Senate to probe $420m polio global fund in Nigeria

Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, said on Monday that the upper legislative chamber is set to probe the use of about $420 million global polio fund allocated to Nigeria in recent years.

Ohunanbuwa, who stated this while addressing newsmen in respect of the World Polio Day, said that the Senate was worried at the usage of the funds meant for the fight against polio in Nigeria.

The Senate Committee, however, called President Muhammadu Buhari, members of the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication and governors of the 36 states to urgently convene a meeting that would brainstorm on ways to stop the spread of polio virus in Nigeria.

The Senate committee chairman said that it was imperative to probe how the over $420 billion polio grant was spent, adding that the Senate would engage the international donor agencies and ensure that mistakes of the past were avoided.

He also said that his committee would carry out a holistic probe of issues around communicable diseases in the country, adding that funds for developmental projects from donors must be properly managed.

Besides the polio fund, the senator also said that the committee would also probe the disbursement of $1.5 million to 36 states of the federation as first tranche of funds for the programme ‘Saving One Million lives.’

He said that the Senate would also review the process of decision-making in the sector with a view to strengthening the grant system.

Senator Ohuabunwa said, “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. Key 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 $1.5 million to the 36 states as the first tranche of money under the Saving One Million Lives Programme for Results (SOMLPFor R). 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 the states more accountable on how the funds are used.

“The committee is also currently  studying  the Midwifes Service Scheme (MSS) to determine whether it should be scaled up or not. This will be based on the reality of Nigeria’s economic situation as well as the need to align with the Federal Government’s plan of making 10,000 primary health care centres functional.

“Indeed, our nation has achieved significant milestone in the elimination of polio and we will continue to push ahead.

“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 efforts 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.”