By Adedapo Adesanya
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and the appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe allegations that N3,836,685,213.13 of public funds meant for the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, and National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen.
In a letter dated January 2, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said the allegations are documented in Part 1 of the 2018 audited report released last week by the Office of the AGF.
The organisation also urged him to “promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread corruption in the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, neuro-psychiatric hospitals, National Health Insurance Scheme, and NAFDAC indicted in the audited report, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the health sector.
“Corruption in the health sector can cause serious harm to individuals and society, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population. These missing funds could have been used to provide access to quality healthcare for Nigerians, and meet the requirements of the National Health Act, especially at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.
According to SERAP, “The Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja spent without approval N13,910,000.00 to organise a 2-day Training and Bilateral discussion with Chief Medical Directors and Chairmen Medical Advisory Council and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to prepare 2019 Personnel Budget N4,860,000.00 was originally budgeted for the programme.”
SERAP said: “The National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) paid N48,885,845.00 for services not rendered and goods not supplied. According to the Auditor-General, NAFDAC used fake and fictitious receipts for these payments. NAFDAC also paid N25,734,018.49 to companies/firms who were never awarded any contracts and never executed them.”
The letter, read in part: “Investigating and prosecuting the allegations of corruption by these institutions would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators, as well as serve the public interest.”
“Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to recover the missing public funds would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the UN Convention against Corruption, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”
“Similarly, the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Management Board Aro-Abeokuta, Ogun State failed to account for N28,662,265.32, which was to be used to procure drugs, implants, and other inputs, as approved by the Federal Government. The Auditor-General wants the money returned to the treasury.”
“The National Health Insurance Scheme spent N355,510,475.00 on projects between 2016 and 2017 without appropriation. The Scheme also spent N32,299,700.00 to provide ‘financial medical assistance’ to individuals who have not been enrolled into the scheme (NHIS).”
“The Scheme also spent N72,383,000.00 on verification exercise without any supporting documents. The Scheme awarded contracts of N66,798,948.12 to members of staff for procurements, instead of making the procurement through the award of contracts.”
“The Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Enugu, Enugu State paid N5,200,000.00 as salary advance to the Medical Director. However, the Medical Director was neither proceeding on transfer, on posting nor on the first appointment to qualify for a salary advance. The Auditor-General is asking the Medical Director to refund the money collected. Another N3,387,139.00 is said to be missing but the Hospital management has failed to report the case, or recover the money.”
“The Irreal Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua Edo State paid N58,829,426.84 to two contractors for supplies and installations but without payment vouchers.”
“Also, Jos University Teaching Hospital Jos, Plateau State failed to remit N333,386,549.15 being 25% of its internally generated revenue of N1,333,546,196.60 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Hospital also failed to account for N8,572,777.25.”
“The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, failed to remit N945,422,478.23 to the appropriate tax authority. The Hospital also failed to remit N237,007,828.05 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and failed to remit N22,307,735.21 being withholding tax deducted from contracts in 2018.”
“The Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State also failed to remit N8,519,506.75 being 25% of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Medical Centre also spent N542,877,312.77 as personnel cost between 2015 and 2016 instead of N12,761,350,337.00 appropriated for the same period.
“The Medical Centre failed to account for N898,076,719.14 of its internally generated revenue, and failed to account for N23,598,074.38 of personnel cost. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Abuja spent without approval N19,564,429.91 as estacode allowance to the various staff of the agency.”
“The Federal School of Occupational Therapy, Oshodi, Lagos failed to remit N3,250,962.98 of its internally generated revenue for 2018 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The School also failed to remit N4,018,252.81 being funds deducted from various contracts. It spent N10,507,393.00 without any appropriation or approval.”
“The Federal Medical Centre, Keffi Nasarawa State failed to remit N2,147,036.00 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It also failed to remit N5,810,438.05 to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.”
