First Lady Aisha Buhari has sensationally launched a probe into the Aso Rock Clinic. Now everyone's talking.
They didn't quite see it coming.
Marooned in the presidential villa, the Aso Rock clinic is supposed to tend to the health of the first family and a few other top government officials.
But the clinic has fallen into hard times, with management saying it is cash strapped.
As Mrs. Buhari got hold of the mic during a stakeholders dialogue on Reproductive, Maternal, Nutrition, Child Advocacy, Health and Nutrition, RMNCAH+N, with top government functionaries in attendance, she ripped into the management of the State House clinic in characteristic fashion.
“I called the Aso Rock Clinic to find out if they have an X-Ray machine, they said it’s not working”, Mrs. Buhari began.
“There is a budget for the hospital and if you go there now, you will see a number of construction going on but they don’t have a single syringe there. What is the purpose of the buildings if there are no equipment there to work with?” Mrs. Buhari asked rhetorically.
Mrs. Buhari’s declaration embarrassed management of the State House clinic so much, emergency strategy meetings were held to fashion out ways to douse the flames from her disclosure, insider sources disclosed to Pulse.
Days after, the House of Representatives set up a committee to find out what has been happening to budgetary provisions of the clinic.
The lawmakers said the state of the Aso Rock clinic isn’t commensurate with the N11.1B that has been allocated to the facility since 2015.
“We need to investigate the deplorable condition of the State House Clinic and the alleged deductions from the salaries and allowances of the medical staff”, said Rep. Henry Archibong of the PDP in Akwa Ibom.
According to Archibong, the clinic has been receiving annual budgetary allocations to procure equipment in order to function optimally.
He added that in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Appropriation Acts, the clinic received the sums of N3.94B, N3.87B and N3.2B respectively.
The monies were meant for the upgrade and provision of necessary drugs and equipment.
“This is unacceptable. Less than three years of this government, this amount has been spent. It is unacceptable that the Permanent Secretary and the Minister (Minister of Health) have not resigned”, the legislator blared.
The decision of the House of Reps to probe budgetary allocations to the clinic, immediately put former President Goodluck Jonathan on the defensive.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, Jonathan said he shouldn’t be dragged into the probe by the House.
“The House of representatives resolved Thursday 12 October, 2015, to probe 2015-2017 allocations to Aso Rock Clinic and some media reports are needlessly dragging the name of former President Goodluck Jonathan into it.
“We had thought that the media should be the first to remind Nigerians that since Jonathan left office on May 29, 2015, he had absolutely nothing to do with the implementation of the budget for that year.
“For emphasis, the 2015 Appropriation Bill which was passed by the parliament in April was signed into law in May, 2015.
“And since the procurement process, based on the new procurement law, takes at least three months to complete, there was no way Jonathan would have had anything to do with the budget implementation for 2015, before vacating Aso Rock Villa on May 29, 2015.”
The presidency has also denied that the Aso Rock clinic received N11.01B from 2015 to 2017.
According to the presidency, the State House medical centre only received N1.195B as appropriation in that time.
Deputy Director (Information) State House, Mr. Attah Esa, quoted the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Jalal Arabi, as saying that federal lawmakers had also been enjoying free medical services in the facility.
The statement reads as follows:
“The attention of the presidency has been drawn to recent media reports suggesting that the State House Medical Centre had received N11.01B as appropriation for the period 2015-2017.
ALSO READ: 5 reasons why First Lady is trending
“According to the Permanent Secretary, State House, Jalal Arabi, contrary to the above claims, out of the total Capital Appropriation of N2,941,062,044..00 and Recurrent Appropriation of N465,935,358.00 for the period under reference, only the sum of N969,681,821.53 (representing 32.97 per cent) for Capital and N225,575,200.60 (representing 48.41 per cent) for recurrent was actually released.
“Arabi also said it may interest the public to know that there was zero capital allocation for the Medical Centre in 2017, while out of the N331,730,211.00 being recurrent appropriation for 2017, the actual amount released up to September was N91,370,053.60 (representing only 27.54 per cent).
“The Permanent Secretary emphasised that the above figures are verifiable from the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
“He observed that during the three-year period under review (indeed two years since no capital allocation for 2017), and despite the shortfalls between budgetary provisions and actual releases, the medical centre continued to provide free services to the over 10,000 registered patients annually. In addition, the centre has continued to execute ongoing projects.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has been tending to a shaky health abroad; as the nation's public health facilities continue their decay.