Nigerian govt yet to release 75% of Basic Health Care Fund – Stakeholders
Say fund should be captured under statutory transfer
ABUJA – Stakeholders in the Nigerian health sector on Friday, January 25, said despite the allocation of N55.1 billion for Basic Health Care Provision Fund by the Federal Government, only 25 percent of the fund was released at the end of December 2018.
The group, under the aegis of National Health Advocates (NA4H) said the fund, which is one percent Consolidated Revenue Fund contained in the National Health Act, said rather than put the money under service-wide vote of the nation’s budget, it should be part of statutory transfers.
Speaking on behalf of the group at a media briefing, Founder, Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARHF), Prof. Ladapo Ladipo, said health should be given priority by all tiers of government in the country.
Prof. Ladapo said various researches in the country had indicated that “the country’s poor health indices, poor budgetary provision and releases to the sector, non-implementation of the National Health Act, industrial disharmony occasioned by frequent strikes, poor welfare and working environment,” were part of challenges that militated against the sector in 2018.
Themed “Nigerians demand greater investment and accountability in health in 2019 and beyond,” the briefing noted that “funds in the statutory transfers are always prioritized as they are not largely affected by scarcity of funds. Not committing the BHCPF as statutory means if there is any paucity of funds within the year, it will suffer severe budget cuts and poor implementation.”
The stakeholders also decried four percent of total national budget for health in 2019 as contained in the 2019 appropriation bill. They said nothing but 15 percent agreed in the 2001 Abuja Declaration would lift the sector out of financial crisis.
Recommendations made by the NA4H include that the federal government, “as a priority, should, constitutionally ensure that funding for health is captured under the exclusive or statutory list.
“Health should be among the top three priority of any government in Nigeria. This will be in line with World Bank’s recommendation in 2018 that lower-middle income countries should invest in Human Capital Development of which health and education are priorities.
“In 2019, we call on the federal government to fully release 100% of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund and to disburse it timely to all the 36 states plus FCT in line with the provision of the law and its operational manual.
“The 2019 health budget estimates should be increased from 4% to at least 7.5% and the National Assembly to strengthen their oversight function so that Nigerian government will improve budget performance.
“The president is called upon to direct his Minister of Finance to release the entire N55.15 billion of the 2018 Basic Health Care Provision Fund to ensure its full take-off and disbursement to all the states.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria should invest in continuing professional development of health workers as well as improve the working environment and remuneration in an effort to reduce the brain drain and medical tourism and to also improve health literacy and increase investment in disease prevention rather than cure.
“The state governors to use the BHCPF for what it is meant for in addressing critical health needs of their populace and the civil society and media to step up advocacy to political actors and policy makers to demand for greater investment and accountability in health in 2019.”
In his remark, founding member of the NA4H and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) Dr Aminu Magashi, commended government for implementing the National Health Act on the allocation of BHCF. He however said the National Assembly or the executive could put the fund on statutory transfers in 2019 budget.
While presenting performance scorecard for the BHCF for January to December 2018, he said there would be quarterly reports on status of health budgets and releases in the country from this year by the group.
Apart from the BHCF, Magashi pledged that civil society organizations working in the sector would keep vigil on health financing in the country, including the newly-launched Second National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDP II)
He urged that health literacy should be increased across the nation.