By Oji Odu
Why should President Muhammadu Buhari and other highly placed government officials, including the well-to-do in the society not seek foreign medical attention for the slightest headache when the neither N30 sachet of 12‘paracetamol’ tablets nor syringes are available at the State House Clinic? This is when billions of naira have been allegedly spent to make the hospital efficient and effective.
The outburst of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari at a stakeholders meeting on Reproductive, Maternal,Nutrition, Child Advocacy and Health Nutrition organised by her pet project, Future Assured at the State House, Abuja,last Monday has not only revealed the rot and ineffeciency of the operators of the Clinic, but taken the alleged cabal that has held the Presidency impotent and a laughing stock to the cleaners.
Madamme First Lady could not hold herself when she saw the rot and corruption at the medical centre, therefore she called for a probe of the operations of the clinic which is not a reflection of the huge budgetary allocation to it.
While condemning the lack of facilities at the hospital, she equally lamented the total or lack of some necessary hospital facilities such as syringes, drugs and equipment needed for saving lives. Her outburst came up when she wanted to do an x-ray at the clinic few weeks ago but was told the X-ray machine was not functional.
Aisha’s call for a probe on the hospital which is in line with President Buhari’s drive to free every sector of the Nigerian polity of corruption followed earlier criticisms by her daughter, Zahra, on the management of the clinic.
Zahra Buhari had last week taken to her Instagram page to criticise the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Jalal Arabi, for his inability to provide even ‘Paracetamol’ tablets to the clinic despite a budget of N3 billion for the provision of drugs to the hospital.
Speaking during the meeting, Aisha said she recently fell ill and was advised to travel to London for treatment, but she refused.
“I called the Aso Clinic to find out if they have an X-Ray machine, they said it’s not working. In the end I had to go to a hospital owned and operated by foreigners 100 per cent
“There is a budget for the Hospital, and if you go there now, you will see a number of constructions going on but they don’t have a single syringe there. What is the purpose of the buildings if there are no equipment there to work with? You can imagine what happens across the states to governors wives if this will happen to me in Abuja,” she said.
She lamented the faith of other First Ladies in the country and the poor masses who are not able to get either foreign medical attention like the President who spent about six months outside the country for medical check-up, a situation she attributes to the instability being experienced in the country.
Interestingly, Aso Rock Clinic was set up just like a “father Christmas” avenue whereby free medical services are offered to a privileged few patients who are already earning so much money from the central treasury of Nigeria.
The clinic is said to provide medical services to the President, Vice President, and their families, members of staff of the State House and other entitled public servants.
Although the Clinic offers free medical services to these aforementioned beneficiaries, the daunting poser remains: why are there no checks and balances in the management of such a prime facility? What are the steps put in place to ensure transparency and accountability?
What are the measures taken to ensure that drugs and other essential equipment meant for that clinic are not diverted? Is the Clinic given medical services to ‘others’, like the extended families of the it’s original patients?
What kind of data are maintained by the in the clinic managers to record the beneficiaries and their status, and are the records audited? If so, what is the quality of regular audits that are carried out in order to block leakages and theft of public fund which both the EFCC and ICPC Acts criminalise?
Though a beneficiary of the State House Clinic, the recent First Lady’s outburst, has, again, thrown up the issue of dysfunctionality of the President Buhari administration of ‘Change’. Two years after, there are dis-functioning –power, health, oil and gas sectors, while those in power continue to fight each other to show that the administration is made up of strange bed fellows.
With Aisha’s many outbursts, many Nigerians are happy that not only has she refused to be locked up “In The Other Room,” but has shown she is interested in the success of the President’s war against corruption, hence, her calls for the probe of the monies budgeted for the clinic. This has not only torn the alleged cabal in the Presidency apart, but sent them to the cleaners.
Meanwhile,the sum of N3.89 billion which was budgeted for the clinic last year and N331.7 million already released for the running of the clinic this year are yet to be accounted for.
By Oji Odu