By Chimezie Godfrey
The Abuja Declaration was signed in Abuja Nigeria on 20th April 2001 when Health Ministers of African countries, including Nigeria met and signed the Abuja Declaration pledged to commit 15% of their total annual budgets to funding the health sector.
The webinar, tagged – “20th Anniversary of the Abuja Declaration (2001-2021): Assessing the Two- Decades of Spending in the Health Sector; Why Allocation, Releases, and Utilization Persist?” is to be moderated by Ms. Ada Ezeokoli, Editor In chief of the Nigeria Health Watch.
Speakers at the webinar include Dr. Afolabi Adejumo, Techincal Advisor to the Director-General of the Budget Office, Nigeria, Mr. Stanley Achonu, CSO Adviser, Open Government Partnership, Nigeria; Mr. Abel Akeni, Head, Research and Policy Advocacy, BudgIT, and Esther Faleye, Ex-Coordinator, Open Alliance, Nigeria.
Dr Ukpai noted the webinar is timely and important given the current demands on health sector financing to address epidemics while at the same time continuing to provide Essential Health Services.
He said,”This is the right time to reflect on key questions on 20 years of health financing around – allocation, utilization, and releases.
“Nigeria pledged 20 years ago in Abuja to ensure its 15% annual budgetary allocation to the sector.
“A deep review of national and state level Health budgets between 2001 and 2021 reveals that this pledge was not met.
“The highest the country has allocated to the health sector in an annual budget was 6.08% in 2012.
“Therefore the annual average budgetary allocation to the Health Sector over the past 20 years stands at 4.69%.
“This allocation far less than the 15% Abuja Declaration commitment. Indeed, it represents a 10.31% shortfall. Nigerians need to ask questions about this.”
Dr. Ukpai stressed that another question that Nigerians need to ask is why are funds returned to the public treasury every year since 2001 despite the low allocations of less than 15%?
“This is an important issue of budget utilization. So, in addition to the poor releases, the funds have never been fully utilized by the Health sector MDAs the years of the Abuja Declaration.
“Inadequate absorptive capacity to use health sector funds allocated has led to the return of funds back to the treasury every year in the last 20 years.
“Speakers in the webinar will endeavour to explain this anomaly and to address key questions of the factors affecting the utilization time?
“What are the systems or processes in place to optimize utilization? What can be done about late releases? Does the FMOH lack the adequate capacity to utilize the funds released?
“These questions and more are indicative of the complex nature of the health budgetary process which is not misunderstood by many citizens,” he stated.
Dr Ukpai disclosed that the webinar will provide a rear opportunity for government, health finance experts, and civil society organizations to dialogue on the issues raised and proffer solutions from the options to address gaps identified.