The Nigerian Senate on Thursday ordered its State House officials to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari from foreign trips for medical treatment in order to ensure the State House Clinic becomes functional this year.
The Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs gave the warning when the State House Permanent Secretary, Tijani Umar, appeared before the panel to defend his 2021 budget estimates.
The State House official had presented a budget of N19.7 billion for 2021, out of which N1.3 billion was proposed for the State House Clinic.
Reacting to the proposal, the Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Danjuma La’ah, said the committee would approve the budget for the State House Clinic but insisted that the President and other top officials of his government should no longer be flown abroad for medical treatment.
The Permanent Secretary in an interview with journalists after defending his budget promised to put necessary arrangements in place to meet to medical needs of the President and other top officials once the budget was approved, the PUNCH reported.
The Nigerian President has been in and out of hospitals in foreign hospitals since May 2017.
His health has been a major cause of concern in a country where there are fears that a power vacuum could affect its recovery from recession.
In May 2017, Mr Buhari, 77, left Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in charge, just as he did when he left for London in January 2017 for seven weeks of medical leave.
Mr Osinbajo was widely praised at the time for his performance as acting president.
Nigerians are particularly sensitive to the health of their president after then-President Umaru Yar’Adua sought medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in 2009.
His failure to hand power to the vice-president and the lack of information about his condition led to widespread anxiety. He died in office in 2010.
When Mr Buhari returned from London in March, he said he had never felt “so sick” as he had when he was being treated and warned that he may have to undergo further medical checks.
Concerns over his health were rekindled after he missed three consecutive cabinet meetings in 2017, prompting civil society activists to urge him to return to London for further treatment.
Buhari’s unhealthy start to 2017
19 January – Leaves for UK on “medical vacation”
5 February – Asks parliament to extend medical leave
10 March – Returns home but does not resume work immediately
26 April – Misses second cabinet meeting and is “working from home”
28 April – Misses Friday prayers
3 May – Misses third cabinet meeting
5 May – Appears at Friday prayers in Abuja
7 May – Travels to UK for further treatment