“The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria failed to remit N68,604,040.68 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”
“Allegations of corruption in the health sector undermine public confidence in the sector, and obstruct the attainment of commitments made through Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 16 to create effective and accountable institutions.
“The allegations also show that Nigeria is failing to fulfil the obligations to use its maximum available resources to progressively realize and achieve basic healthcare services for Nigerians.”
“We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”
“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the health sector.”
Bauchi Gets 1.5 million Vaccines for Cholera
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Bauchi State government has received 1.5 million doses of vaccines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to fight a cholera outbreak in the state.
This was disclosed by Mr Rilwanu Mohammed, the Executive Chairman, State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), at the kick-off of the vaccination exercise in Bauchi on Saturday.
Mr Mohammed said the WHO donated the 1.5 million doses of vaccine to support the state’s response to the cholera outbreak.
“Bauchi is among the 18 states with a high risk of a cholera outbreak, hence the donation to be vaccinated to those at the prone areas,” he said.
He noted that some wards in Dass and Toro Local Government Areas that were prone would also receive the vaccine, noting that the 1.5 million doses of the vaccine would be divided into two phases in the local government areas.
He thanked the global health body for its continued support to the agency through the government in addressing health challenges such as the ongoing cholera outbreak.
On his part, the WHO representative, Mr Goni Ngala, said the outbreak was affecting people of different age groups including children under the age of five.
“In its continued efforts to support the cholera response and in particular, the management of cases, the World Health Organisation Country Office donated the vaccine to support prevention,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr Nura Jumba, the District Head of Bauchi, emphasised the importance of implementing measures to solve the water, sanitation and hygiene challenges in the affected areas.
Mr Jumba urged the government to be committed to improving garbage collection and desludging of latrines.
“Provision of clean water free of charge to the affected communities including community education and mobilisation will be helpful,” he said.
GE Healthcare Donates VScan Ultrasound Equipment to AMCH
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Seven modern mobile ultrasound systems have been donated by GE Healthcare West Africa to the Abiye Maternal and Child (AMCH) International Foundation.
AMCH is a non-governmental organisation that aims to provide up-to-date evidence-based life-saving knowledge and skill to frontline health workers in communities across Nigeria. Its mission is to help contribute to health system strengthening and quality improvement for maternal and newborn care.
The items were given to the organisation at its office in Maryland, Lagos to help increase access to quality maternal and child medical services especially in rural areas in the state.
At the presentation, the founder of AMCH, Prof. Elizabeth Disu, expressed her gratitude to GE West Africa for donating the medical equipment to the group and promised that it would be used to improve medical services rendered to pregnant women especially in the rural areas in Lagos State and Nigeria in general.
She said AMCH had collaborated with other partners to execute several training programs such as Essential Care for the Newborn which comprises Helping Babies Breathe, Essential Newborn Care, Essential Care for Every Baby and Essential Care for Small Babies, Newborn Resuscitation Training (NRT), to mention a few.
According to the AMCH founder, the organization recently partnered with Rotary Club International, California, USA to train health workers in Epe and Ibeju-Lekki communities in Lagos State on Essential Newborn Care Course (ENCC). The ultrasound system donated by GE would enable them to add obstetric care trainings in these rural communities.
In her remarks, the patron of AMCH, Mrs Aba Sagoe, said, “We appreciate this and we believe this will improve quality of care. We assure you that you are going to see positive results very soon. Thank you, GE.” she added.
The representative of the Federal Ministry of Health Head of Newborn, Family Health Department, Dr John Ovuoraye, in his address, commended GE for their contributions to the development of the health sector in Nigeria and for donating the equipment to AMCH, a reputable NGO whose commitment to maternal and child health is widely recognised.
“On behalf of Federal Ministry of Health, I wish to thank GE for the company’s commitment to improving access to medical services in various communities in Nigeria.
“We have had collaborative trainings with AMCH and its founder, Prof. Elizabeth Disu, a pillar and a worthy person in the health sector, especially on maternal and childcare services.
