Minister disowns budget for health, allays fear over Zika virus
Fresh facts on the conflicting figures in the 2016 budget were laid bare yesterday as Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, announced that the original budget of his ministry was distorted and strange figures smuggled in.
Also yesterday, Adewole allayed the fears of Nigerians about Zika virus that is currently ravaging the United States and Brazil, saying the virus has actually been in Nigeria since 1954 but has been unable to harm citizens because Nigerians have developed strong resistance to it.
He therefore, said the virus which has been terrifying the whites is under the feet of the blacks and should therefore, be ignored.
At a budget defence session in the Senate, the minister told the Committee on Health to discard the budget before it and await a new one to be re-submitted today which he said would reflect the programmes of the health sector in 2016.
The revelation compelled the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Lanre Tejuosho, to announce an executive session with the minister with a view to thrashing out emerging issues on the budget as the minister further disclosed that there were some issues on which conclusion has not been reached by the ministry and yet allocations have been made to them without the ministry’s knowledge.
According to Adewole, the provisions of the budget before the National Assembly were in contrast with the priorities of the health sector as contained in the original budget it prepared. He added that some of the votes earmarked by the ministry for some activities had been re-distributed while some important fields in the sector had been excluded.
He said: “In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7 billion for capital allocation has been moved to other areas. Some allocations made are not in line with our priorities. There is nothing allocated to public health and family health. Over the last two years, nothing has been done on HIV.
“We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the committee. This was not what we submitted. We ‘ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there. We have not reached that stage and we find the money there.”
The committee chairman said given the submission of the minister, the budget before the committee was not the proposal of the Health Ministry and would therefore, be of no use working on a budget that had already been disowned.
“Honourable minister, we need to have an executive session. You said that in this budget, public health is not there. Obviously, the budget we are looking at now is not your own,” Tejuosho said. In a swift response, Adewole said, “Yes, it’s not. We ‘ll submit the revised document tomorrow (today). It will be an updated version of what you have.”
Adewole also disclosed that State House Clinic to which N3.9 billion had been allocated in the budget at the expense of other hospitals put together which got far less allocations, is not under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
Explaining that the ministry is under the Presidency, Adewole said the figure might not have been the original allocation to the clinic by State House, noting that the original allocation might have been inflated by the same forces which he said had distorted his ministry’s original estimates.
“The State House Clinic is not under the Ministry of Health. I hope it’s not the same rats that changed things in our budget that changed it. The amount is meant for procurement and purchase of medical equipment. It is very important that you engage them because what happened to us might have also happened to them. It is possible that what is there might not have been what they put there,” Adewole added.
Reacting to that again, Tejuosho said having been declared by the minister that State House Clinic was not under the watch of the Health Ministry, it also implied that the Health Committee’s oversight function did not extend to the clinic, noting that it is the responsibility of the Special Duties’ Committee to engage the State House on the budget for the clinic.