Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, on Monday shocked Nigerians with the announcement that the ‘original’ budget of his ministry had been distorted, as strange figures had been smuggled into the 2016 Budget estimates of the Ministry.
Adewole, who dropped the bombshell before the Senate Committee on Health, also the Zika virus is harmless to blacks.
The Minister’s disclosure further reinforced a recent discovery that some unscrupulous Nigerians had imported strange figures into the 2016 Budget in pursuit of their greed and corrupt tendencies.
For instance, it would be recalled that the Senate Committee on Education discovered the sum of N10 billion tucked into the education budget last week.
Consequently, the Minister told the Committee to discard the budget before it and await a new one to be re-submitted today which he said would reflect the programmes of the health sector in 2016.
The revelation compelled the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Lanre Tejuosho, to announce an imminent executive session with the Minister with a view to thrashing out emerging issues on the budget.
Adewole had further disclosed that there were some issues on which conclusion had not been reached by the Ministry, while allocations had been made to them without the Ministry’s knowledge.
According to Adewole, the provisions of the budget before the National Assembly was in contrast with the priorities of the health sector as contained in the original budget it prepared adding that some of the votes earmarked by the Ministry for some activities had been re-distributed while some important fields in the sector had been excluded.
“In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7 billion for capital allocation has been moved to other areas. Some allocations made are not in keeping with our priorities. There is nothing allocated to public health and family health. Over the last two years, nothing has been done on HIV.
“We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the Committee. This was not what we submitted. We’ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there. We have not reached that stage and we find the money there,” he said.
In his response, Tejuosho noted that the budget before the Committee was not the proposal of the Health Ministry, given the submission of the Minister.
He, therefore, added that it would be of no use working on a budget that had already been disowned.
“Honourable Minister, we need to have an executive session. You said about this budget that public health is not there. Obviously, the budget we are looking at now is not your own,” Tejuosho said.
In a swift response, Adewole said: “Yes, it’s not. We’ll submit the revised document tomorrow (Tuesday). It will be an updated version of what you have.”
Adewole also disclosed that State House Clinic to which N3.9 billion had been allocated in the budget at the expense of other hospitals put together which got far less allocations, is not under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
While explaining that the Ministry is under the Presidency, Adewole said the figure might not have been the original allocation to the clinic by State House.
He noted that the original allocation might have been inflated by the same forces which he said had distorted his ministry’s original estimates.
“The State House Clinic is not under the Ministry of Health. I hope it’s not the same rats that changed things in our budget that changed it. The amount is meant for procurement and purchase of medical equipment. It is very important that you engage them because what happened to us might have also happened to them. It is possible that what is there, might not have been what they put there,” Adewole added.
In his reaction, Tejuosho observed that having been declared by the Minister that State House Clinic is not under the watch of the Health Ministry, it also implied that the Health Committee’s oversight function did not extend to the clinic.
Tejuosho noted that it is the responsibility of the Special Duties’ Committee to engage the State House on the humongous budget for the clinic.
In another development, Adewole allayed the fears of Nigerians about Zika virus that is currently ravaging the United States and Brazil, saying that the virus had actually been in Nigeria since 1954, but had been unable to harm citizens because Nigerians had developed strong resistance to it.
He, therefore, said the virus, which had been terrifying the whites, were under the feet of the the blacks, and should, therefore, be ignored.