“The equipment that I am seeing here will help in no small measure to improve quality services to pregnant women in Nigeria.
“The machine is technologically driven, simple, handy and mobile. It works amazingly well with a soft touch, gives accurate analysis, and has durable battery life. Once again, I want to thank GE for this donation,” he said.
Prof. Adeniyi Adewumi, the director of training at AMCH and a consultant at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja opined that the ultrasound equipment would help monitor the number of babies a pregnant woman is carrying, baby’s position and growth of pregnancy amongst many other factors associated with improved quality care.
In his goodwill message, the Permanent Secretary, Primary Health Care Board (PHCB), Lagos State, Dr Ibrahim Mustafa, also expressed gratitude to the donor and said that ultrasound equipment would help achieve focus on antenatal with its special features for obstetrics examination and quantification and could not have come at a better time than this.
The GE team was led by Mr Abdulrahman Alabi, Manager, Ultra Sound, GE West Africa, accompanied by Mr Gospel Johnson, Clinical Application Specialist, GE West Africa, and Mrs Modupe Shittu, Lead, Life Care Solution Business, West Africa.
Mr Alabi said, GE did background research on NGOs and found AMCH worthy to receive the donation of ultrasound equipment to help improve quality services in maternal and child care access of many pregnant women in Nigeria.
Other dignitaries present at the acceptance ceremony were Mrs Ekhaiyeme Taiwo, Clinical Volunteer (AMCH), Retired Chief Matron Mrs Oluwatoyin Odukoya, and Miss Funmilola Oremakinde, an administrative officer with AMCH.
Monkeypox: NCDC Urges Nigerians Not to Panic
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has called on Nigerians to be alert but should not panic as the country registered 59 suspected cases of Monkeypox with 15 confirmed.
This call was made by its Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The NCDC chief was reacting to the Dallas, Texas resident from the United States who recently returned from Nigeria and tested positive for the disease.
It was reported that it was the first confirmed case of the virus in the US since 2003, with health officials saying that the public should not be concerned.
Laboratory tests confirmed that the patient was infected with a strain of the virus mainly seen in West Africa, which included Nigeria.
“While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm and we do not expect any threat to the general public,” Dallas County Judge, Mr Clay Jenkins, said in a statement by Dallas County’s health department.
With passengers wearing masks on the flight and in the airport, the health department said that the risk of spreading monkeypox via respiratory droplets to others on the planes and in the airports was low.
Dr Ihekweazu said that just as the agency responded to other epidemic-prone diseases in the country, an outbreak would be declared when there was a large cluster of monkeypox cases that constituted an emergency.
“The federal government was notified of the situation in Texas through the International Health Regulations (IHR), which reported a case of monkeypox disease diagnosed in a patient who had recently visited Nigeria.
“Since the re-emergence of monkeypox in the country in September 2017, the agency has continued to receive reports and responses to sporadic cases of the disease from states across the country.
“We have been working closely with state health ministries to strengthen monkeypox disease surveillance and response in the country.
“We work with Enhanced Monkeypox Surveillance Project where we have been training health workers across states to rapidly detect and manage cases.
“Our initial focus is on the states with the highest number of cases – Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Lagos.
“We will continue working with all states to strengthen monkeypox prevention, detection and control in Nigeria,” he said.
He urged Nigerians to continue adhering to precautions that protected them from monkeypox and other infectious diseases.
“If you feel ill or have a sudden rash, please visit a hospital for diagnosis and management,” he advised.
Monkeypox, which is in the same family of viruses as smallpox, is a rare but potentially deadly viral infection that begins with flu-like symptoms and progresses to a rash on the face and body.
It tends to last two to four weeks. People who do not have symptoms are not capable of transmitting the virus.
Monkeypox infections of that strain are fatal in about one in 100 people, affecting those with weakened immune systems more strongly.
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