President Buhari after a meeting with a team from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and Global Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) in Abuja earlier on Tuesday communicated the message to the CEOs through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
The agencies have been under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after a report from the Inspector General Office of the Global Fund accused them of financial misappropriation and systemic inefficiency.
The agencies and their CEOs include: Prof. John Idoko of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA); Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA); Prof. Innocent Ujah of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos; Dr. Abdulsalami Nasidi of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC); and Mr. Olufemi Akingbade of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
The Guardian reliably gathered that the team from GAVI and Global Fund insisted that President Buhari sacked the CEOs as part of reassurances and conditions for continued funding of the suspended health projects.
However, Buhari has approved the appointment of new heads to the five critical Federal Government health agencies, even as the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was conspicuously left out.
Director of Press in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Bolaji Adebiyi, in a statement, yesterday, gave the names of the new helmsmen as: Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu to head the NCDC; Dr. Sani Aliyu as new Director General of NACA; Prof. Babatunde Lawal Salako as new CEO of NIMR; Prof. Echezona Ezeanolue as new Executive Director of NPHCDA; and Prof. Usman Yusuf as new Executive Secretary of NHIS.
Ihekweazu was before the appointment, the Managing Partner of EpiAfric, a public health consultancy firm that focuses on Africa. He obtained his medical degree at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1996 and had worked in Berlin, Germany, the United Kingdom and in South Africa before he established his consulting firm in 2014.
Aliyu is currently a Consultant in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Cambridge University, United Kingdom. He got his medical degree from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1993. Aliyu worked as a medical officer at the State House Medical Centre, Abuja and from there moved to Cambridge in 1998. He rose through the ranks until he became a Consultant in Microbiology.
Salako is currently the Provost, College of Medicine at the University of Ibadan. He graduated from the same University in 1986, a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians in both Edinburg and London. He is also a member of an International Panel of Experts, United States Institute of Disease Control in Atlanta.
Ezeanolue is currently a Professor of Paediatrics and Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, United States (U.S.). He got his medical degree at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1995. He did his paediatric internship and residency at the Howard University, Washington DC, US and obtained his Fellowship in Paediatric Infectious Disease from New Jersey Medical School. He moved to Nevada in 2005 where he remains to date practising Paediatric medicine.
Yusuf is currently a Professor of Paediatrics at St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S. He graduated in medicine from ABU and worked in the University Teaching Hospital from 1984 to 1989. Yusuf worked in the United Kingdom from 1990 to 1995 from where he moved first to South Carolina, U.S., where he rose to become a fellow in Paediatric Hematology/Oncology in 1998. He is a Fellow of Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the West African College of Physicians and the American Academy of Physicians.
Meanwhile, President Buhari said on Thursday that despite Nigeria’s shortcomings, he was impressed with the patience and steadfastness of the country’s leading supporters for healthcare delivery. He said that the lapses that have characterised Nigeria as a nation would be corrected.
“We are making genuine efforts to correct the lapses. We are very serious about people behaving themselves, and being accountable,” said Buhari while receiving a team led by Dr. Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer of GAVI and The Global Fund in State House, Abuja.
“We thank you for deciding to re-engage with us, despite our inefficiencies. You decided to be here, not minding our shortcomings. There are other countries that would bring fewer problems. We appreciate your commitment, and we will do our best to put ourselves in the best shape to help us,” President Buhari said.
GAVI and Global Fund had in the last two years alleged shortcomings and corruption, which was discovered by both by Nigerian officials in the handling of grants from the Non Government Organisations (NGOs) amounting to several millions of dollars. Only this year, Global Fund suspended its Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) grants to NACA.
Berkley, who noted that the three focal points of the Buhari administration; security, economic development, and anti-corruption were critical to the future of Nigeria, had raised issues over the way donor funds for health care were utilised in the past. He said Gavi and the Global Fund were disappointed when forensic audit revealed systemic weaknesses and corruption in the utilisation of funds given in the past, adding that there is now a “breath of fresh air” under President Buhari’s leadership and fight against corruption and they were willing to “close the books of the past, and look into future support.”
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who was also at the event, disclosed that those indicted in the audit of the donor funds in the past, which was done between 2010 and 2015, had already been questioned by the EFCC, and would be arraigned in court soon.