Nigeria Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Thursday said for as long as government spends money on road construction, power generation, railway and other infrastructural facilities which could be invested in by the private sector, the votes for health will continue to be small and inadequate.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, made his views on state of health facilities in the country known while addressing a gathering of health advocates, market women and school children at a forum jointly organised in Abuja by the One Campaign, Code and Wellbeing Foundation Africa.
He said though health is very important and deserves priority attention, government must free funds from other areas to make enough money available for the sector.
“That is why we have been emphasizing the need for government to engage the private sector in the provision of infrastructural facilities like roads, railway and power. This will enable government to focus on social services like health and education.
“I agree with the submission here that government should spend at least one per cent of its consolidated revenue on health and increase the allocation to health to at least 10 per cent of the total value of the budget as canvassed here. I want to promise you that we may not achieve all that immediately but we will move some steps higher than where we are now in the next budget”, he said.
The Senate President expressed his agreement with the submission of some of the speakers that emphasis should be laid on provision of well-equipped and properly staffed primary heath care centres in all the nooks and crannies of the country, adding that such a plan may not be attractive to some politicians because it will not generate much attention but it is the easiest way to take health services to the grassroots where it is most needed.
He recounted his experience as a Governor in Kwara State and said the policy of primary heath centre provision and the Community Health Insurance Scheme where ordinary people are covered for a whole year on payment of N300 remains one of his best legacies.
He also mentioned that during the 7th Senate, he collaborated with Senator Ifeanyi Okowa who is now Governor of Delta State to sponsor the passage of the National Health Act. The law, he said, is very comprehensive in solving the problems in the sector but its provisions are being observed in the breach.
He called on the organizers of the event to make it an annual forum where they can review what has been achieved in the last one year and then plan ahead. Saraki promised that at such a review forum, it will be obvious next year that a lot of developments would have been recorded and that he would canvass that the National Health Act is adhered to.
The Senate President was presented with sacks filled with petitions signed by concerned Nigerians on the need to increase allocations to the health sector and provide more primary healthcare centres while he promised to ensure the National Assembly act on the demands.
At the occasion were wife of the Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, Senator Phillip Aduda, Nollywood actor and member, Lagos State House of Assembly member, Hon. Desmond Elliot, his counterpart from Kannywood, Ali Nuhu, Musician Waje and top other dignitaries.