Legal Nigeria

Health minister, perm sec get 72 hours to explain unaccounted $300m anti-malaria funds

The House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis yesterday gave the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate, and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Daju Kachollom, 72 hours to appear before it.

They are to explain the alleged misappropriation of $300 million meant for the funding of malaria since 2021.

The committee resolved that the permanent secretary should be arrested, if she fails to honour the summons, having failed to appear before the committee after three invitations.

The minister and the permanent secretary are also to answer questions on allegations of denying indigenous manufacturers of insecticidal nets from participating in the contract for the procurement of the product and other related products.

Committee Chairman Amobi Godwin Ogah, who read the resolutions, expressed the displeasure of his members about the failure of the permanent secretary to appear before the committee.

The chairman expressed consternation that the cost for the procurement of antimalarial commodities by the ministry was over $3 million.

He said: “Malaria is now an epidemic in Nigeria. The government has always wanted to help the people, but most times the civil servants are our problem. This money has been made available since 2021. We have been inviting the permanent secretary. This is the third time we are inviting her to come and explain to us what has happened.

“Have they used the money? If they have not used the money, where is the money? It is a matter of simple explanation. But they have been running away, calling all manner of people to talk to us.

“But we are here to defend Nigerians. We were elected to represent our people. Nigerians cannot continue to die of malaria, even when government has made every necessary effort to see that eradication is being achieved by 2030.

“The National Assembly will no longer tolerate the attitude of civil servants taking the parliament for a ride. Enough is enough. We were elected by our people to represent them. We were elected to talk for them and defend them.

“We are talking about a disease that has turned to an epidemic. We will not hesitate to invoke our constitutional right to compel the permanent secretary be arrested, if she fails to honour the summons.”

Ogah said the committee received a petition, few weeks ago, from Seasons Law Firm on behalf of Rosies Textile Mills Limited.

The committee chairman said the petitioners accused the Ministry of Health and the permanent secretary of denying indigenous manufacturers of insecticidal nets from participating in the contract for the procurement of insecticidal nets and other related products.

He said: “Nigeria borrowed $100 million from Islamic Bank, which was approved by National Assembly in 2021. Out of the $100 million, $10 million was the grant; and another $200 million was borrowed from World Bank in the same year for Impact Project (Malaria Financing Agreement), making it a total of $300 million.

“The resolution by the National Assembly is that local content must be prioritised to enable local manufacturers. But the ministry went ahead to contract the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to do the procurement process at the cost of over $3 million for the purchase of anti-malaria commodities.

Honourable members, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that the National Assembly has to intervene on this issue. Therefore, (we have) to forestall this matter ending in litigation, to mediate and bring the parties involved to a roundtable with a view to resolving the matter amicably.”

Other ministers at the event included Senator Abubakar Bagudu (Budget and Economic Planning), Dr. Jamila Bio Ibrahim (Youth Development), and Nkiruka Onyejeocha (Minister of State for Labour and Employment).

Source:The nation