COVID-19 pandemic tests three major aspects of every nation:
- The quality of healthcare systems of the nation,
- The quality of the nation’s human capital investment in healthcare and (iii). The quality of the nation’s
Any nation with a weakness in any leg of this tripod will suffer unmercifully. This virus is exacting a heavy toll on countries like the United States and Brazil due to bad governance from their Presidents.
God has been very merciful to Nigeria, we expected a much higher number of cases, morbidity and mortality than we have seen in spite of the fact that we have challenges with all the three legs of this tripod. Countries like South Africa, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil that have comparable demographics with Nigeria have not been so lucky.
The Jury is still out as to why we have been spared. But what is becoming clearer so far is, we may not see the exponential explosion seen elsewhere rather it will be a long slog with the virus being with us and killing slowly for much longer than in other parts of the world.
The lessons this pandemic teaches all nations are humility, our vulnerability as a specie, our common humanity and the need for continuing vigilance.
On 9th April, 2020, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 was quoted to have said to the National Assembly (NASS) when he appeared before them that; “I can tell you for sure, I never knew that our entire healthcare infrastructure was in the state it is until I was appointed to do this work”.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has not used its good fortune as an opportunity to improve its healthcare system. In spite of the money accumulated and the goodwill of the nation’s private sector and the international community, there has not been any appreciable improvement in the nation’s healthcare in terms of infrastructure, equipment, personnel and preparedness. Instead, disturbing revelations of indefensible expenses are now coming to light.
COVID & COVID-RELATED EXPENSES
On December 23, 2020, His Excellency the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello while appearing on Sunrise Daily of Channels TV, made damning revelations of how much money had so far been expended on COVID and COVID related matters. He said that figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revealed that an eye-popping figure of Three and a half Trillion Naira (
N3.5 trillion) had so far been spent on COVID and COVID related matters over a period of ten months. He also revealed that an additional Five Hundred and Forty Billion Naira ( N540b) had been earmarked for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Governor expressed sadness at the unfortunate marketing of COVID-19 by the PTF, he went further to say that those that the President entrusted with this matter were not advising him properly and that they should have the fear of God in their hearts. He called on all citizens to ask questions on serious matters like this that affect their lives and livelihoods. These revelations are damaging, especially coming from a sitting Governor from the ruling party who is a loyal supporter of the President.
It has now been two weeks since the Governor’s revelations but there has not been any rebuttal from the government.
On a related matter, PUNCH Newspaper reported on 11th September, 2020 that the sum of Six Billion, Two Hundred Million Naira (
N6.2b) was illegally withdrawn from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) without consulting or getting the approval of the Chief Executive of the Agency supposedly to be used for COVID- 19 response.
TABLE I: COVID-19 EXPENSES vs FG 2021 BUDGET
|a.||Spent on COVID-19 in tenmonths||3.50 trillion|
|b.||To be spent on COVID-19 vaccine||540.00 billion|
|c.||FG 2021 budget estimate||13.08 trillion|
|d.||FG 2021 Healthcare budget||547.00 billion|
|e.||Available to fund budget||7.886 trillion|
|f.||FG 2021 Budget Deficit||5.20 trillion|
|g.||Oil revenue estimate||2.01 trillion|
|h.||Non-oil revenue estimate||1.49 trillion|
|i.||Customs Collections in 2020||1.60 trillion|
EXPLANATION OF TABLE I ABOVE:
The total amount of money spent on COVID and COVID-related matters (
N3.5 trillion) in ten months is 26.7% of the total FG 2021 budget estimate ( N13.08 trillion). It is also 6.4 times the allocation to Nigeria’s healthcare in 2021 ( N547 billion). This figure is also exactly the same amount to the sum of the revenue estimated to be accrued from Oil ( N2.01 trillion) and non- oil sector ( N1.49 trillion) in 2021. It is twice the amount of money that the Nigerian Customs Service brought into the national treasury from it’s 2020 collections ( N1.6 trillion).
The importance of vaccination against this deadly virus can not be over emphasized. Nigeria and most African countries are aiming to benefit from the World Health Organization-backed programme called COVID-19 Vaccines Global Assess Facility, or COVAX, which was set-up to distribute a billion doses across 92 low-and middle-income countries in 2021.