The Permanent Secretary, State House, Abuja, Mr. Jalal Arabi, admitted on Thursday that President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha, was right on her recent comments on the poor state of the State House Medical Centre.
Aisha had said the hospital lacked basic provisions, including syringes and expressed disappointment that a facility designed to cater for the needs of the first family could be left in that condition.
“A few weeks ago, I was sick as well. They advised me to take the first flight out to London; I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us. If the budget is N100m, we need to know how the budget is spent.
“Along the line, I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine was working. They said it was not working. They didn’t know I was the one that was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.
“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners 100 per cent. What does that mean?
“So, I think it is high time we do the right thing. If something like this could happen to me, there is no need for me to ask the governors’ wives what is happening in their states.
“This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government, and this is the Presidential Villa,” Aisha reportedly said at a two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
The development had prompted the House of Representatives to pass a resolution to probe how the N10.9bn allegedly released to the clinic between 2015 and 2017 was spent.
An ad hoc committee of the House chaired by Mr. Aliyu Magaji, opened the hearing on Thursday in Abuja.
The permanent secretary confirmed to the committee that the clinic was indeed in a deplorable state.
Magaji asked him, “We take it that the President’s wife is right?” The permanent secretary responded, “I can’t say that the First Lady is wrong.”
However, he took time to explain to the committee that the problem was caused by inadequate funding of the clinic over the years.
He also dismissed the report that N10.9bn was released to the clinic between 2015 and 2017.
Contrary to the figure quoted publicly, the permanent secretary told the committee that the total allocation to the clinic in the three years was about N3.5bn.
He broke the figure down into N2.9bn for capital projects for the three years, out which total releases tallied at N969.6m.
However, he said total expenditure was N898.8m.
For overheads, Arabi told the committee that while N465.9m was appropriated, total releases amounted to N305.6m.
He added that overheads expenditure tallied at N152.6m.
The permanent secretary also put the total monthly wage bill at N65.5m.
“The total personnel working at the State House Medical Centre is 329,” he stated.
He claimed that the clinic constantly struggled to render services due to inadequate funding.
Arabi explained further, “Similarly, due to inadequate provisions for the medical centre in 2015 budget, a sum of N481.6m was utilised from service-wide interventions to the State House Headquarters for the purchase of drugs and other consumables…”
He also described as untrue the claim that the management of the State House arbitrarily deducted the allowances of medical doctors working at the centre.
Rather, he claimed that an audit uncovered that 47 members of staff were identified to be illegally collecting allowances that they were not entitled to collect.
On their part, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Capital Territory Administration absolved themselves of any blame in the management of the clinic.
The Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire, simply told the committee that his ministry was “not aware” of how the centre was run since it was not under his ministry’s supervision.
The FCT Secretary, Health, Amanda Pam, spoke in the same vein, saying that the Aso Rock Clinic was not accountable to the FCTA.
The committee later went into a closed-door session with the officials on the account that they were about to discuss issues that had security implications
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