By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – PERMANENT Secretary, State House, Mr Jalal Arabi, on Monday told the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs for the 2019 budget defence that the plan to revert the State House Medical Center to a clinic which it was the directive from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Vanguard had on Monday published that the presidency was planning to revert the State House Medical Center to a clinic to make the place function optimally.
Speaking before the senate committee, the Permanent Secretary disclosed that ‘‘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.’’
Later, Arabi explained to journalists after the budget defence that the reversion of the Centre to a Clinic was a case of ‘‘cutting one’s coat according to your cloth.’’
In a statement by the Deputy Director, Information, State House, Attah Esa, Mr. Arabi said, ‘‘It was initially meant to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa.
‘‘The overstretching of facilities at the Medical Centre by patients is some of the challenges the Centre have been going through. It wasn’t meant for that purpose.
‘‘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, that is it and we have to wait till another release is done.
‘‘But this new development means that services will be streamlined to a clinic that will serve those that it was meant to serve when it was conceived,’’ the Permanent Secretary said.
The Centre was a focal point during the 2-hour presentation and budget defence by the Permanent Secretary before the Senate Committee.
Arabi disclosed that the Centre had a total budget of N1.03 billion in the 2018 appropriation, with N698 million as capital expenditure and N331.7 million as overhead cost.
The total overhead expenditure released for the Centre from January-December 2018 is N331.7 million, representing 99.9 per cent while the capital releases on projects is N231.9 million, representing 33.2 per cent.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Danjuma La’ah (PDP-Kaduna South) welcomed the proposal to make the SHMC fully functional and ensure that members of the first and second families use the facilities at the clinic.
Senator La’ah assured that committee will support full funding for the Clinic and commended the 2018 budget performance in State House, compared to previous years, despite revenue challenges.
‘‘Considering the strategic importance of State House they are not supposed to lack funds and we will keep encouraging them to utilise releases effectively,’’ he said.
The State House 2019 budget proposal of N14.3 billion is slightly lower than the 2018 Appropriation of 15.47 billion by 7.1 per cent.