– As Sacked Exc. Sec, Others Panic, As GAVI Pledges To Make More Revelations
By Chris RICHARDS, Abuja
Last year’s damning report by Global Alliance on Vaccines, GAVI, a donor agency over massive fraud going on at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, which indicted top Government officials, may have been suppressed, but there are strong indications that the NPHCDA is not yet out of the woods, as the Economic and Financial crimes Commission, EFCC, may have reopened investigations of the matter.
Our correspondent reports that, shortly after the report was made public by GAVI in 2014, spirited attempts were made to suppress the issue in the media, against the insistence by the donor agency, that officials of the NPHCDA, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Health, which supervises it may have compromised its activities through massive corruption leading to the delay in the eradication of polio disease in Nigeria.
Investigations reveal that, President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent hammer on the head of the agency, Dr Ado Mohammed, may not be unconnected with reports that, NPHCDA which handles all international grants in addition to other juicy domestic funding provides easy cash for its overseers and those mandated to run its daily affairs, especially the Executive Director, who approves all payments out of the agency’s purse.
Sources confirmed to nationalTRAIL that, shortly after the Executive Secretary was sacked along with other seventeen heads of Government parastatals, that, the GAVI controversy has been referred to the EFCC for further investigations to ascertain the truth or otherwise of reports that, because of the material benefits from grants, there has been a deliberate cover up frustrating the eradication of polio disease completely.
This is coming against the background that, GAVI has given its words to cooperate with the new management of NPHCDA in exposing the rot, which has been militating against the total eradication of polio from Nigeria.
nationalTRAIL had earlier reported that, during past administrations, the Subsidy Re-Investment Programme SURE-P funds was also diverted from the Federal Ministry of health to NPHCDA and the funds may have been used to acquire its new well furnished office in Area 11, the contract for which was awarded to top politicians and their cronies instead of the money being used to address challenges in the health sector.
Donor agencies like Rotary International, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the World Bank, United Nations Children Education Fund UNICEF, Global Alliance on Vaccines GAVI and a host of others have sunk over $1billion into the fight against the polio disease however cases of the disease are still being reported in the country, with Nigeria being one of the few countries in the world still harboring the virus notwithstanding billions of naira sunk into National Immunization plus Days NIPDS, procurement of vaccines and other logistics meant for the eradication of polio.
Only last year, the Federal Government has celebrated the report of the total eradication of polio from Nigeria, even when there was a controversy over the prevalence of polio in the country between the Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory Primary Healthcare Board and the NPHCDA over cases of polio that were recorded in the FCT.
According to reports, the FCT Healthcare Board had reported a number of cases of polio which the NPHCDA had denied. This denial has become common practice in the fight against polio since polio disease eradication has become lucrative business.
It would be recalled that while the National Programme on Immunization NPI was an independent body from the NPHCDA immunization coverage dropped from about 90 per cent to almost 20 per cent with the northern states rejecting the vaccines.
The then Chief Executive of NPI Dere Awosika was found guilty of diverting millions of naira meant for polio eradication which led to her subsequent removal from office. NPI was later merged with NPHCDA to become one body; however the NPI office still serves as an annex to NPHCDA.
When Titi Adelekan, a cousin of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was Executive Director of NPHCDA massive looting was alleged to have continued in the agency and the EFCC under its former leaders was alleged to have been compromised to keep the matter under wraps. She was subsequently removed from office. This development paved way for Dr. Mohammed Pate from the World Bank to take over as ED.
Pate and the then Minister of Finance were both staff of the World Bank and also members of President Jonathan’s economic team. The duo used their international connection to attract a lot of funding for polio eradication. Immunization coverage improved appreciably during the tenure of Dr. Pate who had convinced northern Emirs and their subjects to accept the polio vaccine.
There were a lot of activities during his tenure and not less than N2billion was spent on every NIPDs. As allowances were being doled out to participants they got carried away and preferred that the largesse should not cease. As a result false immunization coverage figures were being churned out to ensure that donors keep on sending in money for the exercise.
This did not go down well with the World Health Organization WHO which chided Nigerian authorities over the continued prevalence of polio in the country. One of the donor agencies Global Vaccine Alliance GAVI also discovered the fraud that was being perpetrated and has asked for a refund. Investigations were opened but immediately closed over the matter.
Following GAVi’s disclosures, the NPHCDA ensured that the matter was not celebrated in the media, and allegedly gave out several millions of Naira to media consultants and go between to suppress the matter. We called the attention of President Buhari in one of our reports on the matter, which may have informed his hammer on the chief Executive Officer of NPHCDA, Dr Ado Mohammed.