The increasing cost of President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical trips outside Nigeria attracted serious condemnation from the Senate on Thursday.
The upper chamber said the situation in which even the medical facility located in the Presidential Villa had been abandoned by the Presidency because of the preference for treatment in foreign countries is completely unacceptable.
The Senate said the foreign trips for medical treatment must be stopped to ensure that proper attention was accorded to the State House Clinic.
The position of the Senate was made known at a budget defence session between the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs with the State House Permanent Secretary, Tijani Umar.
Umar had presented a budget of N19.7 billion for 2021, out of which N1.3bn was proposed for the State House Clinic.
Reacting to the proposal, the Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Danjuma La’ah, said the committee would approve the budget for the State House Clinic but insisted that the president and other top officials of his government should no longer be flown abroad for medical treatment.
The committee made it clear that “the president cannot be travelling or be taken out of the country anytime he falls sick.
“He must be attended to in our hospitals here in Nigeria. We must ensure our hospital are fully equipped to world-class standards so that no matter the issue of emergency, our hospitals should be endowed with that capacity to attend to them before flying out of the need arises.”
The poor state of the State House clinic had in the past been condemned by even the first lady, Aisha Buhari Who alleged that the facility lacked even paracetamol and syringe.
Again, despite the N13.59bn budgetary provision for the State House Clinic in five years under Buhari, the facility was ‘unfit’ to treat his late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
The State House Clinic is meant to treat the president, the vice president, their families and other staff of the presidency.
Speaking with journalists after the session, Umar said the presidency is committed to reviving the State House Clinic.
“What we have on the ground now is something we can use to stabilise the State House clinic and this is what we have achieved, stability in the supply of consumables, stability in the supply of electricity,” Umar said.
“Stability in motivating our doctors and all our medical professionals, stability in infrastructure renovation, upgrade and maintenance of the facility and our equipment.
“What we can do with the resources right now is to maintain and to try to hold on to what we have until the new budget comes on stream and this is why we appealed to the committee to intervene and assist us with the construction of the Presidential wing of the State House clinic which is of national strategic importance to all of us.”
A total amount of N3.5 billion was approved in the 2020 budget to take care of medical trips as well as travels and food. This is more than double what they spent in 2019. The amount spent in 2019 was N1.4billion.