Umar said this on Sunday while briefing members of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter- Governmental Affairs. While receiving the legislators who were in the State House on an oversight visit, he lamented that some of the facilities in the Villa have become old and rickety.
The legislators also inspected several State House facilities, including the new site for the proposed VIP State House Clinic, which is located within the precincts of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa; slated for completion in 2023.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari led State House officials, to receive the Senate committee members.
Explaining the challenges posed by non-release of the State House annual budgetary allocations, the permanent secretary said that State House got N5.08bn of its N8.69bn vote in the 2018 fiscal year.
However, the remaining sum of N3.62 bn has not released, Umar said.
For 2019, he said that out of the N6.96bn budgeted, only about N2bn was released.
He, however, said that 2020’s N4.88bn appropriation was released in full.
Reacting to questions from the press, the permanent secretary noted that the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the economy.
Quizzed how the State House management has handled the challenges so far, 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 N8bn was appropriated, out of which only about N5bn was released.
“Definitely, looking at the enormity of the challenges that we are dealing with from day to day, that is affecting our performance.”
He continued, “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 has come to the end of its 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 strategic national importance and it’s being done in the 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.”
Umar said, for now, the State House has begun activities required for the construction; including securing the necessary approvals. So far, it has received 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,” he said.