President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that the State House Medical Centre be reverted to a clinic so that it could function in the capacity it was originally established, the presidency said on Monday.
The poor state of the centre has generated public interest since October 2017 when the wife of the President, Aisha, visited the place and found out that even syringes were not available.
Her discovery forced a probe by the House of Representatives in November 2017.
But speaking at the Senate in Abuja on Monday, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr Jalal Arabi, said Buhari’s reversal order was to reposition the centre to serve the primary purpose of attending to the medical needs of the President, his family and Villa workers.
He appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs to defend this year’s budget for the facility.
It was a session where senators grilled Arabi and his team for two hours over the sordid state of the centre.
‘‘Without prejudice to what is currently obtainable at SHMC, the intention to revert to a clinic is a presidential directive. This is to make sure that the facility is functional and serves the purpose for which it was established, ab initio,” he told the committee.
He later told reporters that Buhari’s decision was to ensure that the centre could function properly within the funds available to it.
He said, ‘‘It was initially meant to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa.
‘‘Nobody was charging anyone for any services, and relying on appropriation means we will depend on subvention when it comes to run the centre.
‘‘Whatever comes is what you utilise and if the last patient comes in to take the last drugs based on the last budgetary release, we have to wait till another release is done.”
Arabi said the centre’s budget for 2018 was N1.03bn. Out of the amount, he said N698m was budgeted for capital expenditure while N331.7m was provided for overhead cost.
As of December 2018, N331.7m, representing 99.9 per cent, had been released for the overhead cost, while N231.9m or 33.2 per cent was used for projects.
The State House has a total budget of N14.3bn this year, down from the N15.47bn budgeted in 2018.
After listening to Arabi, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Danjuma La’ah (PDP-Kaduna South), said the Senate would look into how to make the centre meet its original purpose through adequate funding.