THE Senate, on Monday, October 24, said it had concluded arrangements to investigate the application of more than $400 million Global Fund for communication diseases.
It also said that it had made preparations to monitor the use of the $1.5 million the federal government granted states to guard against the resurgence of polio in the country.
Mao Ohuabunwa, chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases, disclosed this at a press briefing to mark the World Polio Day in Abuja.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, GAVI, based in Geneva had indicted Nigeria for alleged misapplication of funds donated for immunization of children against polio in the country.
Also implicated in the alleged fraud were the ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency as discovered by an audit conducted by the GAVI in which more than $400 million disbursed for procurement of vaccines was alleged to have been grossly abused by Nigerian officials.
Ohuabunwa noted that it was sad that on August 10, 2016, two cases of Wild Polio Virus, WPV, were detected in Jere and Gwoza Local Government Area, Borno State, North-Eastern Nigeria where insurgency made it impossible to reach children with Iife-saving immunization and other important health care services including food, shelter and other necessary amenities.
Ohuabunwa said: “As of now, the Federal Government has released N9.8 billion to implement the Out Break Response (OBR) that will ensure a stop in the transmission of WPV in the Northeast and beyond. This is coupled with the effort of donors and partners to support the OBR. While this is good news, my committee was also informed that vaccine availability is still a challenge and that the implementation of the OBR in November and December, 2016 is not certain due to this vaccine shortage.
“As part of its core mandate to improve PHC service delivery, the Senate Committee on PHC and Communicable Diseases despite the Senate being on recess, recalled all its members for an urgent meeting when the first two WPV cases were reported in Borno State. The Committee then called all the key stakeholders in Nigeria’s Polio eradication effort for a meeting in the Senate where critical gaps in the immunization programme were discussed with a view to finding lasting solution.
“The Committee hereby pledges its resolve to ensure FG lives up to its responsibility of funding the procurement of vaccines and other critical PHC services. We also want to reiterate the importance of strengthening Routine immunization (RI). With strong RI, there will be less need for Polio campaigns which are very expensive to sustain on the long-term. Structures at PHC level to strengthen RI should be supported. Health care workers need to be trained; paid and made available at all levels to ensure Rl succeeds. Cold chain equipment, surveillance systems and structures need to be supported to succeed as well.
“We also call on International Polio partners and donors to come together and aid our country like they have always done in times like this. We specifically thank WHO, CDC, USAID, CORE GROUP, UNICEF, Rotary and other partners for strongly supporting the effort to make Nigeria Polio-free.
“While thanking the partners for the great support, we will like to remind them that the importance of proper donor coordination and collaboration especially in the Northeast cannot be over-emphasized. Currently, there are several partners supporting various interventions in the Northeast and their purpose, mission and activities need to be better harmonized to avoid duplication and wastage of scarce resources.
“The Senate committee on PHC and Communicable Diseases pledges its total support to strengthening Nigeria’s PHC system so that good and affordable health can be guaranteed for all Nigerians. This is the mandate we were given and by the grace of God, we will achieve it. Every aspect of PHC service delivery is being assessed by the Committee with a view to ensuring Nigerians get the best and that FG lives up to its responsibility of providing quality and affordable health to Nigerians.
“In this wise, my Committee will ensure its statutory oversight functions of key Government agencies and parastatals are conducted as and when due with a view to ensuring probity and accountability on how health-related, PHC services are funded and implemented.
“Additionally, we want to reassure all donors and partners of our resolve to ensure donor funds are also well spent and that they reach the masses that need them. Kev funding agencies like Global Fund, GAVI and several others will be engaged by my committee to ensure mistakes of the past are avoided and that funds from these donors are used judiciously. We cannot afford mistakes of the past where funds for developmental projects from donors are improperly managed leading to sanctions on Nigeria from these donors. We cannot continue to be disgraced as a nation through mismanagement of donor funds and must work hard to gain or regain the trust of all donors, bilateral and multi-lateral partners.
“The committee is also preparing to beam its searchlight on the recent disbursement of 51.5 Million Dollars to the 36 states as the first tranche of money under the Saving One Million Lives Program for Results (SOMLPforR). The committee will like to review the process of how certain decisions were made with a view to strengthening the whole grant system in a manner that makes monitoring the states more rigorous thus making the states more accountable on how the funds are used. The Committee will work to ensure that only states that perform to standard get more funding. The committee is also currently studying the Midwifes Service Scheme (MSS) to determine whether it should be scaled up or not. This will based on the reality of Nigeria’s economic situation as well as the need to align with the FG’s plan of making 10,000 Primary Health Care Centers functional.
“Regarding the new WPV cases, the committee is confident that Nigeria will come out of this challenge stronger and be eventually delisted from Polio endemic countries list once and for all. We in the committee are confident that with concerted efforts, proper use of resources. Nigeria will be certified Polio-free in due course.
“However, we must not relent, but must work hard, ensure vaccination teams are trained and funded to vaccinate every eligible child.
“We also call on the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication which consists of the President of Nigeria and all 36 State Governors to convene a meeting t0 discuss how to get Nigeria back on track to achieving a Polio-free status. The leadership and guidance of this Task Force is critical at this juncture of our battle to eradicate polio.
“From July 24th, 2014 till August, 2016, Nigeria had no case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) untill August 10, 2016, when two cases of WPV were detected in Jere and Gwoza LGAs of Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria where insurgency has made it impossible to reach children with Iife-saving immunization and other important health care services including food, shelter and other necessary amenities.
“On 25th September, 2015, Nigeria was delisted from Polio endemic countries list by the World Health Organization (WHO). Currently, Nigeria is back on the list of Polio endemic countries joining Afghanistan and Pakistan that it had initially left behind. This is rather unfortunate.
“As at today, Nigeria has a total of four Wild Polio Virus (WPV) cases all in Borno State. This set-back is a lesson that we should not be complacent after achieving a Polio-free status for more than 24 months that led to Nigeria being declared a non-polio endemic country.”
— Oct 24, 2016 @ 18:20 GMT