• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Concern as Nigeria directs more funding to constituency projects than health

Healthcare constituency project

Nigeria has directed more funding towards constituency projects, aimed at specific empowerment programmes, than towards the health sector, raising concerns about national priorities, as many Nigerians grapple with a healthcare system in need of improvement.

About N732.5 billion has been allocated for empowerment projects in the 2024 Federal Government Capital and Constituency Projects, an amount higher than the N646.5 billion allocated to health projects.

Tracka, the BudgIT’s platform allowing citizens to track and give feedback on public projects in their communities, revealed this in an official statement released Monday.

Read also: Peter Obi laments low life expectancy in Nigeria, calls for healthcare reforms

Despite ranking among countries with the worst health outcomes, exemplified by the second-highest child mortality rate globally in 2023, the 2024 budget allocations suggest the government’s priorities lie elsewhere, neglecting the critical health sector.

According to Tracka, the 2024 federal government has 4,440 empowerment projects.

It noted that empowerment projects were limited to constituency projects, but over the years, they have gradually seeped into capital projects through insertions by the National Assembly.

For instance, the National Assembly inserted 7,447 projects valued at N2.24 trillion in the 2024 budget.

Tracka identifies this as a problematic trend, considering the nation’s huge infrastructure gap and budget deficits.

Gabriel Okeowo, BudgIT’s country director, expressing concern over this development said: “The implications of assigning projects to agencies outside of their mandate are that it undermines monitoring, evaluation, and the sustainability of these projects. These agencies lack the expertise and personnel to ensure quality service delivery for these projects, leading to under-delivery and a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money and scarce resources.”

Read also: Nigeria’s 2023 health budget big on paper, light on expectation

Further analysis by Tracka showed that over 2,558 projects worth N624 billion were allocated to agencies outside their mandate.

The empowerment projects are vague and challenging to track due to their nature.

They are also used as a funnel to transfer public resources to party loyalists, resulting in the misuse of public funds, Tracka stated.

An example is the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN)-ERGP20241489 – allocated N5 billion for the procurement and distribution of official vehicles to selected traditional rulers in the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

Another is the Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR)-ERGP20245718-allocated N2.32 billion to construct a 3.5km road from Methodist Church Ibu to the Eri River.

Read also: Nigeria’s 2023 health budget big on paper, light on expectation

Analysts have long argued that developing countries like Nigeria should spend more on critical capital healthcare projects desperately needed in a country where a yawning infrastructure deficit has undermined economic growth and tormented businesses.

Olamide Brown, founder of HealthCap, a healthtech and fintech venture capital firm, told Businessday that the government can make the healthcare sector more attractive and viable by providing similar backing to what the banking sector receives.

This includes establishing an organization like the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to handle potential missteps and prevent healthcare institutions from collapsing.

Tracka urged anti-graft agencies to probe these anomalies in the 2024 budget to forestall diversion, misappropriation, and embezzlement.

It also elected representatives and ministries, departments, and agencies to provide timely updates to the public and ensure the quality implementation of these projects to ensure Nigerians derive maximum benefit from public funds.