Muhammed Ali Pate was sworn in as Nigeria's Minister of Health on August 21, 2023

Ministers of Health in Nigeria (1957-Present)

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Nigeria has produced 25 Ministers of Health since the formation of the first cabinet in 1957 to present.

From the appointment of Chief Ayo Rosiji as Nigeria’s first Minister of Health to the incumbent Muhammed Ali Pate, Nigeria’s Ministry of Health is headed by health practitioners except in a few cases when a pharmacist, teacher, lawyer, businessman or an economist were appointed.

Here is the list of Nigeria’s Ministers of Health and their profession from the government of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa in 1957 to Bola Tinubu’s civilian government.

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This collation of photo is a summary list of former Ministers of Health in Nigeria from 1957 to date

Chief Ayotunde Rosiji

  • Tenure: August 30, 1957–December 12, 1959
  • Profession: Engineer/Lawyer

Chief Ayo Rosiji was part of the first cabinet of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa which was formed in 1957.

The formation of the first cabinet followed an announcement on August 30, 1957, by the last foreign Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir James Wilson Robertson, that Tafawa Balewa had been appointed Prime Minister.

The prime minister immediately formed a broad-based National Government, consisting of members from the Action Group (AG).

An engineer-turned lawyer, Ayo Rosijia was appointed the Federal Minister of Health.

He was a prominent politician from the old Western region and one of the founding fathers AG.

During his tenure, The University College Hospital, Ibadan, was officially opened to the public for use on November 20, 1957.

Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim

  • Tenure: 1959-1964
  • Profession: Businessman

Ibrahim Kolo Waziri was one of the 16-member cabinet with portfolios during the second cabinet of Balewa’s government between 1959 to 1964.

He was a prominent Northern politician and one of the financiers of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPC).

He however left the NPC in 1978 to form the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), which he was the presidential candidate in the August 11, 1979 presidential election.

Chief Moses Majekodunmi:

  • Tenure: 1964-1966
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

A former sole administrator of the Western region Mose Adekoyejo Majekodunmi was appointed the Federal Minister of Health in the last cabinet of Tafawa Balewa.

Majekodunmi was the first medical doctor to be appointed as Nigeria’s minister of health. His predecessors were an engineer and a businessman.

Before joining active politics in the first republic, he was a medical doctor with the Federal Government Medical Services.

He was instrumental to the establishment of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital in 1961 and Saint Nicholas Hospital in Lagos, which opened for public use in March 1968.

During the crisis that rocked the Western region, Majekodunmi was appointed sole administrator from June to December 1962, in place of the premier Chief Samuel Akintola.

Dr. Joseph Adetoro

  • Tenure: June 12, 1967-February 9, 1971
  • Profession: Teacher/Lecturer

The Gowon military regime first appointed Dr Joseph Eyitayo Adetoro as Federal Commissioner of Health before deploying him to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources on February 9, 1971, till October of the same year, when he was again redeployed to the Federal Ministry of Industries in October 1971.

At the University College, Ibadan, where he was studying for his first degree, Adetoro authored several History and Geography textbooks, according to his biography on Prabook, a platform that documents the history of famous people around the world.

Apart from being the first teacher to be appointed as the health minister in Nigeria, Adetoro was in charge of the federal ministry of health through the Nigeria-Biafra War July 6,1967-January 15,1970).

He is one of the prominent authors on the list of Macmillan and Co, a global publishing company, and later a lecturer at the University of Lagos.

Dr J.O.J Okezie

  • Tenure: February 1971 – January 1972
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

The Head of Nigeria’s Military Government Gen Yakubu Gowon approved the appointment of Dr Josiah Onyebuchi Johnson Okezie as the Minister of Health on February 9, 1971.

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He was later redeployed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources under the same military regime.

Alhaji Aminu Kano

  • Tenure: January 13, 1972 – 1974
  • Profession: Teacher

The founder of the People’s Redemption Party in the second republic, Aminu Kano served as the Federal Minister of Health during the military regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon.

