Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Health Minister and Head of Nigerian Medical Association, Prof. Innocent Ujah
According to reliable sources, the federal government of Nigeria is planning to cut funding for primary healthcare services by more than 40% this year in a revised budget expected to be passed into law soon. Although the Nigerian government took precautionary measures early to try and contain Covid ‘19, cases are steadily on the rise in recent times. And so, concerned groups have warned the federal government about its plans to cut down on the health budget. They say it is a major risk the country cannot afford to take at this very critical time especially as already, medical services in the country are severely strained.
Prof Innocent Ujah who heads the Nigerian Medical Association has said that the proposed cuts are coming at a time more investment is needed in the health sector. “Our health budget is unacceptably low, under 5%. With the Covid ‘19 pandemic, it becomes even more serious,” he said. “It will have an impact on our response to the virus.”
Ujah said he was shocked at the announcement of the cuts because it had been assumed that health budgets would be ring-fenced during the pandemic.
Criticism of the healthcare cuts was fueled by the 37 billion naira (£75m) earmarked for the renovation of Nigeria’s National Assembly buildings which many say don’t deserve such a huge allocation at a time like this. “Whatever renovations they want to do in the National Assembly should be suspended,” Ujah said. “This is a global emergency.”
The proposed cuts could affect immunization, childcare, maternal healthcare and family planning services. Nigeria currently spends less than 5% of its federal budget on health.
The government has said that dwindling oil sales caused by the crash in global oil prices and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic are the reasons for the cuts.