles of good governance.
“The main essence of good governance is for us to be able to carry everybody along. In a cosmopolitan city like Lagos that we have population of almost 22million people and the majority can really not afford the things we want them to, and so we believe strongly that a partnership like this is one in the right direction.”
On financial inclusion, Governor Ambode said the informal sector accounted for about 80 per cent of Lagos population, a development he said prompted his administration to set up N25billion Employment Trust Fund (ETF) to serve as an instrument to grant members of the sector access to finance.
Besides, Governor Ambode said it was time to call on the Federal Government to scale up financial inclusion with the view to expanding access for more people to benefit, while also calling for escalation of mobile banking to ensure that more people from the rural areas have access to finance and all issues connected.
While drawing the similarities between Lagos and Netherlands, Governor Ambode said the State, being a cosmopolitan city, is striving as much as possible to ensure that every resident is comforted with hope of great future.
He said the present administration in the State under him was also working hard to bequeath functional and affordable healthcare system to the people of the State, just as he assured that the State Government would do everything possible to support the United Nations initiative being championed by Queen Maxima.