From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has given two years deadline for the completion of the approved VIP State House clinic within the precinct of the Aso Rock.
Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijani Umar, made the disclosure when the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter Governmental Affairs visited Aso Rock during its oversight function to know the level of utilization of budgetary allocation to State House.
The state of the art clinic which will serve the Nigerian populace is expected to be completed before the end of the Buhari-led administration.
Umar, had lamented that the non release of full budgetary allocation to State House has resulted in some facilities being obsolete.
The Permanent Secretary, noted that out of about N8,699 billion budgeted for State House in the 2018, only about N5,083 billion that is about 58 percent was released, leaving an outstanding balance of about N3,616 billion.
Umar told the committee that in 2019 out of about N6,955 billion budgeted, only about N2 billion that is about 38 percent of the total sum was released, leaving an outstanding balance of about N4 billion as the shortfall, while in 2020, the sum of about N4,878 billion was appropriated and fully released.
The Permanent Secretary later told State House Correspondents that the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse effect on the economy.
Speaking on how the State House was coping with the funding challenges, he said, “First and foremost, let me say that we are privileged to be in this position, to be able to discharge these huge responsibilities and I’m also happy that you raised the issue of funding challenges.
“I also want to use the opportunity to distinguish very clearly between appropriation and release. Just like you mentioned now, in 2018, about N8 billion was appropriated, out of which only about N5 billion was released. Definitely, looking at the enormity of the challenges that we are dealing with from day to day, that is affecting our performance.
“However, we are in a tradition of prudence and we also have not lost sight of the challenges that we have internationally, especially with COVID in regard to how much money in the country in its entirety makes.
“However, I would like to say that the State House needs quite a formidable level of support and improvement in the funding. Especially because we are dealing with phasing out a lot of infrastructure that have come to the end of their lifespan.
“We have the issue of our ICT infrastructure, we have the issue of our equipment in the Conference Centre here, kitchen equipment, we have the issue of telecommunications, and operational and utility vehicles that are gradually coming to the tail end of their lives and we need to replace them.
“But majorly, I think the biggest intervention we require is in building and construction of the Presidential wing of the State House Clinic, which is of a strategic national importance and it’s being done in form of a legacy project.
“And by the time this administration leaves office, we would have the Presidential wing of the State House Clinic in place so that it will be very clear that all the observations and all the hopes and aspirations that the general public has expressed of the State House Clinic and its facilities have been achieved.
“For now, we have already started in earnest with activities that are required for the construction, we have received the necessary approvals. We have received the no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement.
“We have already directed the contractor because he’s going to come in form of a turnkey project, in order to mobilise and take over the site, and to develop the necessary drawings, and the geo-technical survey reports that we have, so that the two years that we have set for ourselves to deliver this project can be achieved.”
On how much the VIP state house clinic would cost, he said, “It is going to be delivered over two budget years: 2021 and 2022, and we have not yet finalised being a turnkey project, we need the contractors to conclude the development of the drawings and other necessary documents that we need, and for them to give us an estimate that is conclusive for the building.
“And then we also move forward to the issue of equipping the building after delivering it and then place it before the BPP for consideration.”
On if the senate committee has committed to ensure that funds appropriated were released, Umar said, “I think, you know, during our meeting or interaction with the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs, it has become very clear to the membership of that committee.
“You know, the entire delegation that came today, that what we need to do is not something just for the executive. It is a project of national proportion and significance and therefore, we need all the support that we can get from the National Assembly.”
Present at the meeting were the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, members of the senate committee and the management staff of the State House.