10 November 2017

Nigeria: 2018 Budget Threatens Refurbishment of Health Centres, Vaccine Production

The N71.11 billion allocated for capital projects in the 2018 budget may have technically knocked out the refurbishment of 10,000 primary healthcare centres (PHCs) and execution of other projects in the sector.

The entire vote if spent only on rehabilitation of the facilities, it will only translate to N7.1 million per centre, which is still grossly insufficient to meet the earlier promise of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to give a better deal to the sector.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had earlier this year told journalists in Lagos that the Federal Government had concluded plans to rehabilitate the 10,000 facilities spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country beginning from next year. He had spoken with infectious optimism that the 2018 appropriation bill would provide funds for the exercise.

Also, it is hard to see whether there is a provision in the budget for the take-off of biovaccines, set up under the joint venture, between the Federal Government and May and Baker Pharmaceuticals for local production of vaccines. The company promised to deliver its first set of yellow fever vaccines next April.

There is also no mention of emergency preparedness fund in the health sector that would help in procurement of vaccines and other relief materials in the event of deadly epidemics like the recent Cerebro Spinal Meningitis (CSM) and Lassa fever.

The Guardian could not reach the minister for comments. When contacted, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Mike Ogirima, and his Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) counterpart, Ahmed Ibrahim Yakasai, declined comments, promising to respond when they get a further breakdown of the budget.

Although the N8.6 trillion estimate presented on Tuesday is 16 per cent higher than that of 2017, the allocation to health sector however fell from 4.15 per cent in 2017 to 3.95 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, maritime operators are anxiously waiting for the budget to bring respite to the archaic and dilapidated infrastructure at the seaports nationwide.

They noted that a chunk of the budget went to the Ministry of Works and Housing as well as the Ministry of Transport.President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forward (NAGAFF), Increase Uche, was among the top players that are hopeful that the affected ministries should be able to turn the fortunes of the maritime sector around.

Besides, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has faulted the meagre seven per cent allocated to the education sector, describing it as "naïve, pervasive and retrogressive."

In a statement by its president, Professor Ishaq Akintola, the group said the government was yet to demonstrate that it is aware of the monstrous challenges facing the education sector.

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