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SERAP seeks probe of alleged missing N3.8b in health ministry

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Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire. Photo: TWITTER/ DrEOEhanire

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe allegation of missing N3.8billion in the Federal Ministry of Health.

It was learnt that the money is meant for teaching hospitals, medical centres and National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

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SERAP also urged Buhari to promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread corruption in the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, neuro-psychiatric hospitals, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and NAFDAC indicted in the report of the nation’s auditors, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the health sector.

The group said the allegations were documented in Part 1 of the 2018 report released last week by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

In a letter dated January 2, 2021, and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Corruption in the health sector can cause serious harm to individuals and society, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population. These missing funds could have been used to provide access to quality healthcare for Nigerians, and meet the requirements of the National Health Act, especially at a time of COVID-19 pandemic.”

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According to SERAP, the Federal Ministry of Health spent without approval N13,910,000.00 to organise a two-day training and bilateral discussion with chief medical directors and chairmen, medical advisory council and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to prepare 2019 personnel budget. Originally, ₦4,860,000.00 was budgeted for the programme.

SERAP said NAFDAC paid N48,885,845.00 for services not rendered and goods not supplied.

“According to the Auditor-General, NAFDAC used fake and fictitious receipts for these payments. NAFDAC also paid N25,734,018.49 to companies/firms who were never awarded any contracts and never executed any contract,” SERAP said.

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The letter, copied to Malami; Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, read in part:

“Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to recover the missing public funds would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the UN Convention Against Corruption, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

The group gave President Buhari 14 days to indicate measures being taken to address the allegations.

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, we shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the public interest,” SERAP said in the letter.

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