As at the end of November, only 15 per cent of funds have been released from the 2017 annual budget across all sectors of government, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, has said.
He said the poor release of funds to address 2017 budgetary allocations was not only affecting ministries and departments, but the general populace, adding that the federal government have now said they were going to take loan to fund the budget.
In an exclusive interview with THISDAY in Lagos recently, the senator representing Ogun Central senatorial district said the poor release of funds was also affecting implementations in the health sector, leading to failing health indices presently noticed.
â€œIn 2016 budget, only N2million was allocated to tackle malnutrition, but now that we have pushed for increase, we eventually got an allocation of N1.2 billion in the 2017 budget to tackle malnutrition alone, but as at the end of November, that money wasnâ€™t released. That is why the same figures of children stunted in the country at 2016 (2.5 million) is still the same figure we are quoting now. Apart from malnutrition, there are other areas also affected, not only in the health sector, but in other sectors.
â€œPoor funding, especially for the health sector has a way of telling negatively on the health indices a country gets.
â€œFor instance, in 2001 all African countries gathered in Abuja, and they came up with a system that can make health work for the region. They realised that for us to adequately tackle health challenges, each country must allocate at least 15 per cent of its national budget to health. All the countries that honoured that declaration are now health destinations,â€ he added.
He explained that countries as poor as Zimbabwe and Swaziland obeyed that declaration and were now better off in terms of healthcare, adding that this means 15 per cent provision works.
â€œNigeria that hosted that high powered meeting has never reached five per cent. We should not expect to have a good harvest if we donâ€™t water our plant. Nigeria is not doing what it should do, hence not getting a positive result.
â€œOur poor maternal mortality is just one of the indices. That is why we are having a high maternal mortality rate in the country So many other things are failing. We cant treat cancer. Even in Sokoto State for instance, only three per cent of the children are immunised because of poor funding.â€
On the proposed allocation of $1 billion to fight Boko Haram, Tejuoso said if translated to naira, it means the country wants to spend N360 billion to tackle Boko Haram; an amount he suggested 10 per cent be taken from to address the myriads of healthcare problems in the country.
â€œâ€˜At the end of the day, if the Nigerians we want to spend N360 billion on are not healthy, then it is not worth it. So why are we focusing on one part and leaving the main part which is the healthcare of the citizens.
â€œEven if we buy all the equipments in the whole world who will operate it, is it robots or ghosts. We want to put $1billion into defence. Defence of who, monkey or human beings or sick Nigerians. 10 per cent of that amount will go a long way in revatilising the health sector,â€ he added.