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Senate probes diversion of $400m polio fund

The Senate on Monday said it was set to probe the alleged diversion of the $1.5m special intervention funds from the Federal Government to states for polio eradication.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, at a press conference to commemorate the World Polio Day on Monday, also announced that the Senate would soon begin an open investigation into the alleged abuse of the global fund for polio in Nigeria.

Geneva-based Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation had indicted Nigeria for allegedly misusing funds meant for immunising millions of children against polio.

The Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency were implicated in a fraud audit conducted by GAVI, in which over $400m, disbursed for the procurement of vaccines, was alleged to have been grossly abused.

Ohuabunwa said, “In this wise, my committee will ensure that 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 primary health care services are funded and implemented.

“Additionally, we want to reassure all donors and partners of our resolve to ensure that donor funds are 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 that 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 imposition of sanctions on Nigeria from these donors. We cannot continue to be disgraced as a nation through mismanagement of donor funds and we must work hard to gain or regain the trust of all donors, bilateral and multi-lateral partners.”

He added that the probe into the utilisation of the $1.5m Federal Government disbursement to states was aimed at strengthening the mechanism of monitoring the states and ensuring that the states were more accountable.

Ohuabunwa said, “The committee is also preparing to beam its searchlight on the recent disbursement of $1.5m to the 36 states as the first tranche of money under the Saving One Million Lives Programme for Results.

“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 Midwives Service Scheme 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.”

Ohuabunwa said Nigeria had achieved a milestone in the elimination of polio in the country, expressing the hope that such achievement would be sustained.

The lawmaker stated that the country had no case of polio from July 24, 2014, to August 10, 2016, when two cases of WPV were detected in the Jere and Gwoza Local Government Areas of Borno State.

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