Nigeria’s 2021 Health Budget Proves Lessons Have Not Been Learnt
The COVID-19 pandemic was taken on board as though Nigeria will step up from there and learn critical lessons, however the 2021 budget’s health allocation shows otherwise.
In the appropriation bill for the next year, the health sector got just 4.52% of the entire budget, amounting to N592.16bn. This budget when broken down means a paltry sum of N2960 is allocated to every Nigerian’s health for one year. A further mathematical breakdown proves that just N246 is what is spent on Nigerians’ health per month.
The budget, amounting to N13.08 trillion has once again disregarded the importance of the health sector, reduced the basic healthcare provision fund once again, and failed to live up to the 15% agreement of member nations of the African Union. In the year 2001, in Abuja, the Nigerian federal capital territory, member nations reached an agreement on spending at least 15% of their budgets on the health sector.
While many African countries do not strictly follow this, countries like South Africa are making concerted efforts to make provisions available for the development of its health sector. Despite having just over one-third of Nigeria’s population with about 68 million South Africans, its budget is 6 times bigger than Nigeria’s with 12.5% of the budget allocated to its health sector.
The sustainability of the 15% budget for health has been argued, with many health experts saying it’s not an achievable target. However, Nigeria has shown little to no interest in getting close to the 15%. With the challenges posed by COVID-19, one would expect that a certain amount of money will be allocated to battling it and preventing a recurrence. Health structures and systems are faring badly in Nigeria with poor structures and systems threatening to be the biggest challenge.
Basic Healthcare Provision Fund, expected to help fund the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the Primary Healthcare Centres have failed to yield proper dividends. The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is also struggling to accommodate Nigerians, with the funds provided poorly spent or not used at all. From N55bn in 2018, N51.2bn in 2019, N44bn in 2020, and N35.3bn in the 2021 budget, the BHCPF has constantly reduced and this shows an even more careless approach to health by the federal government.
The state of our healthcare sector was laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic but it looks as though lessons have not been learnt with the health sector still treated with flaky wrists and Nigerians subjected to catering for themselves. A survey of the opinions of medical experts suggests that the budget is one of the greatest problems of the Nigerian health sector and unless this is improved upon and execution monitored holistically, not much is there to be hoped for in the health sector in 2021.