As Nigeria observes the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) by Decree No. 35 of 1999, President Muhammadu Buhari has presented the agency with a new lease of life, an opportunity for self-reinvention and acceleration.
This Mr. President achieved, by the appointment of a most appropriate new Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer for the agency. He is Professor Mohammed Nasir Sambo, who until his appointment was the Provost, College of Medicine, Kaduna State University.
Sambo, a Professor of Health Policy and Management, has a huge academic and operational interest in Health Care Financing, making him a perfect fit for his new role as the nation’s No. 1 Healthcare financing sheriff.
As an academic and a technocrat, Professor Sambo is well seasoned and thoroughbred, reason for the tangible excitement in the industry at his arrival, especially at this critical moment in the chequered history of NHIS when the agency has an urgent need of the right calibre of leadership to redefine and reassert itself.
This first rank academic graduated with an MBBS from the University of Jos in 1993, and capped it with the distinguished Fellowship of the West African College of Physicians in 2003, where he was the Best Candidate in the Final Fellowship examination.
In the academic wing of his illustrious public service career, Professor Sambo had eminently acquitted himself in the positions of Deputy Dean, Faculty of Medicine, and Head, Department of Community Medicine, both at the blue chip Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
It is particularly interesting to note that the new Executive Secretary was prominent when the building blocks of NHIS were being moulded, having served in the Scheme previously as Assistant Director/Zonal Coordinator in the South West Zone of the Scheme, with concurrent responsibility for Lagos, the single largest healthcare service hub in the country.
To deepen the home-coming element of his appointment, Professor Sambo was also the Assistant General Manager and Head of HMO Division at the NHIS Headquarters, in Abuja.
He thereafter embraced our sister-agency on the supply side of Healthcare delivery, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), where he was Assistant Director/Zonal Coordinator, North West Zone of the Agency.
Mohammed Nasir Sambo’s skills for health policy development found ample expression during the tenure of Professor Eyitayo Lambo, as Honourable Minister of Health, during which the Executive Secretary served as a Member of the Ministerial Technical Working Group that developed the National Healthcare Financing Policy, a framework that largely facilitated the formal flag off of NHIS in June 2005 by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was also a member of the Ministerial Technical Working Groups for the Public Private Partnership Policy on Health, the National Health Strategic Development Plan, and the all-important National Health Policy.
Professor Sambo’s scholarly distinction attracted national and international institutions, which engaged him as Consultant or Resource Person for strategic activities, such as the Health Sector Reform Agenda of the Federal Ministry of Health, Blueprint for Accelerating PHC Implementation in Nigeria, National Strategic Framework Development Committee of NACA and the National Health Council of Nigeria.
As a shining star that cannot be hidden, he has also attracted at different times, the attention of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Department for International Development (DFID), British Council and German Technical Corporation Agency (GTZ).
An Examiner, former Head of Quality Assurance, Faculty of Community Health and member of the Accreditation Team of the West African College of Physicians, Professor Sambo also holds the impressive distinction of being a Visiting Scholar at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Under the wings of his academic mentorship, the Executive Secretary of NHIS has nurtured into full bloom several candidates for Fellowships, Post Graduate qualifications in Public Health and Field Epidemiology and Ph.D.
This proud recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Award at ABU, Zaria also holds a Masters degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy.
Professor Sambo, as an authentic and remarkable scholar has his indelible footprint on the sands of time, through the publication of over 70 of his scholarly articles in reputable Peer Review Journals, nationally and internationally.
He is happily married and blessed with children.
Osinlu is DGM and Head, Media and Public Relations (NHIS)