Despite top Presidency officials routinely flying out of the country to seek medical attention, the Federal Government allocated a total of N9.17 billion for the operations of the State House Medical Centre between 2015 and 2018, findings by New Telegraph show.
The figure could, in fact, hit N10 billion if the N823.44 million the government proposed for the operations of the facility in the 2019 budget is not slashed by the National Assembly.
The State House Medical Centre is a facility that provides healthcare for President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, their families and other employees of the Presidency.
New Telegraph’s analysis of budgetary allocations in the last four years show that N3.94 billion, N3.87 billion, N331.70 million and N1.03 billion were allocated in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively, for the operations of the State House Medical Centre.
Further analysis of the details of the proposed spending on the facility for this year, which were obtained from the 2019 Appropriation Bill submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari last month, indicate that the proposed expenditure of N823.44 million for the Clinic is made up of N331.73 million total recurrent and N491.71 million total capital expenditure.
A breakdown of the figures also shows that the government is proposing to spend N208.35 million on the purchase of drugs and medical supplies for the facility while N14.26 million will be spent to buy uniforms and other clothing.
Similarly, the data shows that the maintenance of IT/office equipment for the medical centre will gulp N91.19 million while local training for personnel will cost the government N6.43 million this year.
In addition, the government is planning to spend N11.52 million on local travel and transport expenses for staff of the centre.
Interestingly, apart from the budgetary allocation for the Aso Rock Clinic, the Federal Government’s 2019 budget proposal also has N51.82 million as “medical expenses.”
Although the Aso Rock Clinic was established to provide health care for only the President, the Vice President, their families and other employees of the Presidency, analysts point out that what the facility receives in terms of budgetary allocations annually is a lot more than what is allocated to each of the 16 major teaching hospitals across the country which take care of heath needs of millions of Nigerians, train medical doctors and other health professionals for the nation.
Indeed, findings show that in 2016, the Federal Government spent more on capital projects at the State House Medical Centre than it did in the 16 teaching hospitals. Specifically, in that year, Aso Rock Clinic’s budgetary allocation of N3.87 billion was N500 million higher than the N3.33 billion appropriated for all the teaching hospitals.
Despite the huge allocations it receives, the Clinic has come under strong criticism in recent years from Nigerians including the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, for its poor services, with the President’s wife blaming inadequate facilities at the facility for her husband’s frequent medical trips to the United Kingdom.
For instance, at the opening of a stakeholders’ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) organised by her pet project, Future Assured, in October 2017, the First Lady slammed the management of the Aso Rock Clinic over its alleged poor services, asking the authorities to give account of the huge budgetary allocation to the hospital.
“If the budget is N100 million, we need to know how the budget is spent,” she said.
In the wake of the criticisms, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, had said at the time that there were plans to commercialise the State House Medical Centre to boost its revenue and ensure better health delivery system.
According to him, the commercialization of the clinic will enable it to offer better services to Nigerians.
He said at the time, the Aso Rock clinic was “The only health centre in Abuja where patients are not required to pay any dime before consultation. In other government hospitals in Abuja, patients are required to pay for consultation, treatment, laboratory tests and others, but that has not been the case with the State House Medical Centre.
“The centre offers free services, nobody pays a kobo for hospital card, consultations or prescriptions and this has taken a toll on the subvention the centre receives from the government.”
Continuing, he said: “We have some of the best equipment in the country. For instance, to maintain the MRI and other scan machines, we spend close to N2 million monthly. Yet we do not charge a dime for those who require MRI scans in the clinic.”