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EDITORIAL – World Malaria Day: Nigeria’s Health Ministry and the missing $300m antimalarial funds



Pate: Indicted by the House of Representatives

Today, April 25th, is commemorated globally as World Malaria Day.

World Malaria Day is observed yearly to bring global attention to the efforts being made to bring an end to malaria pandemic.

Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) instituted the Day during the World Health Assembly in 2007.

WHO says that Africa accounts for 95% of Malaria deaths globally, with Nigeria among 11 African countries that carry approximately 70 per cent of the global burden of malaria.

In fact, Nigeria has the highest burden of malaria globally, accounting for nearly 27% of the global malaria deaths.

As the rest of world remains on course to arrest the pandemic, the Nigerian authorities are exhibiting kleptomaniac tendencies which frustrate the push for liberation of the country from the scourge.

The Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria is currently in a tug of war with the National Assembly over alleged embezzlement of malaria funds granted by the World Bank.

The House of Representatives Committee on Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis has on several occasions summoned the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Pate and the Permanent Secretary, Daju S. Kachollom over the alleged misappropriation of $300 million in antimalarial funds.

The Nigerian government had in 2018 secured $300 million in new financing from the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank and African Development Bank to eradicate malaria in the country.

The lawmakers are investigating the utilisation of the fund which is said to be missing.

The funds were utilized by the current administration, not the immediate past administration which secured it.

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After rebuffing four invitations from the House, Hon. Amobi Ogah, Chairman of the Committee, during plenary in late March, expressed displeasure over the absence of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry at the resumed sitting of the Committee..

“This money has been made available since 2021.

“We have been inviting the Permanent Secretary.

“This is the third time we are inviting her to come and explain to us what has happened.

“Have they used the money? If they have not used the money, where is the money? It is a matter of simple explanation.

“But they have been running away, calling all manner of people to talk to us,” he barked.

Hon. Ogah who is a legislator on the platform of the Labour Party, further condemned the action of Kachollom, stating that the committee would not tolerate disrespect from civil servants, and alleged that the ministry’s officials have been reaching out to people to lobby on their behalf.

“The National Assembly will no longer tolerate the attitude of civil servants taking parliament for a ride. Enough is enough. We are elected by our people to represent them. We are elected to talk for them and defend them.

“And we are talking about a disease that has turned into an epidemic. We will not hesitate to invoke our constitutional right to compel the permanent secretary to be arrested if fails to honour the summons,” he said.

“Have they used the money?
If they have not used the money, where is the money?
It is a matter of simple explanation.

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“But they have been running away, calling all manner of people to talk to us. But we are here to defend Nigerians.

“We were elected to represent our people.

“Nigerians cannot continue to die of malaria, even when the government has made every necessary effort to see that eradication is being achieved by 2030.”

Against this backdrop, Diaspora Digital Media commends the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives Committee on Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, for being persistent in its call for accountability.

The National Assembly should not hesitate to liaise with anti-graft agencies in its push to unearth the truth about the whereabouts of the $300 million antimalarial funds.

It is a crying shame to realize that the funding which was secured from international organizations such as the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank and African Development Bank, has been improperly utilized.

This has subjected to international embarrasment and ridicule, and those responsible for it must be made to face the consequences.

Anti-graft agencies must swing into action without delay.

The antics of Health Ministry’s officials is tantamount undermining national assembly and sabotaging the fight the malaria pandemic.

On this day that the world is marking Malaria Day, conscientious Nigerians and the international community must hear that Nigeria’s Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Pate and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Daju S. Kachollom, are rebuffing enquires into how the funding was utilized.

Corruption, especially in crucial sectors like healthcare, is a serious issue that can have severe consequences for the population.

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Officials of the health ministry are not bigger than the law of the land.

Malaria is a significant public health issue that must be seriously addressed.

It is essential for the Nigerian government to investigate this issue thoroughly and hold those responsible accountable.

Transparency and accountability in the management of public funds are crucial to ensuring the effective delivery of essential services and the well-being of the citizens.

Ending the malaria scourge in Nigeria requires a comprehensive but foolproof approach involving government intervention, public health initiatives, community engagement, transparency/accountability in fund management, and individual actions.

By implementing a combination of these strategies and building a unified effort to tackle malaria, Nigeria can make significant progress towards reducing the burden of the disease and ultimately ending the malaria scourge in the country.

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