Senator Kabiru Marafa on Tuesday narrated how the Former Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu and his Permanent secretary diverted N500 million meant to cater for the health needs of Zamfara state. Marafa made this revelation when the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole appeared in the chamber of the Senate to brief them on the dwindling condition of teaching hospitals. In his narration, the Zamfara Senator said the funds were instead used to provide mosquito nets in Enugu state.
Marafa recounted: “In 2012, the Medical director in FMC Gusau came to my office and said he was there to greet me after defending his budget. After the greeting, he said, do you notice that Zaria to Gusau is about 200 km and from Gusau to Sokoto is another 200km, I said what has it got to do with me? He said from Zaria to Sokoto is 400km and in between, the only place to stop is Gusau in Zamfara state. As I speak to you, Federal Medical Centre in Gusau, Zamfara state is lacking medical facilities of so many vital equipments. And God forbid if anybody is travelling on that road and for whatever reason, he has an accident in between, he has to be either ferried back to Zaria or taken to Sokoto which is a distance of 200 km either way.
“I asked what I could do to assist, he said there is some equipment we need to put in Federal Medical center, Gusau. I asked him to do the costing. He did it and came with a figure of N300 million at that time. Having come from Zamfara which is the North-West, the zone whose senators and members receive less in constituency projects. My threshold is about N197million so I went cap in hand, begging and went to the then Senate President, Senator David Mark, I told him the same thing the Medical director told me, he graciously approved that I be given the remaining part to reach that N300 million which I now domiciled in Federal Medical Centre, Gusau to purchase the critical equipment so that in the event of an accident which we don’t know whom it is going to be, now people can be attended to without necessarily taking them to Zaria or Sokoto.”
He continued: “Honourable minister, through 2012, 2013, 2014, up till 2015, that project did not see the light of the day. Even after the monies were paid 100%. That year, I could remember, only myself, and Senator Chukwumerieje of blessed memory domiciled our project in the Ministry of health. His own N25 million while I put the whole N300million and the monies were paid to the Ministry of health completely during Jonathan’s administration. But what happened, the then Minister of Health, Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu took the money belonging to Federal Medical center, Gusau and took it in active connivance with his permanent secretary to buy mosquito net in Enugu State.”
Marafa noted that when the current administration came on board, he wrote a petition to Mr. President and minuted it to the Health Minister but “in 2015, you promised me that you were going to address this issue. Since 2015 up till now 2019, I am retiring, the money belonging to the people of Zamfara state is missing, nowhere to be found and we have not benefited. Now, we can hear the failures from Zamfara state.”
On a second issue related to the NHIS, Marafa said in 2017, he put the “whole of my constituency project of about N200 million in NHIS because I learnt of the advantage, till today the story has been we have to get a letter from NHIS, from SGF office, we have to do this and that. To me, it is like a gang up against the people of Zamfara state by the Ministry of Health to deny us of this money. Senators and members of the house of representatives are always being blackmailed in the name of pocketing constituency project allowance,” the Senator lamented.
In response, the Health Minister apologized saying, “I did confess I used to run away from you when I see you coming because it has to do with what happened in the past and as the minister, the last thing I want to do is start investigating the past. I talked to the MD who said we should make provision in our budget to buy this equipment because we cannot reopen what has happened in the past. I will not condone it has happened. I want to plead with you as I have done privately to let us bury this case, to sake provision so we can still acquire this equipment. We will get it there. I want to make this final apology.” Adewole indicated that he was unaware of the NHIS issue. “I am hearing it for the first time,” he said.