The Nigerian government is proposing to spend more on capital projects at the State House Medical Centre this year than it would provide for the 16 teaching hospitals belonging to it.
If the proposed budget is approved as presented to federal lawmakers, the State House Clinic will get N787million more in capital allocation than all the 16 teaching hospitals combined.
The State House Medical Centre is a facility that provides healthcare for President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, their families and other employees of the Presidency, all possibly less than a thousand.
Federal teaching hospitals cater for the heath needs of millions of Nigerians, train medical doctors and other health professionals for the nation while also serving as top medical research centers.
A breakdown of the 2016 Appropriation Bill shows that a total of N3.87billion has been allocated for capital projects at the State House Clinic.
In contrast, the country’s 16 federal government-owned teaching hospitals individually only got a fraction of the allocation made for the presidential clinic.
According to the proposed budget, N212,539,245 has been allocated for capital projects at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital in Lagos, one of the country’s most populous states, while the capital allocation for the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Kaduna, is N230,904,795.
Similarly, the capital allocation for the University College Hospital, Ibadan, is N230,904,795; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu (N218,335,908); University of Benin Teaching Hospital (N212,886,502); Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife (N162,622,221); University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (N166,802,164); University of Jos Teaching Hospital (N228,717,880); and University of Port Harcourt (N169,498,392).
The capital allocation for other hospitals are: University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (N201,082,446); University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (N215,151,873); Usman Dan Fodio University Teaching hospital, Sokoto (N279,000,000); Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital (N210,380,376); Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi (N166,188,931); University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (N198,715,702); and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (N229,005,992).
Health industry experts consider the annual huge capital allocation to the State House Medical Centre as “outrageous and baffling”.
“It is unbelievable to see that Buhari is continuing in the tradition of pampering the State House Clinic every year with outrageous capital allocations while teaching hospitals that cater for several millions of people are allowed to rot,” an official at the National Hospital, Abuja, said. He requested not to be named for fear he might be victimised by the administration.
In the 2015 budget, which gave N150million capital vote to the hospital, the equipment to be procured and the projects for execution were clearly spelt out. So also were the amounts to be spent on each equipment and project.
But this year, the presidency failed to indicate how it plans to spend the about N4billion it proposes to spend on capital projects at the hospital. It is a one-line item in the budget, and there is no breakdown of what equipment would be procured and what project would be executed.
By virtue of the huge allocation to the State House Medical Centre President Buhari, Vice President Osibajo, their families and their staff at Aso Rock are assured of state-of-the-art medical care.
However, millions of Nigerians, many of them poor voters, who bought into the president’s message of change, are to continue to make do with decrepit facilities in under-funded teaching hospitals and other government-owned health facilities across the country.
Checks indicates that this year’s huge budgetary allocation for the State House Medical Centre is a continuation of what appears a tradition of over-equipping the clinic at the detriment of other health facilities in the country.
A 2009 report by the rested NEXT newspaper revealed that the State House clinic had 17 ambulances, the highest by any hospital in the country at the time.
According to the report, in 2008, 10 new state-of-the-art ambulances were brought from North Carolina in the United States, parked inside the presidential villa and left unused.
At the time the ambulances were left to rot away in Aso Rock, the National Hospital, Abuja, believed to be one of the topmost hospitals in the country, had only nine ambulances while the General Hospital in Nyanya, a decaying facility on the outskirts of Abuja, that served more than 300,000 people, had just a jalopy 504 Station Wagon (CT 89-A10) as its only ambulance.
Last November, a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that there were only two functional radiotherapy machines, essential equipment for the treatment of cancer, in the country, one of which belonged to a private hospital.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer annually, and about 80,000 die from the disease yearly.
The decrepit state of health facilities in the country, apart from the consequent losses of lives, has also caused huge economic loss to the country. Nigerians who can afford it spend billions of naira annually in the United States, Europe, India and other places in search of better healthcare.
Adewunmi Alayaki, Secretary General of the Nigerian Medical Association, said government should consider redistributing the allocation so that health facilities used by ordinary Nigerians can get better financial allocation.
“The lopsidedness in the distribution of allocations is keyed towards the State House health needs and the rest of the country is now sharing fewer funds than what is allocated to one health facility”.
“I think government should look into that and correct it. Ordinary Nigerians do not have access to that facility (State House Medical Centre) so they should redistribute and invest more in areas where ordinary Nigerians have access to.”
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, could not be reached to comment for this story. He is said to be on his way to France with President Buhari.
The Minister of State in the ministry, Zainab Ahmed, could also not be reached. Multiple calls to her telephone failed to connect.