by Dani Ajonu
As the National Assembly (NASS) considers the 2017 budget, an item under the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) submission proposes to spend ₦915 million for the provision and distribution contraceptive commodities as part of counterpart fund. This unethical waste of scarce resources is worrying and symptomatic of lack of strategic thinking that this administration is struggling to overcome in several area of policy administration. To deconstruct the underlying principle behind the proposal, part of government’s sustainable development drive is to control population by distributing condoms and abortifacients. On analysis, the disconnection between the goal, formula and result confirms that this argument is specious.
First, spending taxpayers’ contribution on an item which a significant part of the populace find objectionable and immoral violates their rights as guaranteed by sections 38 subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). If people want to use artificial contraception, one would guess they are constitutionally free to do so. We all should not have to pay for it.
A detailed review of government’s proposal shows concerns that an increasing population will occlude meaningful National Development; however, distributing contraceptives without targeted education on responsible parenthood will not produce any meaningful result. Designed to prevent conception, distributing contraceptives without a move towards trying to engender change in behavior through a holistic, knowledge-driven, and result-oriented approach; government will on an annual basis keep spending incrementally, our scare collective commonwealth on an action that is futile as the population continues to rise.
To understand this a bit more, consider the following: in the last decade, data released by the Family Planning 2020 (FP 2020) early last year, suggested that Nigeria was among the top 10 contraceptive providing nations in the world accounting for 22% of the total contraceptives provided by these 10 nations (Predominantly African) by 2013 & 2014. Over the same period, our population has increased by over 30% the highest percentage increase since records began. This implies that despite the increased supply of contraceptives, our population has continued to rise and the extent to which government is willing to increase contraceptives coverage to meet their intended aim remains unknown.
In conversations on population control, a historically insidious proposition for any government to embark on, the MOH has made no effort to drive Responsible Parenthood; a principle that takes into account the individual’s biological, psychological, social and economic state in planning for birth. Without recourse to this principle, proliferating contraception will only create a black hole in government finances where no correlation exists between expenditure and desired outcome. Responsible Parenthood ensures the person is properly informed on the reliability, the efficacy, side effects, and costs of the statistically effective fertility awareness-based technique to prevent and attain conception. A correct judgment can then be made based on proper information that takes into the account the individual’s circumstances, faculty, and environment.
Finally, it is unfortunate that the government will succumb to the ruse from western backed aid agencies that flood our continent with contraceptives but not books or medical supplies. The FP2020 report showing that 80% of the top 10 contraceptive nation are African nations is not a coincidence and assisting in providing comprehensive education and quality health service that covers responsible parenthood would be preferable than bombarding us with condoms and abortifacient.
In reviewing the 2017 budget, the NASS should query this morally bankrupt provision in the MOH budget to decide if it forms a judicious use of scarce resources. ₦915 million can achieve meaningful development if used in other critical areas. Nigeria’s challenge is not its population but the fair distribution of its resources. Even a large population should arguably be a source of strength but that is a discussion for another day.
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Dani Ajonu tweets @dove600