Like Adetoro, Aminu Kano was a trained school teacher.

During the Civil War, he played a prominent role on the side of the Federal Government as he was in charge of war procurement.

Aminu, a trained teacher, was known for his transparency in all the government appointments he held.

Gen. Emmanuel Abisoye

  • Tenure: 1974-1979
  • Profession: Soldier by training

Before the appointment of General Emmanuel Olumuyiwa Abisoye as Federal Minister of Health, he played gallant roles at the war front during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970).

In 1967, Abisoye was the Commander of 2 Sector as recounted in Olusegun Obasanjo’s “My Command” and later commanded the Third Marine Commando (Rear) towards the end of the war.

Before his voluntary retirement from the Nigerian Army in October 1979, he was the General Officer Commanding the 3rd Infantry Division and also the 2nd Infantry Division.

Dr Daniel Ugwu

  • Tenure: December 1979–October 1983
  • Discipline: Medical Doctor

Dr Daniel Chukwuma Ugwu popularly called DC Ugwu served as the Minister of Health during the first term democratic administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari between 1979 to October.

The government was ousted by a military coup on December 31, 1983, marking the end of the second republic.

Vice Admiral Patrick Koshoni

  • Tenure: January 1984 – August 1985
  • Profession: Trained as a Naval officer

Patrick Seubo Koshoni was a retired Nigerian Navy Vice Admiral, former Chief of Naval Staff, and a brilliant administrator who, during his tenure as the health minister, effortlessly advocated for a national insurance program during the military regime of Maj. General Buhari.

He intended to ensure that Nigerians could access medical care without any down payment.

Unfortunately, he was yet to achieve that plan when another set of soldiers, led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, ousted Buhari in a ‘peaceful’ coup.

Dr Emmanuel Nsan

Emmanuel Nsan was appointed as the Minister of Works and Housing during the military era of General Muhammadu Buhari before being deployed to the Ministry of Health.

Unfortunately, we’re unable to determine the exact year he was appointed to head the health ministry. We’ll update when we have the details.

Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti

  • Tenure: 1985-1993
  • Profession: Medical Doctor (Trained in Pediatrics)

While most federal Ministers of Health focused on basic administrative functions, it was Olikoye Ransome-Kuti who spearheaded radical reforms and policies that transformed Nigeria’s health sector.

These changes, which continue to have a lasting impact, mark a significant milestone in the history of Nigeria’s health sector.

While compiling this list, I observed that certain medical reforms and campaigns align closely with the principles advocated by Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.

For example, a search for ‘Primary Health Care in Nigeria’ revealed Olikoye Ransome-Kuti as a pioneer of the policy aimed at bringing medical services closer to people at the grassroots across Nigeria

Similarly, awareness campaigns about the presence of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria were promoted during his tenure.

His approach to preventive medicine was phenomenal, and he played a key role in implementing a massive nationwide vaccination program for children.

Even today, his achievements in the health sector are still regarded as some of the lasting legacies of the Babangida military regime.

Some of his accomplishments as the Minister of Health include:

  • Launching Nigeria’s first comprehensive national health policy in 1988 and
  • Implementing the adoption and expansion of Primary Health Care (PHC) to all local government areas in Nigeria
  • So, he can be described as the Health Minister who fully implemented the Primary Health Care (PHC) based on the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978.
  • He didn’t stop there; he convinced the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida to devolve responsibility for PHC to local government areas.
  • He was the driving force behind the introduction of free immunization for children across villages and towns in Nigeria.
  • He prioritized medical data by encouraging the compulsory recording of maternal deaths.

During his leadership at the health ministry, Olikoye supervised the establishment of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in 1992 as one of the agencies of the Ministry of Health (a full list of the agencies of the ministry is published here).

