Group Urges FG to Sim Card to Generate over N380bn for Health

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Bennett Oghifo

A coalition group, Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health and other professional associations, wants the Federal Government to tax mobile phone sim cards, saying it could generate over N380 billion annually with which it could fund the health sector.

A leader of the group and co-chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Kano State, Hajiya Halima Ben Umar, stated this at a media briefing in Abuja, yesterday, to mark this year’s World Universal Health Coverage Day.

The Coalition noted that for Nigeria to achieve Universal Health Coverage, it was imperative that the Federal Government explored innovative ways to ensure universal contribution by all Nigerians as a sustainable way to fund the health sector.

According to Hajiya Umar, “An example of such innovation would be the introduction of mobile phone tax, which will involve a charge of one kobo per second on every outgoing mobile phone call in Nigeria.” She said despite various efforts in several tested health policies, including the first National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDP-I) and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) aimed at increasing access to healthcare, the country had been unable to achieve the objective of ensuring that every citizen had access to healthcare.

According to the group, the country’s National Health Account for 2014, had shown that for every N1,000 spent on health, about N700 was out-of-pocket expenditure. It described the situation as appalling, pointing out that it was driving millions of Nigerians into poverty and denying them basic healthcare.
The federal government, she said had not honoured its pledge at the Abuja 2001 declaration to commit at least 15 per cent of its annual budget to improve the health sector, stating that the highest federal budgetary allocation to the sector has been at a paltry seven per cent.

“With such under investment in the healthcare system, Nigeria cannot achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” the group noted, stressing that the meagre investment in healthcare was further compounded by delay or non-release of funds appropriated for the sector.

“Even when funds are released, there are challenges of utilisation and accountability. Other lingering barriers to UHC in the country include low political will to adequately fund healthcare, poor governance, mismanagement of resources and lack of coordination among
Federal, States and Local Governments.”