By Moses Emorinken, Abuja
The Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) have expressed concerns about a recent publication by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), concerning the procurement of antiretroviral drugs for the management of HIV infection.
NEPWHAN, which is an umbrella body addressing the needs of people living with HIV and are in need of antiretroviral drugs for the effective management of HIV in Nigeria, have described the publication as unsubstantiated allegations.
The National Coordinator of NEPWHAN, Abdulkadir Ibrahim, who made this known in a statement on Friday in Abuja, noted that the publication politicizes the care of members of the Network in ways that draws undue negative attention to simple life saving needs of Nigerians who continue to contribute meaningfully to the development and growth of the country.
According to the statement, “The publication politicizes the care of members of the Network in ways that draws undue negative attention to simple life saving needs of Nigerians who continue to contribute meaningfully to the development and growth of the country. Worse, is the failure of CISLAC to present factual information. This may be because they are not primarily a Civil Society working in the HIV sector and therefore are not aware of the issues they discuss publicly.
“CISLAC stated that contractors are frustrating the efforts of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) to purchase antiretroviral directly from the manufacturers and alluded to a relationship between those they refer to as faceless contractors, who have a relationship with NEPWHAN; and who use NEPWHAN to secretly obstruct and frustrate NACA’s efforts from directly purchasing from manufacturers.
“We take exception to this false allegation and will like to set the facts straight. On 27 of August, 2020 NEPWHAN had officially written to the office of Director General of NACA to request an update on the progress being made with the N1.3 billion allocated to it through the 2019 budget for the procurement of antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV.
“The office of the Director General of NACA responded that the drugs will arrive in Nigeria at the end of October 2020. The procurement process however, required that full payment be made before delivery of the drugs.
“At no point in the official communication with the office of the Director General of NACA did NEPWHAN raise concern about drug procurement procedures. We are interested in the timely delivery of antiretroviral drugs for Nigerians living with HIV to ensure uninterrupted supplies.”
It added, “The publication by CISLAC sadly opens up a can of worms that raises issues of illegality about the direct procurement concerns raised by the Director General of NACA. First, CISLAC noted that the cost of the drug is $7 (exclusive of all importation and distribution logistic costs) while local contractors sell at $13 (inclusive of all importation, distribution and employment opportunities to Nigeria related costs). The direct procurement plan will likely only have made marginal gains from the transaction to the loss of job opportunities for Nigeria.
“NEPWHAN does not in any way support unsubstantiated allegations of corrupt practices in the drug procurement systems in Nigeria. It also supports all efforts to address corruption and mitigate ways it erodes accountability and effective use of resources. We however think CISLAC damning accusations with no evidence puts Nigerians in extremely negative light which is not good for the image mending efforts of the current administration.
“Sadly, the cost saving efforts of NACA has failed to follow due process. They are therefore guilty of breeching procurement protocols by making payments of about N1billion without a “No Objection” approval from the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Federal Executive Council. The non-adherence to procurement due process is a concern to NEPWHAN as a member of the NACA Board like it is to other Civil Society members of the Board. This should also be a concern to a legal body like CISLAC.
“CISLAC raises concern about NEPWHAN’s correspondence with the National Assembly. NEPWHAN did correspond with the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health about the poor quality of care provided for its members in Abia and Taraba States, the only two states the country manages its HIV program in Nigeria.
“The Global Fund will focus on commodity procurement and supplies including treatment in Ebonyi and Anambra States while The PEPFAR (a program run by the United States Government) will handle HIV treatment in 33 States. NEPWHAN recognizes that this poor quality of care results in part from the failure of the program to be handled by the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCP), under the Federal Ministry of Health who are responsible for hospital administration and management.
“NACA manages the non-health related HIV response. Their continued management of drug procurement and treatment management in a domain they have no operational jurisdiction over undermines their efficiency and effectiveness. NEPWHAN will not only hold the government accountable to its mandate, but also suggest how best to serve the needs of our community members. This is what we have done of which CISLAC sadly refers to as blackmail.
“This correspondence is to correct the mis-information about NEPWHAN projected by CISLAC. Their poor understanding of the HIV management and control system reflects in their poor representation of data about the burden of HIV in Nigeria.”