2018 Budget: Senate to counter Buhari, ensure better allocation to health – Lawmaker

Nigerian Senate Chambers
Nigerian Senate Chamber used to illustrate the story.

The Nigerian Senate has vowed to ensure the commencement of the implementation of the 2014 National Health Act from the 2018 fiscal year.

The Act which was signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan stipulates that one per cent of the consolidated revenue fund be set aside for healthcare provision.

However, the implementation of the Act was not included in the proposed 2018 budget recently submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the federal lawmakers for consideration and approval.

Speaking at an event marking the 2017 World AIDS Day at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on primary health care and infectious diseases, Mao Ohuabunwa, said the Senate has resolved to go ahead with the implementation of that Act.

The senator who seemed to be informing the government and the general public ahead of the plan, warned that the upper chamber’s action should not be misconstrued as budget padding.

Mr. Ohuabunwa said the Senate was ready to synergise with the Executive arm of government in ensuring proper funding for healthcare in the coming year.

“Mr President, I have said here that we have resolved as a parliament that in 2018 we are going to implement the National Health Act, 2014, which states that one per cent of consolidated revenue fund should go to basic health care so that we can fund all our health services, including HIV/AIDS,” he said.

“Immediate implementation of the National Act 2014, especially the clause on basic health care provision funds, to free up funds for healthcare services is necessary if the country would take ownership of the HIV/AIDS funding,” he said.

He reiterated that Nigeria is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration, where African countries agreed to commit not less than 15 per cent of the national budget to health.

Speaking on HIV/AIDS, President Muhammadu Buhari reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to fighting the scourge.

The president, who was represented at the event by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said he had directed that an additional 50,000 persons be placed on anti-retroviral drugs, ARV, annually starting from 2018.

“As Nigeria joins the rest of the global community to commemorate the 2017 World AIDS Day, I want to assure you all that the Federal Government appreciates the achievements and challenges related to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“I assure you all that my government will give adequate attention to the effective implementation of policies that will promote sustainable development in Nigeria.

“Our commitment to universal health coverage for all Nigerians aligns with the African Union Roadmap on Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity to address HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in an integrated manner. In this vein, we are committed to the African Union’s goal to end AIDS and other infectious diseases by 2030.

“To demonstrate my commitment to this pledge, I have directed an additional 50,000 persons be placed on ARV annually starting from 2018. This is in addition to about 60,000 persons we are catering for in Abia and Taraba states,” he said.

“The burden of HIV on women, young people and babies born with HIV in Nigeria and in sub-Saharan Africa remains a clog in the wheel of our socio-economic development.

“The federal government is aware that procurement of health commodities from foreign sources is not sustainable for a country with a huge disease burden like Nigeria.

“In order to overcome this challenge, the federal government is working with relevant stakeholders to provide an enabling environment to promote the local manufacture of health commodities that meet global standards.”

While calling on state governments and the private sector to support the effort of the government, President Buhari said that though the 2018 budgetary provision for Health will witness a substantial increase, the federal government cannot do it alone.

In his speech, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said that the government was working hard to revise the trend of foreign-driven approach to the national HIV programme as more financial resources are being allocated for procurement of rapid test kits and anti-retroviral drugs.

This he said will ensure that more HIV positive persons can be placed on free treatment.

In his welcome remark, the Director General, National Agency for the Control of Aids, NACA, Sani Aliyu, appealed to state governments to align with the federal government’s commitment to increased funding for HIV/AIDS by committing at least 0.5 to 1 per cent of their monthly federal allocations to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

This he said can be used to address the unmet needs for HIV/AIDS in their respective states.

“The federal government cannot bear this burden alone; state governments and the organized private sector must play their part. We certainly need to increase investment in the health of our citizens, optimize our response strategies and strengthen our coordination and accountability frameworks to achieve optimal returns on our investment in health,” he said.

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