The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has called on both the federal government and the National Assembly to look into why only a paltry sum of N221.7 billion was allocated to the health ministry in the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
In a statement signed by its president, Dr Kayode Obembe, and its secretary general, Dr Adewunmi Alayaki, the umbrella body of doctors and physicians in the country, said that it observed, with great dismay, the drastic departure from the consensus reached at the meeting of African Heads of States and Government in 2001, in which it was prescribed that 15 per cent of the national budget should be allocated to the health sector.
According to the NMA, the deviation poses a huge moral burden for the country in going against its avowed commitment, despite rising health challenges and the resultant burgeoning demands from the sector.
“Though not ignorant of the current realities of dwindling oil revenue and contracting fiscal space – a situation which the country has most unfortunately found itself – the NMA is of the view that the markedly diminished allocation of 3.65 per cent in the 2016 budget will never encourage the advancement of universal health coverage.
“This is because universal health coverage is the only panacea towards improving availability, access quality and efficiency of health services to reduce the disparaging health indices which continue to malign the image of our country in the comity of nations,” it said.
Additionally, the association lamented that the N60 billion (equivalent of at least one per cent of the Consolidate Revenue Fund) envisaged to accrue as the Basic Health Provision fund, as enshrined in the National Health Act 2014, was conspicuously absent from the budget proposal as presented.
The NMA secretary declared that such developments, coming during the much vaunted era of change was unbecoming, adding that Nigeria should begin to show a good example to other African countries, rather than lagging behind since 2001 when it hosted the Heads of State summit.
“Facts from available evidence show that whereas 33 per cent of countries have allocated at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to health, with only Tanzania, Rwanda, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Malawi and Central African Republic attaining 15 per cent, Nigeria has been revolving between 3 per cent and 6 per cent,” he said.
Alayaki further revealed that contrary to the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that national budgets should be allocated an equivalent of N6,908.00 per head (General Government Health Expenditures (GGHE) per capital), the association was dismayed to hear that the World Bank’s reports show that the 2016 federal budget only provided for N1,448.00 ($7.55 at $1=N197), representing a retrogression from N1,546.00 in 2015 and N1653.00 in 2014.
“This presents a precarious situation, as all other contributions from state and local governments, donor agencies and other sources cannot bridge the deficit of N5,460.00 in this regard.
“It is on this premise that we call on the National Assembly as the only organ that can mitigate this looming disaster in the health care delivery sector in 2016. They must look dispassionately without any partisan sentiments at what should be done to substantially Increase the allocation to the health ministry in order to deliver better health care to the Nigerian People” he said.
The NMA, in the communiqué, promised to assist government in budget tracking, to ensure that budgeted and released funds are used for the purposes for which they were appropriated.
While equally calling on state and local governments to allocate substantial resources to the health care delivery sector, the association restated its continual commitment and readiness to partner with government to deliver prompt and efficient health care to Nigerians.