The celebrated National Health Act widely accepted by many Nigerians has suffered a major setback. The Clause that increased the 10 % Local Government input to 25% has raised the question of the sincerity of purpose on the part of the government.
Honourable Saudatu Sani expresses her worry about whether the Local Governments will ever be able to meet this criterion in order to qualify for the Fund. She believes that for a Local Government to contribute 25% of their annual budget to qualify for the Fund is on the high side.
The Executive Director, Advocacy Nigeria, Honourable Saudatu Sani, a member of the processing body of the Act faulted the increase and worry that the Local Governments may not be able to meet up the criteria and therefore none would be able to access the fund.
Honourable Saudatu intimated our reporter in a close interview in Lagos recently. “As a processor of the Act, I know that no LG can do it. The Principal Bill was 10%, but after harmonisation, we saw that it had been jerked up to 25%. Now, that would be a problem because the implication is, if the Local Governments cannot raise the 25%, then the projects cannot be implemented.
“I am looking forward to seeing it being revisited through another amendment. To the best of my knowledge, the Act is now being gazetted for circulation to all the implementation agencies and as a partner and stakeholder, realistically and especially with the dwindling economic situation of the country, it may be difficult if not impossible for LGs to put in 25%,” she said.
It would be recalled that the National Health Act seeks, among other things to reduce maternal and infant mortality rate in Nigeria through a number of interrelated ways. Prominent among these is by providing free delivery services for pregnant women while their children are assured of basic services in the nation’s health facilities.
A key provision of the Act which impacts on maternal and child health is the Basic Health Care Provision fund or “The Fund’. This is to be sourced from the Federal Government’s Consolidated Revenue and other sources, and this is to be used for provision of basic minimum package of health services, essential drugs, vaccines, consumables; maintenance of facilities, equipment, transport, development of human resources and emergency medical treatment.
With this clause as it is, Hon. Saudatu suggests rethink and an amendment.
“What I will suggest is that as the Act moves to the States, they should take a second look at it. The position should not be to the detriment of the State itself. It is a very good and very ambitious Act. However, if the money is too much, the Local Government will not be able to implement it.
“Actually, Primary Health Care is the responsibility of the Local Governments. We should not expect the President to start thinking about simple things that should take place in the Local Government Areas. But if we overburden the LG with such conditions, then we are asking for failure even before take off.”
On seeking effective ways to implement the National Act, honourable Saudatu recommends ‘down-sizing, right-sizing and adapting the ‘zero budget’ initiative.
“If we find that the money coming into our hand is not as much as we want, it is not bad to adjust it. Implementing the Act is more important than delaying it. I am sure there are one million good things in that Act.
The Bill was thoroughly thought out and I am sure in due course the issue of maternal deaths will definitely be addressed.”
In conclusion, Hon. Saudatu implored the media to do more about educating Nigerians on the provisions of the National Health Act.
“The NHA should be like the the Holy Bible and the Quran. Everyone should have it at their fingertips and know where they come in; even market women, philanthropists, everybody. It is the responsibility of the media to make this information available to everybody.
The Civil Society organisations too can summarise the law into formats that would be easier for the public to read. I think we will see more responsible practices; we will see more people take responsibility for their actions and we will see that there will no longer be disjointed stakeholder networking starting from the Wards, the Community, the Local Government, State Government and the general public at when the Act is in place and functional.”