President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Thursday, said the National Assembly will ensure that one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) is set aside in the 2018 Budget to boost the provision of Basic Primary Healthcare services across the country.
Speaking at the 58th Annual General & Scientific Conference of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Saraki said the amount would enable the Federal Government provide and fund quality and basic healthcare services for the benefit of Nigerians when the 2018 Appropriation Bill becomes law.
Saraki said: “As I intimated when the delegation led by the NMA President and the Executive called on me at my office yesterday (Wednesday), and as I reiterate now, Primary and Universal Health Care provision is a key legislative agenda for the 8th Senate under my leadership.
“It is a promise that we have made to Nigerians, and one that we are determined to keep. In July last year, I launched the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage; and urged the Federal Government to honour the Abuja Declaration (2001), while calling for full implementation of the National Health Act 2014, which – as some of you will recall – I helped formulate during the 7th Senate.
“Therefore, there is no better place than here today, to announce that the issue of funding will be attended to in our budgetary review of the 2018 Appropriations Bill.
“The Senate has, with the cooperation of the House of Representatives, resolved to mandate our Committees on Appropriations to ensure that the pledge to set aside 1 per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) is met.
“This would be the underpinning for a legislative framework for the BHCPF and revitalisation of primary health care delivery across the nation. It will happen, and it is imminent.
“Once this one per cent is put into law, we as legislators will embark on the next stage, which will be to ensure that we get value for money, for transparency in the use of the funds,” he stated.
The President of the Senate further decried the situation where Nigeria ranks amongst the top countries visiting international shores for medical treatment and support.
He lamented that the country loses over $1bn annually to medical tourism which is untenable and unsustainable.
“Some countries even go to great lengths to streamline certain aspects of their health policies specifically for Nigerians,” Saraki said. “It is a damning indictment of what we have not been able to provide for our own citizens in this country, such that a great many feel they have to go elsewhere, at great cost to the individual and collective purse.”
He said he is optimistic that with Nigeria’s upward review in the Ease of Doing Business index, coupled with the right government support, Public Private Partnership (PPP) would yield a positive result for the nation’s medical system, “so that we may begin to reverse the trend of medical tourism.”
He added: “In addition, we must find a way to reverse another negative trend in the system, which is the gradual loss of our doctors and brightest brains to foreign medical institutions.
“This drain in medical expertise is plain to see, and should be a major concern for all of us. In acknowledging the feats and strides of our citizens in the diaspora, we must also recognise the need to build, harness and sustain local content.
“We cannot achieve our collective goals as a people without developing this country to the point where we are self-sufficient.
“Let me assure you all that we in the National Assembly are always focused toward policies that positively affect the lives of the average Nigerian.
“In so doing, amongst other duties, we seek to provide not just the legislative framework but the political will for institutions such as yours to get things done,” he said.