Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, urging him to “urgently provide information about details of actual spending of allocations to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, (LUTH) Idi Araba and other 20 federal teaching hospitals and 20 federal medical centres across the country, for the period covering 2010 to 2017.
The organization said, “The information should include details of spending on specific projects and facilities at LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres under the direct control of the Ministry of Health. We would be grateful if the information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP shall take appropriate legal action to compel you to comply with our request.”
In the letter dated 14 September 2018 and signed by SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale, the organization said: “Despite huge budgetary allocations, many of the teaching hospitals and medical centres under the direct control of your Ministry have been left to fall apart and health care facilities in many of these hospitals lack even the most basic of amenities. Ordinary Nigerians have derived appallingly little benefit from all of the allocations, in terms of access to basic healthcare, showing a failure to respect and ensure the right to health and human dignity in the country.”
According to the organization, “We need a ‘paradigm shift’ and little short of a ‘healthcare revolution’ in the country to end decades of mismanagement, corruption and neglect in the health sector and to improve access of millions of Nigerians to adequate healthcare and treatment. The status quo is simply unacceptable. Ensuring transparency in the spending of allocations to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres would contribute hugely to charting a way forward in this regard.”
The FOI request read in part: “As trustee of public funds, your Ministry has a legal duty to render account on the specific details of spending of capital allocations to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres under the direct control of the Ministry to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so. Any failure or refusal to render account will also be clearly inconsistent with the attitude of a government that has repeatedly expressed commitment to the fight against corruption, and to transparency and accountability.”
“As a key agency of government, the Ministry of Health has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s allocations to the health sector are used solely to achieve adequate access to healthcare services for all Nigerians and residents. This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption, mismanagement and neglect, and to honour Freedom of Information requests on the spending of allocations to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres across the country.”
“The disclosure of the information requested will give SERAP and the general public a true picture on how the allocations to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres have been spent to improve medical facilities and infrastructure in these hospitals and medical centres and to facilitate enjoyment of the right to basic healthcare by all Nigerians, especially the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population.”“SERAP notes approved capital allocations since 2010 to your Ministry as follows: N49.99 billion for 2010; N33.53 billion for 2011; N57.01 billion for 2012; N60.08 billion for 2013; N49.52 billion for 2014; N22.68 billion for 2015; N22.65 billion for 2016; and N55.61 billion for 2017.”
“According to our information and latest research, despite approved capital allocations of trillions of naira over the years to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres under the direct control of the Ministry of Health, these hospitals have been left to crumble and wither away and Nigerians have suffered greatly from the decay of these vital public services.”“Millions of Nigerian children are believed to die each year before the age of five, and most of those children lose their lives to diseases that are easily preventable or treatable at low cost. Nigeria is third highest in infant mortality rate in the world.”
“Healthcare services in the country remain extremely poor. Nigeria is rated 187th out of 191 countries in terms of health care delivery. One-third of more than 700 health facilities in the country have been destroyed because of many years of corruption, mismanagement and neglect, and that about 3.7 million people are in need of healthcare assistance.
“By virtue of Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on details of spending of allocations to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres in the country under the direct control of your Ministry, and the said information is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.”
“By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.
“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to spending of allocations to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres under the direct control of your Ministry is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.
“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of access to healthcare, development, good governance, transparency and accountability.”
“SERAP therefore requests you to provide detailed information on the spending of allocations to LUTH and other teaching hospitals and medical centres under the direct control of your Ministry, for periods covering 2010 to 2017.”
It would be recalled that SERAP last week launched its latest report titled: Failing Healthcare: How Federal Hospitals are letting Down the Poor and Making Healthcare a Privilege rather than a Right.
The report among others alleged that, “At LUTH, even bed sheets are in short supply. Patients use their wrapper for bed sheets sometimes. And when they use LUTH bed sheets, they are usually old and torn most of the time. Toilets in LUTH are centres of disease distribution. You can be sure to get urinary tract infections and the like. I am referring to the toilets in different wards.”