The Federal Ministry of Health has been charged to ensure the judicious and transparent use of funds appropriated and released for the fight against cancer in the year 2020 and 2021 budget.
The Coordinator African Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi, gave the charge at a media engagement to commemorate the World Cancer Day in Abuja, Thursday.
The media engagement was put together by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Nigeria Cancer Society (NCS) and the AHBN.
Dr. Magashi disclosed that there is accumulation of over one billion naira which was budgeted for the fight against cancer in the year 2020 and 2021 which is yet to be utilized.
He explained that in the year 2020 budget, 729,861,797 naira was earmarked for the fight against cancer which was yet to be utilized. On the other hand, in the 2021 budget 294,081,336 naira was appropriated for cancer related activities in the budget. All these put together amount to over one billion naira which will be used this year for fight against cancer.
He further called on the federal ministry of health to carry along all necessary stakeholders in the modalities for the disbursement of the funds to ensure transparency and accountability.
Dr. Magashi warned against chocking the committees responsible for the distribution of funds with cronies of officials of the health ministry, this, according to him, will sabotage the intended purpose of the funds.
Speaking, the Consultant Public Health, National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), in the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Dr. Deborah Bitrus Oghoghorie, disclosed that the Ministry was already in possession of a considerable per centage of the fund.
She noted that the health ministry has mapped out plans on how the funds will be disbursed to the benefiting institutions.
According to her: “I want specifically comment on the catastrophic health fund. We know that this fund came as a result of struggle by various groups and the budget line is now in place.
“I want to assure you that we have not been sleeping. We have been working tirelessly to ensure that this budget is distributed and particularly used for what it is meant for.
“To that effect, a steering committee was inaugurated by the Minister sometimes last year and we have met and produce an outline of what we think could be the appropriate way of disbursing this funds.
“I also want to tell you that this committee comprises of people from different places that have something to do with cancer including civil society groups, private sector and the government agencies. We did not leave anybody out.
“We came up with a proposal/formula how to disburse this fund. About 90 per cent will go to the institutions to be engaged and we have proposed one from each geopolitical zone in Nigeria. These are federal tertiary institutions to begin with.
“We have decided that 90 per cent of fund will be distributed to each institution when we have concluded the arrangement on the terms of engagement with them.
“A meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow (February 5) and is meant to finalise the modalities.
“We have secured the funds and the modalities of disbursement will be finalized by the steering committee.
“Have no fear about the funds. We will ensure that this fund is used judiciously and in only the indigent people with cancer who require this fund that will be accommodated in this particular endeavor.
“We welcome other contributions as to the judicious use of the resources. All aspects of those that need to be engaged have been engaged in the disbursement of this fund.”
On his part, the Chairman, House of Representative Committee on Healthcare Services, Yusuf Tanko Sununu, called on Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other critical stakeholders to track the funds and ensure that they are used for the benefit of all Nigerians.
He said: “I agree that the year 2020 fund for cancer that is in the budget is yet to be utilized, I share your concern that we have a very short period that the money need to be utilized before it is taken back to the consolidated revenue fund.
“I assure you that my committee and the senate committee will do all that is within our powers to ensure that the money is spent for the purpose for which it was inserted in the budget.
“We have sensitize the ministry and it has already formed a committee to ensure the proper utilization of the fund. What is needed now is to further encourage the ministry to ensure that the money is disburse to the centres that are supposed to put it to use.
“As NGO, I will encourage you to ensure that you track all the funds to ensure that they are used for the people.”
Speaking, the NMA President, Prof. Innocent Ujah, advocated for more awareness creation on the causes and prevention of all forms of cancers.
He regretted that most people are rich but have poverty of knowledge as they do not know when to go for cancer screening so as to save their lives.
He tasked the media to ensure that the carry the right messages to the people at all times.