Nigeria Health Minister, Ehanire shuns health journalists conference …… As stakeholders calls for transparency, proper utilisation of N500billion covid-19 stimulus fund 

For the second time, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire has shunned the 5th Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists,(ANHEJ)  organised to brainstorm and come up with ideas that will assist in convincing  Nigerians to accept COVID-19 vaccination.

The Minister absence was visibly felt at the conference which was graced by  almost all the key  stakeholder  in the health  sector including the World Health Organisation, (WHO), Africa Health Budget  Network(AHBN), Pathfinder International, Institute for Human Virology and Marie Stopes amongst others.

Even though the ministry of health was informed of the conference, Dr Ehanire did not show up or send a representative to grace the conference  that had the theme: “Improving confidence in COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria: the role of the media.

Since Ehanire took over office as minister of Health, he has deliberately refused to identify with health reporters which many believes it is a deliberate act to avoid answering questions from health reporters over Covid-19 funds as well as its utilization.

Meanwhile, key stakeholders in the health sector has called out on the ministry of health to effectively and efficiently utilized the N500 billion naira stimulus funds donated by the International Monetory Fund (IMF) to Nigeria, to help combat covid-19 related issues.

The African Health Budget Network (AHBN), coordinated by Dr Aminu Magashi, said every COVID-19 funding and recovery plan touches the lives of all Nigerians, and as such,  the public should  adequately be adequately informed on how each penny is utilised.

Magashi who was represented by the Senior Programme and Partnership Officer, Dr. Obinna Onuoha said, so far, about 126 billion naira was given out to the health sectors to help build resilient health systems and also to settle other underlying health conditions faced by the sector. 

The remaining 374 billion naira will be shared out to non-health sectors.

In the health sector, 86 billion was given out for capital projects on the revatilization of the health sector, while the remaining 40 billion was allocated for other critical issues or challenges faced.

Out of this, the following organizations were listed to gain a share of the stimulus.

The Nigerian Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other related departments received 10million naira, 2billion for the equipment of labouratory for effective and efficient testing of vaccines. The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development ( NIPRD), also received 2billion for its research and development.

Alongside with this, 18billion naira was allocated to 21 University teaching hospitals and 31 Federal medical centers and Specialist hospitals. 7.7 billion naira was added for the provision of personal protective materials for workers in the labouratories.

Furthermore, 18.4billion naira was given out to all the 36 states including the FCT, for the equipping of 10 intensive care units . 5.2billion was also allocated for the equipping of the isolation centres in each state and a 20billion hazard allowance allocated for workers.

Only about 50 percent of the funds have been released and shared among the various organizations and sectors. The Organization also urged those who have received the fund to commence work immediately, as work delayed after funding will be seen as sabotage by the public.

He further called on  ANHEJ members to ensure they ask hard questions on the type, nature and duration of funding support for every recovery plan said, the media stands front-line and centre in ensuring that all Nigerians are well-informed with facts.

“With all the efforts underway towards recovery from COVID-19, the media stands front, line and centre in ensuring that all Nigerians are well-informed with the facts: what funding has been received and from whom, what plans from the Government are in place to utilize these funds to provide quality health, what are the checks and balances to ensure these dedicated funds offer value for money, what are the steps taken to ensure all concerned parties are held accountable in the disbursement and utilization of these funds, what are the feedback mechanisms from the beneficiaries of these health interventions, and how are the challenges and lessons carried forth for future reference, that we may learn from the past. 

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