Forum accuses Kogi ministry of withholding N420m health fund
Plan on to execute project, says State
A forum, Participation Initiatives For Behavioural Change in Development (PIBCID), has taken a swipe at the Kogi state Ministry of Health for failing to disburse the N420 million meant for the ‘Save One Million Live Project’ fund released to it by the World Bank and some other multilateral organisations.
The fund, $1.5M that was converted to the Nigerian currency at a little above N300 per dollar by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was meant for public health issues, maternal morbidity and infant mortality. The amount was received by the state Ministry of Health, in July, but has been lying fallow in the bank. The coordinator of the civil society organisation for AIDS in Kogi State, Hamza Aliyu, indicated that each of the 36 states of the federation got $1.5 million, but wondered why Kogi State has failed to implement the target programme, while other States including Kaduna, were already implementing the project.
Speaking at a one-day forum for Accountable Society in Kogi State, organised by PIBCID, in partnership with ActionAid Nigeria, in Lokoja, Aliyu accused the health ministry of violating the terms of engagement, and failing to carry along critical stakeholders. His words: “The project says you must have stakeholders meeting like this one to marshal out how the programme should be implemented. We have been trying to reach out to the Ministry of Health since that time and we have always hit a brick wall. Whenever meetings are called, politicians frustrate it, which is why we have to raise the issue here. He decried the waste in allowing the fund, which was converted when one Dollar was a little above N300 to lie dormant until the Nigerian Government devalued the Naira meaning that the value of the fund has depreciated and yet the project was yet to kickoff.
“You can see that the person that came to represent the ministry probably doesn’t have all the details, and usually politicians who have all the details don’t come for meetings like this. “We are just apprehensive, but we are hoping that if this amount of money is sitting in the ministry’s account, not government account, it’s to ensure that the money gets to the people who are going to implement it. We are hoping that whatever is responsible for this delay is for good, because the gap between July and November is too long; that many lives may have been lost. This’ a project that has a work plan and it has a time frame, The first tranche is supposed to have now between nine and twelve months from when the money was sent. Kogi State got its share in July 2016 and this is November.”
However, a ministry representative from the public health department, Dr. Francis Akpa, said effort was on to implement the project. When pressed further, he assured that everything was being out in place to meet with the terms of engagement, saying that the ministry will meet with the schedule. Meanwhile, Executive Director Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Idris Miliki, explained that the Federal Government got $1.5m loan from the World Bank, which it is giving as a grant to each of the 36 states.
He explained that the Federal Government converted the $1.5m in July 2016 to its Naira equivalent and paid to each State Ministry of Health account not to State Government account to avoid bureaucracy. “It was titled ‘Safe 1M lives’ project fund but the unfortunate thing is Kogi State has that money in its dedicated account for over four months without ant action plan.”