HoR: WHO Suspends ICOH Africa Jos Funding Over Transparency Issues, Summons Director Dr. Sani Balarabe

Dr. Alex Egbona Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Specialty Health Care

The House of Representatives Committee on Specialty Health Care has summoned Dr. Sani Balarabe, the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Intercountry Centre for Oral Health (ICOH) for Africa, located in Jos, to account for the funds released to the agency over the years, which have shown no visible results.

Dr. Alex Egbona, the Chairman of the Committee and member representing Abi/Yakurr in the House of Representatives, disclosed this to journalists after an oversight visit to the ICOH office at No. 3 Old Bukuru Road, Jos. The Committee’s visit to Jos, the Plateau state capital, was part of its legislative and constitutional mandate of oversight. The inspection covered all specialized hospitals, centers, and schools in the city to assess the availability, adequacy, and functionality of medical and training facilities, services, and personnel.

The Committee also reviewed the implementation of the 2023 Appropriations Act as approved by the National Assembly, analyzing capital projects, overhead releases, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), related expenditures, the Staff Nominal Roll, and staff-to-student ratios. The Committee members expressed frustration when it became evident that Dr. Balarabe was evasive, with none of his subordinates present to receive the Honourable members. An impromptu arrangement brought junior officers to meet the Committee, which was considered disrespectful.

The members were further provoked by what they observed: a filthy environment, unhappy staff, neglect of the federal character policy, lack of transparency and accountability, and poor financial management. Hon. Alex Mascot Ikwechegh, representing Aba North and South federal constituency, described the Director as unserious and quickly moved to suspend the engagement. “Mr. Chairman, I move for the adjustment of this sitting because it is evident that these fine gentlemen here don’t seem to have any information to give us so we can prepare our report and deliver it to Mr. Speaker. So, with your kind permission, I would like to move that this particular engagement be adjourned,” he stated.

A plea by Dr. Ukachi Nwanuye, who claimed to represent Dr. Balarabe, to entertain their submission was firmly objected to by Hon. Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi, representing Keffi/Karu/Kokona Federal Constituency, Nasarawa State. Hon. Gbefwi insisted that Dr. Nwanuye was not qualified to answer the Committee’s questions as he was not the deputy director. “Whatever you say here cannot be taken as the position of the Agency,” he asserted.

The National Assembly has appropriated nearly two billion naira to the Agency. However, a major issue that angered the Committee members was the decision to embark on construction at the temporary site for four hundred and twenty million naira, while the multi-billion naira structure at the permanent site along Fobur road remains incomplete.

Dr. Alex Egbona, speaking with journalists, expressed his disappointment: “Firstly, there is no teamwork. Secondly, the workers are not happy. Thirdly, the Director is evasive, and fourthly, the environment is dirty. Imagine, you have a permanent site as large as this, and you are still putting up structures at the old site.
“There must be something behind this. Intelligent reports reaching us indicate that the Director has not been in office for the last two months. He has not visited the center, and this man taking us around as his assistant is not the next in command, not even the third in command. So, we are going to ensure that this Agency moves to its permanent site. If they had channeled over four hundred million naira to the structure at the permanent site, it could have been completed. The financial management of the Director is zero, and so, we are inviting him to Abuja because there are many things he has to explain, such as the issue of federal character because this is a federal government Agency. The World Health Organization is not funding the Agency, likely due to the fraudulent activities of the Director.”

When asked about the Committee’s dissatisfaction with the Agency’s activities, Dr. Ukachi Nwanufe, Head of Clinical Services at ICOH Africa Jos and representative of the Director, responded, “Well, you said that the committee is not happy, but from the discussion that we had, it’s just a bit of miscommunication which we hope to address. By the time we are through, I think they would be able to really appreciate our position and why we took the decisions that we took to ensure that we advanced oral health research and training in the country and beyond the national borders.”

Regarding whether the Agency has judiciously spent funds released for its projects and activities, Dr. Ukachi stated, “It’s not in my place to say. It lies on the part of an independent assessor to make such a declaration. We have presented our position and we are open to scrutiny at any time.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Just In

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to