Participants in a conference on health financing policy in Nigeria have urged the federal government to adopt a robust and equitable distribution of pro-health taxes imposed on alcohol, tobacco and sugar sweetened beverages as a means of bridging the gap in funding of healthcare services for the people.
The conference which was organised by Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), PharmAccess Foundation, Nigeria Healthwatch and the World Bank in Abuja, had several stakeholders including, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe; the Director General of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Prof. Mohammed Nasir Sambo; the DG of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze; the First Lady of Kebbi State, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, amongst others in attendance.
The conference looked at new health financing approaches in Nigeria while focusing on the implementation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) tax in Nigeria.The President of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), Dr. Pamela Ajayi in her presentation urged government to use the opportunity of the implementation of the taxes to bridge the gap in healthcare funding in Nigeria, a move she said would significantly help in achieving the SDG goals of universal health coverage and the Abuja Declaration.
According to her, HFN had been a strong proponent for the implementation of the pro-health taxes, adding that it had written to the Minister of Finance last year to support the increase of existing taxes on alcohol and tobacco and the introduction of new taxes on SSB, highlighting countries that had successfully used such taxes to improve healthcare.
She said countries such as Philippines, Australia, and Korea amongst others had successfully implemented the policy.“HFN recommended that these taxes be used to provide coverage to the indigent population and to scale up mandatory health insurance coverage for all Nigerians with a percentage of the revenue being earmarked for specific impact health related schemes as well as research and development particularly in the areas of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer,” she said .
She also called for the creation of a legal framework to secure these funds “ring-fencing” them for healthcare and the formation of a committee with relevant stakeholders (both public and private) to ensure equitable and sustainable disbursement of the funds for the improvement of healthcare in the country.
The Country Director PharmAccess Foundation and Vice President of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), Mrs. Njide Ndili, said Nigeria needs to identify innovative and sustainable ways to finance the health sector without reliance on donor funds.
She said that funds from development partners should be seen as additional to the country’s sources of finance for health.Also speaking in an interview at the event, Mr. Kolapo Fapohunda, the West African Health Policy and Partnership Lead at Roche and Publicity Secretary of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) commended the government of Nigeria for the establishment and implementation of the SSB tax and encouraged the government to ensure the funds are earmarked for the health sector to improve access to equitable health for all Nigerians.
He further stated that just as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, the private sector has a major role to play in improving healthcare and ensuring health security of the nation.HFN is a coalition of Nigerian private healthcare sector stakeholders, an apolitical, non-partisan, non-profit organisation speaking with a unified voice for the purpose of improving the Nigerian Health Sector through advocacy.