Nigeria health minister disowns ministry’s budget, says “rats” have doctored proposal

In what is the latest in the spate of controversies dogging President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2016 budget, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health has disowned the budget proposal submitted on its behalf by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.

Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, who addressed the Senate Committee on Health during its budget defence session on Monday, said the proposal drawn up by the ministry and submitted to the budget office had been doctored and that “foreign” appropriations, different from what was submitted, had been sneaked in.

“We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the committee,” he said. “This was not what we submitted. We’ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there.”

Mr. Adewole’s revelation is the latest of controversies and embarrassing disclosures trailing the 2016 budget proposed by President Buhari and currently being considered by the National Assembly.

Last week, the Senate had discovered a sum of N10 billion “questionably smuggled” into the budget of the Ministry of Education for an allegedly questionable subhead.

A senior Presidency official also told PREMIUM TIMES that a “budget mafia” was responsible for the embarrassing allocations in the budget.

Stating further, Mr. Adewole lamented that the proposed appropriations in the budget before the National Assembly ran parallel with the priorities of the health sector as contained in the “original budget.”

While some important agencies in the health sector had been excluded, votes proposed by the ministry had been redistributed, he said.

“In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7 billion for capital allocation has been moved to other areas. Some allocations made are not in keeping with our priorities.

“There is nothing allocated to public health and family health.”

While discarding the budget, he therefore asked the committee not to work with the budget before it but wait for another one to be re-submitted.

He also expressed surprise that appropriations were made for some subheads that were generating controversies, whereas no conclusion had been reached on the amount required.

On the State House clinic whose capital vote exceeded cumulative capital vote for teaching hospitals, Mr. Adewole said, “The State House Clinic is not under the Ministry of Health. I hope it’s not the same rats that changed things in our budget that changed it.

“The amount is meant for procurement and purchase of medical equipment. It is very important that you engage them because what happened to us might have also happened to them. It is possible that what is there might not have been what they put there.”

Meanwhile, the Minister allayed public fear on Zika virus, saying Nigerians had developed resistance to the virus, which, according to him, had been in the country since 1954.

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