The clinic at Nigeria’s seat of power does not have the commonest of medications, paracetamol.
And cotton wool? The patient has to buy from outside. Syringes? Not available. X-ray? Sorry, the machine is out of order. Ambulance? Well, if the patient can buy the fuel.
This is the sorry story of the State House Medical Centre, better known as “Aso Villa Clinic” — for which N12.8 billion was spent on within the past 5 years.
N3.94bn was spent in 2015, N3.87bn in 2016, N3.2bn in 2017, N1.03bn in 2018 and N823.44m in 2019.
In the recent past, Zahra Buhari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter, unsettled the Presidency with an Instagram post implicitly accusing the management of Aso Rock clinic of corruption. To be honest, Zahra’s questions, asked with the hashtag #StateHousePerSecPlsAnswer, are valid.
“More than N3billion budgeted for the State House clinic and workers there don’t have the equipment to work with? Why?”
“Where is the money going to? Medication only stocked once since the beginning of the year? Why? State House Permanent Secretary please answer.”
“Why isn’t there simple Paracetamol, gloves, syringes… Why do patients/staff have to buy what they need in the state house clinic?”
Zahra was merely providing the voice-over to mother Aisha Buhari’s thoughts, because roughly few days after her Instagram outburst, Aisha made known her frustration.
“If the budget is N100 million, we need to know how the budget is spent… There are lots of construction works going on in this hospital but there is no single syringe there, what does that mean? Who will use the building? We have to be good in reasoning. You are building new structures but there is no equipment, no consumables in the hospital and the construction is still going on.”
Elsewhere in her speech, she said:
“If somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street?”
The BBC listed President Muhammadu Buhari as one of the African presidents who have “apparent lack of faith in the health systems at home”.
The facility was established to cater to the medical needs of the president, the vice president, their families and presidential aides. It is supposed to be the first port of call in the case of a health emergency.
The combined N12.8 billion spent on the clinic in the last 5 years is higher than the combined allocation to all the tertiary healthcare centres in the country! A State House clinic richer than all of the country’s tertiary centres cannot be struggling with drugs.
So much money being spent, yet nothing to show for it.
How nice would it be if we can have world-class medical centers in Nigeria? What about world-class Cancer treatment center? What about a center just for Ear, Nose and Throat?
No, the services will not be free. And they may not be cheap. But our presidents, governors and other key government officials will no longer have to surrender our national security to foreigners as a result of seeking even routine treatments in foreign countries.