By Ndidi Chukwu
It is now becoming clearer how broke the Federal Ministry of Health has been in the past months. So many projects have been buried in the shelf due to unavailability of funds to implement them. Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of health is obviously doing “the cover up games” in the way it carries out some of its responsibilities.
Another group to suffer the “no money” problem affecting the Ministry of Health’s programmes is the 250 Nigeria Ebola Volunteers who returned from Sierra Leone and Liberia after combating the deadly Ebola Virus. Ten days after these volunteers on Ebola frontlines who have been celebrated by Several International Organisations and the African Union returned from Liberia and Sierra Leone to their country, their stay at hotels in Abuja was cut short after allegations that their accommodation bills were not paid. Many of them who had booked flights to leave Abuja on Tuesday were delayed after hotels insisted their bills weren’t paid by the federal health ministry.
One of the nurses on the contingent who returned to Lagos on Tuesday confirmed to Health Reporters that her online flight booking ran into difficulties after hotel management tried to stop her leaving. Other payments to the contingents themselves were also outstanding, but concessions were made to enable them catch their flights while the ministry processed payment. The nurse said the ministry promised outstanding debts would be paid ahead of their early flights Tuesday morning.
“They asked me to write a note of undertaking and send my bank account number,” she said.
the leadership of the Ministry could not be reached for comments and the head of Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control Dr Abdulsalami Nasidi would not respond to questions by phone when contacted.
But the Director Press for the FMoH, Mrs. Ayo Adesugba, when contacted late Wednesday said debts have been paid. She said “I have it on good authority that the bills have been settled”
The contingents had reportedly spent more than 22 days minimum and six weeks maximum in their Liberian and Sierra Leonean stations after their work finished while preparing for their return trip. They all went beyond the period “by regulation,” said Sani-Gwarzo when he met the flight carrying the contingents at 2.38am on the morning of Sunday May 24. But officials still wanted to “apply the same scrutiny to give Nigerians the assurance that nobody is bringing in Ebola again,” he added. The contingents’ hotel stay did not amount to a 21-day period required to observe symptoms, or the 42-day period required for observation in the event that the last confirmed case of Ebola is reported before a country is declared free.