The outcry is coming on the backdrop of an investigative report by TheCable exposing how health officials were found selling free malaria drugs to patients in PHCs located in Kwara, Osun, and Borno states.
Public Health Consultant, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi, condemned the development during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.
Reacting to the corruption at the PHCs, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi stated authoritatively that the selling of free malaria drugs to unsuspecting patients is being replicated in other states of the federation and not just in Kwara, Osun, and Borno states.
He said some of the over thirty thousand PHCs scattered all over Nigeria had become disastrous and unfit for even animals to inhabit, noting that corruption has worsened malaria intervention programmes in Nigeria, hence no value for humongous funds spent to fight the disease.
To ensure PHCs in Nigeria function maximally, the Medical Practitioner called on the Federal Government to create more awareness and provide rural dwellers who primarily assess healthcare at PHCs are involved in the running of the centers, as well as a review of health policies in Nigeria.
“Information is key. The point is that most patients who came for these services never knew it was free. So the government has been doling out money, but the people are not aware of all that, nor are they aware of what they are entitled to.
“How many Nigerians know the components of the minimum packages for health on the PHC level? He questioned.
In proffering a solution, Ifeanyi stated: “Each PHC is located in a community, it’s in a ward; so what we are going to do is set up the aboriginal people there who will be the board members of that small primary healthcare center in the community. They help you look into the day-to-day running of the PHC, and that way, the Federal Ministry of Health, the NPHCDA can get real-time feedback, it becomes more interactive, the people take ownership of these interventions.”
To further reduce corruption in Nigeria’s health system, Ifeanyi added that Nigeria must entrench processes, review systems, and interrogate disparities in the health sector. “If we have processes and procedures, it will not permit diversion of public products to private enterprises.
“If you take out the entire global resources and put it in the Nigerian health system, it will fail. People will never be able to get value for money. The entire system has collapsed and requires an urgent review.”
On his part, a journalist with TheCable, Samad Uthman, said the swindling of patients at PHCs continues to gain ground in communities due to a lack of information and exposure of the rural dwellers, adding that closing the information gap between the government and the people will go a long way in helping citizens withstand extortion at PHCs nationwide.
Uthman revealed that in some PHCs in Borno state, patients pay between N500 to N1500 for free antimalarial drugs; in some PHCs in Osun, citizens are charged between N1000 to N1500; while in Kwara, unsuspecting patients part with N2000 to N2500.
Nigerians that called into radio the programme also condemned the sale of free antimalaria drugs at PHCs and the prevalence of corruption in the health sector.
It will be recalled that in November 2021, Borno state governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, was said to have discovered two primary health centers where officials were found extorting patients and collecting money for services and drugs meant to be free.
It is noteworthy that the Federal Government secured a $364 million credit facility from three multilateral banks, the World Bank, African Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank, to fund health sector interventions in 13 states for five years (2020–2024) against malaria.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.