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I Didn’t Divert any N300m – Fmr Minister

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The former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has denied allegation that he diverted N300m meant for medical equipment in Zamfara to Enugu state, he described Senator Kabiru Marafa, representing Zamfara Central, who allegedly accused him as a blatant liar.

He added that Senator Marafa’s claim is mischievous, baseless and an attempt to score political point after failing woefully in his 8 years as a senator.

It would be recalled that Senator Marafa had at plenary, accused the former Minister of conniving with the then Permanent Secretary in his ministry to divert N300 million constituency project fund meant for the procurement of equipment for the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Gusau, to his alleged home state of Enugu.

Prof. Chukwu, who wondered why neither Senator Marafa nor the current Minister of Health had never approached him for his explanations on the issue, accused  Senator Marafa of being mischievous and playing to the gallery.

According to the Minister, “What Nigerians should be asking Distinguished Senator Marafa is why it has taken him till the end of his 8-year career in the senate to raise the matter in the melodramatic manner he did.

“Senator Marafa was merely playing politics to hoodwink his constituents who are probably demanding for accountability from their representatives given the unfortunate turn of events in Zamfara State.”

Prof. noted that he is not from Enugu State, decried being drawn into the insidious politics of ethnicity by an outgoing senator who was desperate to score cheap political points to burnish his image.

In a statement by his former Special Assistant on Media and ommunication, Dan Nwomeh, Prof. Chukwu explained that, based on the Public procurement Act of 2007, parastatals and agencies awarded contracts within their

approval thresholds, adding that: “But where the contract value was above the limit set for them, they were duty-bound to send it to the Ministerial Tenders Board, which in turn sent the contracts above its approval threshold to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”

Giving insight into what actually transpired, Prof. Chukwu recalled how the Director General of the Budget Office wrote a letter to the Federal Ministry of Health in December 2013, quoting a letter earlier written to him by Senator Marafa where he alleged that the ministry had refused to release the said fund.

Prof. Chukwu said he promptly minuted the letter to the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Finance and Accounts who stated that there was no such fund with the ministry, while producing the schedule of approved projects and funds released from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation as evidence.

He said that he consequently wrote back to the Director General of Budget Office in March 2014, informing him of the situation.

 “It was apparently this misleading letter from the Director General of the

Budget Office that Senator Marafa had been relying on for his unsubstantiated claims”, he said.

He advised Marafa to find out from other MDAs how they secured the release of their approved funds for constituency projects at the time, citing the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri, which implemented a constituency project during the same period as the Federal Medical Centre Gusau which he said traced a similar approved fund to the Office of the Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs.

“Against this background, it is obvious that the Minister of Health had no powers to divert, and could not have diverted, the funds approved for an agency for another purpose.

“And if the same due process regime is still in place today, as I believe it does, there was no basis for the purported apology tendered by the current Minister of Health on behalf the Federal Ministry of Health, then under my watch, to Senator Marafa.”

On the alleged procurement of mosquito nets for Enugu State, Chukwu also denied that the Federal Ministry of Health did not at any time procured insecticide-treated mosquito nets for any single state in the country under his stewardship.

He said that nets were mainly sourced through two channels which did not involve the ministry in the procurement process- the Global Fund and the World Bank, respectively.

Health

Psychiatrists Demand Decriminalization of Attempted Suicide 

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By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja 

Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN) President, Prof. Taiwo James Obindo, has asked for the decriminalization of attempted suicide in the country.

He made the call at a stakeholders meeting organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Specialty Healthcare on the need to prioritize and implement the Mental Health Act.

Obindo said the establishment of the National Counselling Centers all over the country in an attempt to address mental health was like putting the cart before the horse, because suicide attempt was still a criminal offense in both the Criminal Act and the Penal Code.

 

“Hence the first step would be a move to decriminalize attempted suicide.

Criminalizing  attempted Suicide has proven to be a major barrier for suicide prevention intervention service uptake. 

“The archaic law, inherited from our Colonial masters, in an attempt to stop the act of suicide did not address the thoughts and social determinants of Suicide. Significant evidence showed that 90% of those who take their lives through suicide had a background history of Mental Health Conditions; out of which 80% are attributable to Depression due to various bio-psycho-social aetiologies. 

“Why do we, as a Nation, then punish individuals who are ill and need medical attention rather than prosecution? It will shock you to know that Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is lagging behind as quite a number of our neighbouring nations have abrogated that law.

“Establishing a Counselling center, without abrogating this archaic law would put, even the counselors at risk because the law also prescribes penalties for those who are aware of the plan but did not report,” he said.

