The federal government will this year pump more cash into constructing an elite wing of the presidential clinic in Abuja where only a few big and mighty will receive attention, a spending that dwarfs the total funds allocated by government for entire developmental projects of two federal university teaching hospitals.
Under the proposed 2014 budget laid to the National Assembly last December, the “Construction of a VIP Wing at the State House Clinic will cost N705 million.”
That amount surpasses the government’s budgeted cost for the building of new wards (buildings), laboratories and all other developmental projects in two university teaching hospitals.
For instance, the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, have been allocated a total of N662 million for capital expenditure this year.
The two medical facilities are only part of a long list of teaching hospitals which have their capital spending this year outdone by the VIP budget, tagged in the budget as SHMC- State House Medical Clinic.
Among 17 tertiary hospitals in the nation compared with the State House clinic, University of Ilorin’s allocation of N310 million will be the least if the National Assembly approves the budget as submitted.
Other similar hospitals receive a little above N310 million, and some up to N550 million.
The only teaching hospitals with capital budgets exceeding the spending for the Aso Rock elite facility are Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, with N727 million; and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, with N1.9 billion.
The skewed allocations are only the latest revelation from Nigeria’s scandalous national budget, tainted for years by spending plans that provide more funding for services available to a few powerful public officials, from the president and his ministers to federal lawmakers, while relatively little go to those that should benefit the public.
Analysts have for years criticized the allocations and have struggled to draw government’s attention for serious corrections.
“A country like Nigeria with its negative developmental indices cannot fritter away resources that are best conserved for national development,” said Ikeazor Akaraiwe of The Rule of Law Collective, a Nigerian civic platform which first raised concerns with the presidential medical spending.
In a statement to the media on Monday, the group described the 2014 budget before the National Assembly as the worst ever proposed in the nation’s history, and laid the responsibility on the finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
“It is an affront to the sensibilities of the teeming poor in our country when a budget that smacks of profligacy and utter waste is tabled before the National Assembly to be passed into law in their name,” the group said.
“This budget and the 1,820 pages in which it was written, in all likelihood, will go down in history as one of the worst budgets ever proposed. It represents a complete detachment from reality. It is a shame that this budget proposal was tabled under the watch of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. So much more was expected of her and it is disappointing that she has let this budget proposal proceed under her hand. The ultimate responsibility, though, must lie with President Goodluck Jonathan.”
The group also raised concerns with what it reflected as the lopsided allocation on military spending versus spending on the rehabilitation of ex-militants. Read their full statement here.
On Monday, in a rare admission of that possibility, the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Bright Okogu, acknowledged there were multiple errors in the new budget, but said they were “glitches” caused by the use of the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System, GIFMIS, a new budgeting tool.
He referred to the allocation of millions of naira to non-existent projects like the huge sums allocated to the Mathematical Centre, Sheda, Investment and Securities Tribunal and other agencies for fuelling and maintenance of aircraft, boats and railway equipment.
Those agencies however own no aircraft, boats or even railway equipment.
“What happened was that GIFMIS, being a new system, had some glitches that reflected in some of the provisions. It is not totally strange,” Mr. Okogu said at the presentation of the budget details on Monday, by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala. “Many of you have read about the Obamacare and the challenges they had in actually implementing it. It is a big system, bigger than ours, but with the same features.
The State House Clinic, pointed out by the Rule of Law Collective, is not open to the public. Currently, only staff of the State House are allowed services.
But the planned wing is expected to be used to provide exclusive services to the president and his vice, and senior government leaders visiting the presidential villa.
The N705 million allocated for the VIP wing of the hospital will not be the first, as the same construction had earlier received N300 million in 2012-totaling N1billion for just that unit.
Meanwhile, upgrades, repairs and construction in the entire hospital cost at least N506 million in 2011, N401 million in 2012, and over N300 million in 2013.