Nigerian Health Minister Raises Doubts Over National Health Budget

With the 2016 signed budget, the health minister, Professor Isaac Adewole has raised a concern that suggests that Nigeria’s health budget is one of the lowest in the continent.

Judging from the total expenditure on health in Nigeria, the assertion might not necessarily hold water. On the other hand if we remove the quota contributed by the private sector, the supposition might just be true after all.

A while ago the Nigerian Health Minister, Isaac Adewole made a tour of state owned health facilities. The visit was reported in a rather controversial way. The report quoted the minister to have said that Nigeria’s health budget is one of the lowest in Africa. He was quoted to have also said that the Nigerian health sector is suffering from an accumulation of years of under-funding.

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“Nigeria has suffered from chronic under-funding for many years now. We are even behind South Sudan, Angola and Ethiopia.”

If this assertion by Prof. Isaac Adewole is anything to go by, then it literally means that Nigeria does not take her health sector seriously. It means that while Nigeria is not the poorest, the African nation with the highest population in the continent cannot afford to invest in the life and health of her people.

If according to his words the national health budget is lower than that of Angola with a much lower population, then there is a problem.

To completely verify the claims of the minister, there are 4 parameters to analyse Nigeria’s health budget- Total Health Spending; Government Health Spending of GDP; Government Health Spending of budget  and Health Expenditure per capita.

In terms of total health expenditure in 2014, Nigeria ranked 45th out of 55 African countries with a 3.7% health budget rate. Angola and South Sudan were the 51st and 53rd nations at 3.3% and 2.7% respectively.

However the records also showed that only 0.9 % of the 3.7% was publicly funded ( Government Health Spending /GDP).

The UN’s stipulated 15% allocation of the nation’s GDP to health has only been met by a few African countries. In 2014, Nigeria’s rating by government health spending was at 8.2%. Report shows that in the current 2016 budget, Nigeria’s health allocation takes up about 4. 64%.

Judging by expenditure per capita, Nigeria ranks 22nd with $217 per person.

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Generally speaking, Nigeria might not be doing as bad as the minister made it appear. First of, over 75% of health expenditure comes from the private sector. Dr John Ataguba also says that “the tax base in Nigeria is very small”.

“Government revenues, which are mainly derived from individual taxes and through oil revenues, are very low.”

He maintains that from all 4 parameters, the health minister, Isaac Adewole might only be right in terms of government spending on health. At a 0.9% Nigeria is definitely one of the lowest. But aside that context, the nation is not the lowest spending African nation on the health sector.