The psychiatrists Association President called for the implementation of the Mental Health Act, which he said was a product of legislation that went through rigorous processes by the legislature, assented to by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2022, and has been gazetted as a law in the Country. 

This, he said, would address the “many years of neglect of this important aspect of our nationhood.”

Obindo said a requirement for the effective implementation of the Act was the establishment of a Mental Health Services Department in the Federal Ministry of Health. 

“It will shock you to hear that, more than a year later, the department is yet to be established. Most of, if not all, the items in your plan are meant to be supervised by this department in obedience to the rule of law! Hence, the establishment of the department is germane to the success of all your plans,” he said.

He said the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria was an umbrella body of all Psychiatrists in the Country and other allied Practitioners. 

He said they have been at the forefront of campaigns and advocacy for global best practices.

He lauded the Committee for the initiative, saying when well-implemented, would positively impact the hitherto neglected Mental Health, persons affected by Mental Health Conditions, and Mental Health Practitioners. 

Chairman of the Committee on  Special Healthcare, Dr Alex Egbona, said all stakeholders must partner to address mental health challenges and other related health cases.

The lawmaker said the committee was created to provide the requisite legislative frameworks for improved healthcare delivery in Nigeria.

He said the session was a collaborative initiative of the committee to share its mandate and planned activities with identified relevant institutions and organisations.

“I, therefore, solicit the support and partnership of all stakeholders, our development partners, international NGOs, and CSOs, you are all urged to take interest in building the capacity of the committee members and staff to enhance the efficacy of the committee.

“Consider our five thematic areas of Mental Health, Trauma and Obstetrics Fistula, Oral Health and ENT, Blood Transfusion, Blood and Management, Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicine and engage the committee for maximum impact,” he said.

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Health

WHO Expresses Concern over Monkey Pox Outbreak in DRC

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25,318 suspected cases of monkey pox, including 1,204 deaths, have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since the declaration of monkey pox outbreak in December 2022.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

According to the latest report, the outbreak, which was declared by the DRC Health Ministry on Dec.

16, 2022, was prompted by a notable surge in cases and fatalities associated with monkey pox as well as a fast spread to non-endemic provinces.

Since the beginning of 2024, a total of 5,133 suspected cases, including 321 deaths, have been reported, according to the WHO report. It warns that the current situation of the outbreak in the DRC is of “grave concern” due to the sustained increase in suspected cases compared to previous years.

It added that with a significant burden in younger populations, particularly children under 15 years of age, who constitute the majority of both suspected cases and deaths.

In April 2024, a high-level emergency regional meeting on monkey pox in Africa was convened in DRC capital Kinshasa, gathering 12 health ministers of regional countries, aiming to develop common strategies to prevent and intervene effectively in the face of monkey pox in Africa.

“We must prevent the DRC from becoming the source of cross-border transmission, and our partnership must prioritise the health of those affected,’’ said Jean Kaseya, the director general of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) at the meeting.

“Over the years, monkey pox has become a real public health problem for our communities in the DRC, a regional threat and ultimately a global problem.

“We must now mobilise to resolve this crisis,” said Roger Kamba, DRC minister of public health, hygiene and prevention, said at the meeting.

Monkey pox, first detected in laboratory monkeys in 1958, is assumed to be transmitted from wild animals such as rodents to people or from human to human (Xinhua/NAN)

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WHO Warns of ‘Bloodbath’ as Rafah Offensive Looms

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of dire consequences if Israel goes ahead with an impending military operation in Rafah.

The planned push into the southern border city of Rafah would lead to “a bloodbath,” the organization wrote on X, formerly twitter on Saturday

The WHO said that more than 1.

2 million people were currently sheltering in the area, many unable to move anywhere else.

“A new wave of displacement would exacerbate overcrowding, further limiting access to food, water, health and sanitation services, leading to increased disease outbreaks, worsening levels of hunger, and additional loss of lives.

According to the WHO, only 33  per cent of Gaza’s 36 hospitals and 30 per cent of primary health care Centre’s were functional in some capacity amid repeated attacks and shortages of vital medical supplies, fuel, and staff.

WHO calls for an immediate and lasting ceasefire and the removal of the obstacles to the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance into and across Gaza, at the scale that is required.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to launch an offensive in Rafah to eliminate the remaining strongholds of Hamas.

The organisation said that although Israel’s allies have repeatedly urged caution, as a large majority of the approximately 2.2 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have fled to the south during the war. (dpa/NAN)

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