By Ndidi Chukwu
Ensuring availability of funds for Immunization activities in Africa and Nigeria requires inter-sectoral approach, this was the Sabin Vaccine Initiative and National Immunization Financing Task Team (NIFT) goal for organizing Anglophone Peer Review Workshop for Sustainable Immunization in Africa. Five African countries participated in this event to chat ways on how countries can sustain their immunization programs. Kano State Commissioner of Finance, Professor Kabiru Isa Dandago participated in the workshop, he shared the Kano experience in this exclusive interview with Health Reporters. Excerpt:
Financing Immunization needs sustainability in Africa and Nigeria, you have participated in this workshop for sustainable immunization financing, how does it improved your understanding about immunization programmes in Nigeria?
It is educative, it is informative and interesting. This is an event that is emphasizing on the need to sustain financing of immunization, and immunization is not enjoying the attention of most of the countries in Africa including Nigeria. You find children growing up without being immunized against diseases and that is the reason why children are not surviving as they should, the hardship of life is too much because they have not had the required protection against diseases. Immunization requires money, therefore enough money should be made available for it and that budget should be increased. There is increasing population which should match up with the demand and increasing expenditure, which will protect the children from vaccine preventable diseases.
This Anglophone peer review workshop has opened my eyes and made me understand that Africa get more funding for immunization from donor and the domestic contribution is low. This is very unfortunate and Nigerian government and government of other countries have to understand that we have to take care of ourselves, too much dependence on donors only reduces our relevance as a nation. This is very important and it is something I think every Nigerian should advocate for. When I got the invitation to participate I was thinking of the relevance to my job as an accountant and economists participating in a primary health care program, but I have come to understandthe importance of me being in this meeting and the role I have to play as a Commissioner of Finance. We have to make our inputs to ensure that we understand the budgeting cycle and the immunization program plan.
How your understanding of the Immunization program plan will influence your inputs for immunization allocation during budgeting?
This will guarantee effective programme implementation and effective auditing. There is an auditing system which we use for expenditure tracking or resource tracking to ensure that whatever amount is budgeted for immunization is used for that purpose. Just as we have to make sure that whatever fund allocated to any project goes to that project, another thing I learnt from the Anglophone peer sharing workshop is the fact that the Sustainable Immunization Financing needs key people to champion it. They should be members of the legislators, the executive arm of government and practitioners. I was happy to hear to see the Senate Committee Chairman on Primary Health Care, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa giving assurance that he will try his best to make sure immunization is prioritized. He also pledged to fight for Nigerian children to see that they are immunized and he will be a very big champion for that. This is a good commitment, if all the legislators can reason like him, we have the confidence health will be a priority in Nigeria.
Talking about immunization financing, what is the status in Kano State, has the funds for immunization been released yet, and what was budgeted?
Kano state government is very serious about health matters especially immunization. In the year 2015, the state budgeted N3billion, for 2016we budgeted N16 billion, this is an increase of about N13billion this goes to show that the governor is very concerned about health care, and immunization for our young children.
Has there been any form of funds releases yet in Kano State?
In Kano we make sure we record 100% performance of our budget and when you talk about budget performance you are talking about making sure that what has been approved has actually been released. The government has been releasing funds meant for health care particularly immunization. We received donations from donor agencies and we always make sure that we don’t touch the money, they are used for the purposed in which they are being given to the state. There will be no problem with auditing, accounting and releases. You can be rest assured that in Kano state we will continue to improve on our budget. We are aware that Bauchi state allocated 16% of its annual budget to health, Kano state is 8% but we will improve on that. You can imagine what the percentage was last year when the sector got only N3 billion, it was not more than 2%. Kano state government has a lot of concern on health care delivery, and education.
Kano state Governor signed MoU with Mr. Bill Gates and AlhajiAlikoDangote, in his comment he said he will ensure that the state part of the counterpart agreement would be released by the end of January, what has been done since he made this pledge?
The Commissioner for Health is with me now, he is not even aware that we have released our counter-part funding and we have opened an account where the donor will make their contributions that have been done recently. In Kano state with don’t play with counterpart funding once we have given that assurance and we will redeem it.
Speaking about accountability and transparency, CSOs and the Media need to be carried along; do you see it as something that can be possible in your state, to the extent of you practicing open budget planning process?
What we need most is political will of the governor, he is someone that believes in accountability and transparency and he demonstrates it to the highest level, so if the governor can show it, we as his subordinates will have to follow that. He insists that whatever anyone has to do, it has to be open, you have to be very transparent and account for him and for the general public. Whatever is meant for this project we will make sure we are transparent about it.
As routine Immunization Champion, what will you do differently to ensure that there are adequate funds for immunization funds andare released on time?
I can assure you that the moment funds are budgeted for immunization and it is brought to my ministry, I will issue the warrant for the amount to be released, I will champion this cause for health care delivery and sustainable immunization financing in Kano state. I will see to it that if the country will form a group for advocacy for sustainable immunization, I will make sure Kano state is really involved.