Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, is well regarded across the country as a stickler for truth and integrity. But PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report that the nation’s number two citizen did not tell the truth regarding who can receive healthcare at the State House Medical Centre in Abuja.
Mr. Osinbajo had on February 26, in Lagos, said the state house clinic was open for use by all Nigerians.The vice president was responding to questions at the Pastors and Leaders Retreat of the Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, Lagos.
He said the medical centre was a well-equipped general hospital always open for use by the public. However, when PREMIUM TIMES visited the hospital on May 4 and 7, the Vice President’s claims were found to be untrue.
The question Mr. Osinbajo answered at the event was triggered by a PREMIUM TIMES report of February 2 indicating that the presidency planned to spend more on the State House Clinic than on all the federal teaching hospitals in the country.
Based on the budget proposal in the public domain at the time, the clinic was billed to gulp N787million more in capital allocation than all the 16 federal teaching hospitals combined.
The State House Medical Centre provides services for President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Osinbajo, their families and employees of the Presidency.
The 72-bed clinic thus offers services to less than 1, 000 Nigerian elite. But the 350-bed Abuja National Hospital, which caters for millions, got far less in capital allocation.
The same situation applied at the federal teaching hospitals across the country which bed spaces triple that of the state house clinic and cater for millions, train medical doctors and allied health professionals while also serving as medical research centres.
The February 2 report triggered outrage across the country with citizens and activists calling on government to review the funds allocated to the state house clinic downward while pumping more money into health facilities open to millions of Nigerians.
To deflate the mounting criticism of government at the time, Mr. Osinbajo claimed the hospital was open to all Nigerians and that it should not be considered an exclusive preserve of presidency officials.
He said he even preferred that the facility be further equipped to provide higher medical services to those in need.
But our reporter, who sought to access treatment at the facility on two occasions, gathered evidence which countered Mr. Osinbajo’s claim.
The qualification assessment and blockades
The qualification assessment for treatment at the State House Clinic began over one kilometre away from the facility.
The assessment was not done by health workers but by army officers who mounted blockades.
An army officer stopped our correspondent at the security post on the road leading to the hospital at 11.55 a.m. on Wednesday, May 4.
The security check was not limited to PREMIUM TIMES correspondent but to all those going into the exclusive zone.
“Hello, madam, where are you going?” the young soldier asked.
Upon being informed that she was headed to the State House Clinic, he continued, “Do you work there?”
The reporter responded that she was ill and needed to see a doctor.
First were the soldiers who questioned everyone who came around to confirm whether or not you were qualified to take treatment at the hospital, thereby showing that indeed it was not for everybody. But more specifically when the Premium Times reporter was able to find his way into the hospital. His findings were much more revealing.
‘At 11.59 am, when out reporter got inside the facility, she met a senior health officer at the General Out Patients Department (OPD), who gave her name simply as Matron Ahmed.
“Are you entitled to treatment here,” was the first question Matron Ahmed asked PREMIUM TIMES.
Our correspondent immediately engaged her in a friendly conversation.
Who is entitled to services in this facility,” our correspondent asked, “Because I am a Nigerian and I guess every Nigerian is entitled to service here.”
“Where do you work,” the health official asked.
When told that she works in a newspaper house in Lagos, Matron Ahmed replied, “This one is presidency. It is mainly for presidency. It’s just like in the states, you have government house clinics. This is state house clinic for the presidency. So, it is meant for only those who work in presidency,” the matron said.
“If you go to National Assembly, they have their own clinic. It’s just like that. If you go to CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria), they have their clinic. If you go to NNPC they have their own clinic. And it’s only those people who work there that can use it.”
Besides the hospital not being open to all Nigerians, family members, including children of workers at the presidency who are above 18 years old are not entitled to treatment at the facility.
The rule, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, applies even if the ward is a student or unemployed.
When asked if our reporter could access treatment if a family member works in the presidency, the official said, “You are already above 18 and already working. You can’t access treatment here.”
She, however, explained that it was nothing personal but that it was organizational policy, adding that she was equally affected by the policy.
“My daughter is above 18 and can’t access treatment here. Even if she is not working, she is not entitled since she is above 18.
“Though I am working here, I took my father to Garki hospital. We have an eye clinic here,” the health official said.