House Summons Health Minister, Others over Alleged Misappropriation of $300m Anti-malaria Fund

•Halts implementation of trade partnership agreement to allow UK lawyers practice in Nigeria

Juliet Akoje in Abuja

The House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis yesterday, summoned the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate, and the Permanent Secretary, Daju Kachollom to appear before it over allegations of misappropriation of $300 million meant to fight malaria since 2021.

The Committee members also resolved that the Permanent Secretary should be arrested if she fails to honour the summons within 72 hours having failed to appear before it after three invitations to answer questions on allegations that indigenous manufacturers of insecticidal nets were denied from participating in the contract for the procurement of insecticidal nets and other related products.

The Chairman of the Committee, Hon Amobi Godwin Ogah, during his ruling expressed displeasure of his members over the absence of the Permanent Secretary, stressing that the cost for the procurement process of anti-malarial commodities by the Ministry was over $3 million.

Ogah noted that, “Malaria is now an epidemic in Nigeria. The government has always wanted to help the people but most times the civil servants are our problem.

“This money has been made available since 2021. We have been inviting the Permanent Secretary. This is the third time we are inviting her to come and explain to us what has happened.

“Have they used the money? If they have not used the money, where is the money? It is a matter of simple explanation. But they have been running away, calling all manner of people to talk to us. But we are here to defend Nigerians.

“We were elected to represent our people. Nigerians cannot continue to die of malaria, even when government has made every necessary effort to see that eradication is being achieved by 2030.”

According to him, “The National Assembly will no longer tolerate the attitude of civil servants taking the parliament for a ride. Enough is enough. We were elected by our people to represent them.

“We were elected to talk for them and defend them. And we are talking about a disease that has turned to an epidemic. We will not hesitate to invoke our constitutional right to compel the Permanent Secretary be arrested if fails to honour the summons.

“The Committee received a petition, few weeks ago from Seasons Law Firm on behalf of Rosies Textile Mills Limited in which they petitioned the Ministry of Health and Permanent Secretary for denying indigenous manufacturers of insecticidal nets from participating in the contract for the procurement of insecticidal nets and other related products.”

He further revealed that: “Nigeria borrowed $100 million from the Islamic Bank which was approved by National Assembly in 2021, out of the $100 million, $10 million was grant and another $200 million borrowed from World Bank in the same year for Impact Project (Malaria Financing Agreement). Making it a total of $300 million.

“The resolution by National Assembly is that Local Content must be prioritised to enable local manufacturers, but the Ministry went ahead to contract UNOPS to do the procurement process at cost of over $3 million for the purchase of anti-malaria commodities.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday, urged the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to immediately halt the signing and implementation of the trade partnership with the UK, to allow UK Lawyers Practice in Nigeria, until the terms and conditions governing the agreement are fully examined and ascertained.

The House also mandated its Committee on Treaties, Protocols, and Agreements to investigate the matter and asked the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to appear before the House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements during investigation and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

These resolutions followed the adoption of a motion on the Alleged Trade Deal between Nigeria and the United Kingdom (UK) allowing UK Lawyers to Practice in Nigeria moved by Hon. O. K Chinda and 43 other lawmakers.

Chinda, noted that the recent reports and public outcry over an alleged economic and trade partnership between the United Kingdom (UK) and Nigeria was aimed at exploring new opportunities in key sectors such as the energy, legal, and financial services sectors.

“The trade deal became very heightened some days ago as the legal aspect appeared lopsided and tilted mainly in favour of the UK to the detriment of qualified Nigerian lawyers in that it seeks to allow UK lawyers to enter the Nigerian legal space and practice but not vice versa,” he added.

He recalled that under the trade deal referred to as “Enhanced Trade and Investment Partnership (ETIP),” the British Business and Trade Secretary, Kemi Badenoch and Nigeria’s Minister for Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka, were to sign an agreement on behalf of their respective countries last week in Nigeria.

“The fact that following the public outcry over the said trade deal, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) through its President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) issued a statement questioning the legality of the legal services aspect of the deal and calling for a halt to its signing and implementation.

“The statement issued by the NBA may have reassured Nigerian lawyers and doused the tension and controversy generated by the alleged trade deal, it is apparent that there was insufficient consultation with key stakeholders and affected interests with respect to the deal.”

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