Don’t cut health budget, minister appeals to National Assembly
•Says $400m polio money not stolen
•Decries 33% slash in 2016 vote
Stressing that the 33 percent cut in the 2016 budget posed serious funding challenge and portrayed Nigeria as a country that pays lip service to serious issues, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has enjoined the National Assembly not to tinker with the ministry’s estimates in the 2017 appropriation bill to be presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He told the Chike John Okafor-led House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Services at the opening of a two-day public hearing in Abuja that it was false a rife rumour that a $400 million meant to eradicate polio had been pilfered.
He bemoaned that such claims put the nation’s in a bad light before donor nations and the international community.Adewole said: “We became a laughing stock in the international community when funding for healthcare was reduced by 33 percent. In fact, the international community felt that Nigeria was not serious about health.
“Please preserve our budget. If you are going to change anything, please let the budget come out bigger. Please help us and do not cut the health budget.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the committee chairman emphasised the implementation of the Abuja Declaration by African Heads of State to allocate a minimum of 15 per cent of their national budgets to health.
He noted that for Nigeria to reduce her high infant and mortality rate, disease burden as well as broaden access to health services, she must re-invest in the provision of primary healthcare services.
“Primary Healthcare, no doubt, remains the most acceptable approach for achieving universal health coverage as over 80 per cent of our people live in the grassroots,” the lawmaker noted.
The Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, while declaring the event open, stressed the importance of the federal legislature providing workable solutions to healthcare funding.
Represented by the House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, he said legislators must ensure funds were transparently deployed to ensure health services get to the most vulnerable in the society.