Health Budget: Ebonyi Assembly Commits to Achieving Green the Red Campaign for Health

By Israel Mbam, Abakaliki 

Speaker and members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly have renewed their commitment to improve budgetary provision, release and  improved capital budget performance for the State health sector. They made the commitment at a one day legislative round table on Green the Red Campaign project organized by a civil Society Organization Cluster led by its anchor, Development and Integrity Intervention Goal Foundation (DIG)
The engagement tagged "Strategic Legislative Engagement/Roundtable on Improving Health Sector Budget Performance in Ebonyi state was held on 4th June, 2024 at the Assembly Complex, Nkaliki road, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital .

The event was part of activities under the project, Addressing Accountability and Budgetary Concerns for Sustainable Healthcare in Ebonyi state, ABC4SHE, implemented by DIG with 7 other member organizations, under the "Green-the-Red Health Sector Cluster."

It is funded by USAID through the Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement, SCALE, project.

The legislators at the meeting made a commitment  to intensify oversight towards ensuring that approved budget for the health sector is promptly released for greater impact in the sector.

Declaring the engagement open, the Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Moses Odunwa, appreciated the USAID and the implementers of the project for the collaboration which he said, has added value and impact into the legislative functions of the Assembly.

He noted that Governor Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru led administration in the state has done a lot in improving the health sector which have started manifesting in terms of increased health manpower, drugs and equipment, incentives for health workers and excellent service delivery in both primary and secondary healthcare facilities across the state.

On her part, the House of Assembly Committee chairman on Health and member representing Ohaukwu North state constituency, Mrs Esther Chidiebere Agwu in her speech, stated that health was among the top priority of the Assembly in particular and the state government in general.

She Described the meeting as an eye opener for the members, and pledged that the Committee would do all that is legislatively required to achieve the 'Green-the-red initiative' in the health sector of the state.

"It is an urge for us to step up our oversight functions to ensure that more funds are released for improved performance in the health budget."

In a presentation, the leader of the team and Executive Director, DIG Foundation, Chief Oliver Chima Aja, revealed that out of the N9 billion approved health budget for the state Ministry of Health in 2024, only N9 million, representing 0.10% was released in first quarter.

He also stressed that apart from the State Health Insurance Agency which got N41,164,312.7 out of its approved budget of N470,000,000, representing 8.8%, no other Department and Agency got any releases from their approved budget throughout the first quarter.

Observing that the trend seemed to have been a reccuring situation in health budget for some past years in the state, Aja described the development as unhealthy for the performance of the sector.

He however expressed optimism that with the ongoing revolution in the sector by the present administration in the state, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel, especially when subsequent quarter performance reports would be released.
He charged the legislators to continue, not only in passing health friendly budgets but in ensuring that the budgets are implemented through prompt release of funds.

 "This engagement today, is to draw your attention to issues affecting the health sector especially with regard to budget releases as this team recognizes the role of legislatures in fixing it. 

"Ebonyi State has never fulfilled the 2001 Abuja declaration of allocating 15% budget to health, and budget releases for the sector; for instance, Ministry of health had less than 1% annual capital budget release in 2022, EBSPHCDA and other sister agencies/Institutions had 0% capital budget performances in 2022, & 2024 Q1, except EBSHIA.

"We therefore, call on the House Leadership to Make personal commitment (s) to support achieving the Green-The-Red project Objectives 

"Make Health sector budget releases as one of the agenda for deliberation at the House sittings. 

"Strengthening legislative oversight and Executive cooperation to ensure improved budgetary releases to health sector, at least 70% by the end of 2024 budget implementation.

"Influence the Executive to pay 100% State Government Counterpart fund for Social Health Insurance Scheme and Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), and 70 percent release of state health equity fund/deduction of payroll funds for formal sector workers."

Also at the meeting was the House of Assembly Committee Chairman on Public Accounting, Mrs Chinyere Nwogbaga, representing Ebonyi Northeast state constituency and other relevant committee members.

Other Cluster members of the project are Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Centre (HRCRC), Faith Counseling Organization (FCO), Methodist Care Ministry (MCM),  Dawa and Guidance Bureau of Nigeria (DGBN), Abraham Children Foundation (ACF), Technology for Transformative Development (TTD) and Ohinya Global Resources Consultamcy Ltd, all members of Ebonyi State Network of Civil Societies.

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