By Udora Orizu
The House of Representatives yesterday passed for second reading a bill seeking to establish a Nigeria Health Infrastructure Development Bank, possessing all the powers and attributes of a financial institution, to provide provide loans either in Naira or foreign currencies and long term credit facilities at a single digit rate to Nigerian owned health and wellness facilities or projects.
The legislation entitled, ‘Bill for an act to establish the Nigerian health Infrastructure Development Bank, to enhance and promote the health and wellbeing of Nigerians of all works of life, to boost local healthcare capacity and for related matters,’ was sponsored by Hon. Mansur Soro and the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Leading the debate on the general principles of the Bill, Hon. Soro said there is a general consensus among policy analysts that budgetary provisions alone can’t address the existing infrastructural gaps in the health sector.
Buttressing his point, he explained that the Budgetary allocation to health sector as proposed by the Executive in the 2021 appropriation Bill is put at N546 billion representing 4.18 per cent of total budget size, which in context of Abuja declaration which require member countries to allocate 15 per cent minimum of the total budget, Nigeria will be underfunding the health sector in the 2021 fiscal year by N1.4 trillion.
He said the bank when established will provide single digit capital for the development of the health sector beyond budgetary appropriations.
The share capital of the bank, according to the lawmaker will be subscribed by the Federal government of Nigeria through Federal ministry of Finance, regional and international banks.
Soro said, ‘’Nigeria has spent the last 60 years of its independence battling with poor maternal and Child health indicators. However, the inception of COVID-19 pandemic was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. COVID-19 pandemic further exposed our weakness as a nation and the infrastructural deficits prevalent in the Nigerian health sector. Therefore the Government must think out of the box in providing the required enabling environment for the private sector to come in.’’
‘’This Bill seeks to encourage the development of Nigerian owned health and wellness facilities and projects in Nigeria; and subject to the approval of the Minister of Finance, raise loans from the local and international capital markets from bilateral or multilateral sources as the market situation permits.
‘’The bank’s capital shall consist of equity and loan capital. The equity shall be hundred billion naira which shall be fully subscribed and paid up at par by the federal government. To be eligible to facility from the bank, an entity or project shall possess a record of at least 10 years active participation in the Nigerian health and wellness sector prior to its application to access funds and must be wholly owned by Nigerians.’’
The bill when put to voice vote by Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Wase got support of majority of the members.