Even after leaving office, Olikoye, who was the first Nigerian professor of paediatrics at the University of Lagos College of Medicine, continued to raise awareness about the spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

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He exerted pressure on his family, urging them to disclose the cause of death of his musician brother, Fela Anikulapo Ransome-Kuti, who passed away on August 2, 1997.

With the recent plan by the incumbent Health Minister, Ali Pate, to increase the number of Primary Health Care centers across Nigeria, Nigerians might witness another ‘aggressive’ health reform akin to what was experienced during Olikoye’s tenure.

Apart from setting standards for subsequent Health Ministers in Nigeria, Olikoye remains the longest-serving minister of health in Nigeria (1985-1993).

Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi

  • Tenure: August 1993 – November 1993
  • Profession: Pharmacist

The Head of Interim National Government (ING) headed by Chief Earnest Shonekan appointed Pharmacist Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi as the Minister of Health.

But in less than three months, the ING was booted out of office by Gen. Sani Abacha in a palace coup.

Dr Dalhatu Tafida

  • Tenure: 1993 and 1995
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

A former physician at the Kaduna State Ministry of Health, Dalhatu Tafida was the Federal Minister of Health between 1993 to 1995 under the military regime of Sani Abacha.

He was the personal physician to Nigeria’s first executive president Shehu Shagari between 1980 to 1983.

He also held several political posts, including being a commissioner at Kaduna state’s ministries of Health, Agriculture and education between 1984 and 1987.

Prof Ihechukwu Madubuike

  • Tenure: 1995 – December 1997
  • Profession: A specialist in French & Comparative Literature

Despite having no training in any medical-related disciplines, Prof Ihechukwu Chiedozie Madubuike ensured the review of the National Health Policy through the first-ever National Health Summit.

Rear Admiral Jubril Ayinla

  • Tenure: December 1997-1998
  • Profession: A trained soldier/administrator

He was the former Minister of Commerce and Tourism, and later Minister of Health, before he was appointed as the Chief of Naval Staff between 9 June 1998 to 29 May 1999

Dr. Timothy Menakaya

  • Tenure: 1999 to 2001
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

Dr. Timothy Ndubisi Menakaya was an Italy-trained physician who briefly practised medicine in Italy and the United Kingdom before returning to Nigeria. He is the founder of Menax Hospital in Onitsha, from where he was later appointed as a federal minister.

Prof. ABC Nwosu

  • Tenure: 2001-July 2003
  • Profession: A trained Parasitologist

Prof. Alphonsus Bosah Chukwurah Nwosu fondly called ABC Nwosu served as the Political Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo at the onset of the Fourth Republic and was later appointed as the Minister of Health in the same government.

Prof Eyitayo Lambo

  • Tenure: July 2003-May 2007
  • Profession: Economist

Eyitayo Lambo was the first economist to be appointed as the Minister of Health in Nigeria and one of the most brilliant ministers who made a significant impact on Nigeria’s Ministry of Health.

Some of his achievements include:

  • Implementation of the first Health Sector Reform Program for Nigeria.
  • Launching of the National Health Insurance Scheme after being in the pipeline for almost four decades.
  • Advocacy for the National Health Bill in 2004.

The Bill focuses on the development and management of a structured health system in Nigeria, and it was passed on Thursday, May 19, 2011, by the Senate, subsequently signed into law in 2014 by President Goodluck Jonathan.

On the global stage, Prof Lambo pioneered the integration of Health Economics into the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa.

Prof. Adenike Grange

  • Tenure: July 25, 2007–March 26, 2008
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

Adenike Grange is the only woman to have been appointed as the Minister of Health in Nigeria by President Musa Yar’adua.

She advocated for laws to promote the well-being of women and children.

However, she was unable to make any significant changes in her ministry when an issue involving N300 million of unspent funds in the 2007 budget and an award rocked the Ministry of Health.

On March 26, 2008, she tendered her resignation letter. Nevertheless, she was acquitted of any wrongdoing by the Court of Appeal in 2009.

Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin

  • Tenure: December 17, 2008-March 17, 2010
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

He advocated for Nigeria to devote 15% of its budget to healthcare. At the time, Nigeria’s government was only spending between 8% and 9% on health.

Before that, he was the Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (formerly the National Action Committee on AIDS).

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Eight months after leaving office as Nigeria’s Health Minister, he was appointed as the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu

  • Tenure: April 27, 2010 – October 20, 2014
  • Profession: Orthopaedic Surgeon

Before his appointment to oversee the affairs of the Federal Ministry of Health, Chukwu served as the Chief Medical Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (2003–2008).

Chukwu’s expertise in health crisis management was put to the test when the first case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was discovered in Nigeria on July 23, 2014.

Thanks to Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who swiftly raised the alarm that Patrick Oliver Sawyer, a Liberian-American lawyer, who was in Nigeria at the time, had EVD.

Unfortunately, she paid the supreme price on August 19, 2014.

Mrs Adedavoh sacrificed her life so that hundreds of Nigerians could live (may Almighty God continue to rest her soul, Amen).

Dr Haliru Al-Hassan

  • Tenure: March 2015-May, 2015
  • Profession: Medical doctor 

Haliru was the minister of state for health and later as the Health Minister.

Prof. Isaac Adewole

  • Tenure: November 11, 2015–May 29,  2019
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole was appointed as the Minister of Health by Muhammadu Buhari and sworn in November 2015, the same man who had forced him (Adewole) into exile when Buhari was a military dictator in the 80s.

Adewole, who later became the vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan, had served as the president of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria in 1984.

At 30, he led a nationwide strike against a military dictator who refused to meet the demands of resident doctors, resulting in his dismissal by the unforgiving Buhari and being declared wanted at the time.

His ordeals at the hands of the military junta forced him into exile.

However, that was history, as both men would later sit at the Federal Executive Meetings at Aso Villa, Nigeria’s seat of power, between 2015 and 2019.

While the former “Goliath” sat as a civilian president, the former fearless young “David”  sat as a first-class minister.

Adewole was an outspoken politician in Nigeria’s medical profession and Africa, where he held several positions. 

Dr. Osagie Ehanire

  • Tenure: August 21 2019–May 29, 2023
  • Profession: Medical Doctor (trained Anesthesiologist)

First as a ‘junior’ minister then he was appointed the main Minister of Health during the second term of President Buhari.

He managed the outbreak of Coronavirus, when the first index case of the pandemic was reported in Nigeria on February 27, 2020.

The pandemic exposed the rot in Nigeria’s health system and the lack of Nigeria’s government to effectively and efficiently manage the health crisis.

Prof. Ali Pate

  • Tenure: August 21, 2023-Present
  • Profession: Medical Doctor

Muhammed Ali Pate is not new to the problems confronting Nigeria’s healthcare system as a former head of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (2008 to 2011) and former minister of state for health (July 2011 to July 2013).

At a global stage, he knows the right button to press, having worked as the Global Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents at the World Bank Group.

While it may be too early to rate him, I’m particularly optimistic that he has the radical health policies to make significant changes in the healthcare system across Nigeria like Olikoye Ransome-Kuti’s era.

Already, he has promised to increase the number of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) by 112.05% (from 8,300 to 17,600) in the next four years.

Adding “social welfare” to the ministry he manages means expansion of his scope of work. I wish him well.

Final Thought:

All former health ministers tried within their capacity. At times, they couldn’t work or implement policies without the support and approval of their superiors.

However, among the listed health ministers in Nigeria, I particularly admire the works of the late Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and Eyitayo Lambo.

Hopefully, Ali Pate will not disappoint in delivering what he advocated for during his tenure with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global health bodies.

Author

  • Opeyemi Quadri

    Ope is a finance writer and researcher with 10+ years of experience in content creation. His interests cut across decentralized finance, investment, foreign exchange, government policies and politics.

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