COVID-19: Prioritize Health Sector – Advocates for Health Tasks Buhari

By Uangbaoje Alex, Kaduna

Following the outbreak of Corona Virus, code named, (COVID-19, currently ravaging the world, the National Advocates for Health (NA4H) has urged the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritise health as a political agenda and sustain its funding in the midst of the Pandemic and crashed global oil price.

The group in a statement made available to journalists on Wednesday, signed by the National Chairman, Professor Oladapo Ladipo, noted that the evidence of its adverse impact of the virus on the Health sector, banking sector, economy, the social distancing and lock down of regions are strong justifications for the Government of Nigeria to see that health should be prioritized.

The group however commend the effort of the federal government and all its agencies in speedy response to the Coronavirus pandemic through intensifying screening, surveillance at the borders, setting up isolation centres for quarantine, release of emergency funds and establishing of the presidential task-force on Coronavirus control.

“Despite the above effort of Federal Government, we note the non-compliance with Abuja declaration of Allocation of 15% of National revenue to the Health sector, gross under-funding of the health sector which is responsible for our dysfunctional health care system, medical tourism and human capital flight to greener pastures resulting in inequitable distribution of Health manpower and unacceptable preventable mortality and morbidity. Currently, also, governments at national and sub-national levels are worsening the inequality by under-funding public services such as Education, Health, Water and Environmental Sanitation. They added.

They observed Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) of N44.50 billion is captured in the Part C of the 2020 approved budget ‘Statutory Transfers’ as against in 2019 that was captured as part of service wide vote. This is good news as it will be more protected when there is budget paucity.

“About N46 Billion is allocated and approved for the Health Capital Budget with bulk of it committed to Immunization (about N32 billion. This is a testimony we have prioritise the health and wellbeing of our children.

“N1.5 billion for Expanded Midwives Service Scheme, N729 Million for Cancer Funds and N1.2 Billion for Family Planning Procurement which is an international commitment to FP2020.

“While the aforementioned allocations are already appropriated in the 2020 approved budget, we are aware that implementation of the overall 2020 budget may suffer cuts and delay in disbursement as Coronavirus continues to impact on the global oil market which Nigerian government substantially relies on to finance its budget.

“When revenue falls, we are aware that section 28 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act has empower the Minister of Finance on budgetary matters as follows “Where, by the end of three months, after the enactment of the Appropriation Act, the Minister determines that the targeted revenues may be insufficient to fund the heads of expenditure in the Appropriation Act, the Minister shall, within the next 30 days of such determination, take appropriate measures to restrict further commitments and financial operations according to the criteria set-in the Fiscal Risk Appendix such provisions shall not apply to Statutory or constitutional expenditure.”

“Despite having such powers by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, as a matter of urgency, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance Mrs Zainab Ahmed to prioritise health as a political agenda and ensure all its funding are released on time and in full. Mr. President should also ensure an effective implementation of the National Action Plan for Health Security (2018-2022). As the saying goes, health is wealth and Nigeria’s ability to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic and economic crises relies on its healthy population and healthy workforce.” They said.

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