The reports of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in collaboration with the Ford Foundation has recommended that President Muhammadu Buhari institute legal action against several unresolved cases of corruption in the health sector.
The report said the issue of the $29 million Vaccine Grants Scam; N1.9 billion Special Intervention Fund, the Ebola Fund Scandal; and Nigeria Pharmaceutical Institute Ghost Workers and Illegal Recruitment Scam were still pending, hence the need for them to be revisited.
It therefore called on the Federal Government to urgently instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to promptly refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for prosecution of all unresolved cases in the sector.
Speaking during the presentation of the report, the Executive Secretary of the human rights group, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, called for suspected perpetrators of corruption in the sector to be brought to justice and for stolen public funds to be fully recovered to pursue the developmental agenda of the government and lift the country out of recession.
According to him, the reports recommends, among other things, for President Buhari to “encourage anti-corruption commissions and agencies to proactively launch and follow through investigations into credible allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Health, including by investigating other pervasive allegations of corruption in the health sector in greater depth and promptly and satisfactorily, concluding any pending investigations on corruption in the spending of budget allocations and international aids to the ministry.
“President Buhari should require the Ministry of Health to make public quarterly budget execution reports and expenditure reports. It is also important for the government to fully implement the Freedom of Information Act, including by enforcing the judgment of the Federal High Court ordering the government to publish information on the spending of recovered stolen public funds since the return of democracy in 1999.”
The report also called on the government to move to recognise the right to health as legally enforceable human right and ratify the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that would allow individual victims access to international accountability mechanism for effective remedies; and to incorporate the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the domestic legal order to enable court adjudicate cases of violations of the right to health.
According to Mumuni, there should be “comprehensive review and reform of the operation of the National Health Insurance Scheme in practice to remove the risks of corruption and to allow it achieve its intended purposes.”
Lending his voice at the presentation of the report, the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Bem Angwe, condemned senior lawyers and others in public service using human rights to shield corrupt people from prosecution and justice.
Prof. Angwe who was represented by an official of NHRC, Mr. Wahab Oyedokun, said the commission believes corruption was the biggest impediment to respect for human rights in Nigeria. “We recognise that we have to fight corruption to ensure human rights. There is a problem in the human rights community, which is that we have pretenders using the platform of human rights to advance corruption and to shield corrupt elements in our society.
“It is our responsibility to expose and delegitimise these pretenders and to make sure that our citizens recognise that fight against corruption and impunity of perpetrators is really the cause to promote human rights. This is the right course to take as a human rights advocate,” Angwe said.
“You can’t steal so much and subject people to suffering and claim him human rights. This is not the way to go. Human rights are for the advancement of the greatest majority of the greatest number. So, when we see our senior citizens at the Bar, or public service trying to delegitimise the work of SERAP, National Human Rights Commission and other human rights bodies we have to make sure that we shout them down,” Angwe added.