Experts decry non-release of N55bn 2018 Basic Health Fund

Dakwa PHC
Dakwa PHC (Photo Credit: Ayodamola Owoseye)

Health experts have decried the failure of the Nigerian government to release the one per cent of consolidated revenue appropriated in the 2018 Budget for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).

The fund is a basic provision under the National Health Act but was only appropriated this year for the first time since the Act was signed in 2014.

Senior Technical Advisor for Development Research and Project Center (dRPC)-PAS, Emmanuel Abanida, on Monday said the fund is yet to be released, even as the year draws to a close.

Mr Abanida spoke in Abuja at an event organised by DFID Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (DFID-PERL).

The event, “Strategy Session on Social and Conventional Media Advocacy/Campaign for Implementation of BHCPF of the National Health Act” , was held to enlighten Nigerians on the BHCPF and the importance of releasing the fund.

The National Assembly provided N55 billion in the 2018 budget for the fund.

Mr Abanida said failure to release the money was having a negative effect on health care delivery in the country, especially in the rural areas as it could have been handy in the revitalisation of primary health care centres. The fund is also envisaged to help reduce out of pocket spending on health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme.

“We are about 45 days to the end of 2018, if we do not get this money, obviously, when they are doing the 2019 budget they will put zero application to 2018,” he said.

He lamented that because the year is already running to an end, whatever is released now would be mopped up by December otherwise it must be returned to the government treasury.

“This implies that nothing tangible has been achieved through the budget,” he said.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the third THISDAY Health policy Dialogue in August, had said government would start releasing the BHCPF that month.

According to THISDAY, Mr Osinbajo said with the funds, Nigerian children would no longer suffer from preventable diseases, maternal mortality would be put under control and parents engaged on effective family planning.

“The initiative will also help Nigeria achieve universal health coverage and help the country drive institutional process on primary healthcare,” THISDAY quoted him as declaring at the event.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Lanre Tejuosho was also quoted as speaking in the same vein at the event.

“The one per cent had already been included in the 2018 budget for the sector …law makers would push for its full release. The one per cent is crucial to Nigeria than even the capital budget allocation for the health sector, because they capital budget might not be released in totality, but this one per cent, once it is in the budget, must be released just like the two per cent released to the education sector,” the senator said.

But three months after those remarks, the fund is yet to be released.

“In 2018 we are talking of about N 55 billion and people have given reasons why it is not forthcoming, like the discordance among the three health agencies to utilise the fund when disbursed,”. Mr Abanida said on Monday.

“If we see health as a topmost priority, then they should start getting their money. We cannot continue running from Geneva to London, London to Paris looking for money whereas we need to tack basic care of our people.

“I believe that the political will to make sure that it happens is not strong because if it is strong, it will certainly come. Health in Nigeria is not a priority. We prioritise security, power food security but you need to be healthy to be able to provide food. It is when you are healthy that you can solve security problem and the HDI will certainly improve,” he said.

He tasked the media to create a mass movement that would put pressure on government to release the money.

A medical consultant, Dale Ogunbayo, told PREMIUM TIMES that though the fund is just one aspect of the NHA, “it is the most important as it is the vehicle that drives the Act.”

Mr Ogunbayo blamed a battle for supremacy between the federal Ministry of Health and heads of health parastatals for the unavailability of the money.

“The fund is yet to be released because of the weak political will of the government and the unspoken inter-agency rivalry between the federal ministry of health, NPHCDA, and NHIS. This tussle is denying poor Nigerians the benefit of the implementation of the NHA.

“That tussle needs to be resolved by strong political hand. There is a need to know who is in charge of the health sector and who the agencies should reported to. Is it the minister or the presidency? At least the release of the financial part of the Act will make Nigerians know that NHA has started functioning fully.”

Mr Ogunbayo said until President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the issue, problems will continue to arise in the health sector.

The agencies to oversee disbursement and utilisation of the BHCPF are the Ministry of Health, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

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