By Marcus Ikechukwu
Tijjani Umar, the Permanent Secretary, State House, has decried the pruning down of budgetary allocations to the presidency for the year 2023, insisting that the proposal of N21.1billion is comparatively lower than the 2022 appropriation of N40.1 billion by 19.01 per cent.
He made the submissions on Thursday while defending the 2023 budget proposals before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Umar disclosed a marginal decrease in the personnel cost due to the anticipated retirement of 40 staff in 2023.
He added that the recurrent expenditure levels in the various cost centres had been maintained except for marginal increases in the Office of the President, Vice President and the Chief of Staff to the President.
He noted that the presidential/VIP wing of the state house clinic was 80 per cent complete.
On capital expenditure for 2023, the Permanent Secretary explained that the major areas of spending in the State House under capital appropriation include the annual routine maintenance of the facilities in the Presidential Villa, Abuja and the State House Complex, Lagos; the purchase of operational motor vehicles, State House Clinic and the proposed National Centre for Coordination for Early Warning and Response Mechanism (NCCRM) in the office of the Vice President for Strategic Preparedness and Resilience (OSPRE).
The facilities in Abuja and Lagos include but are not limited to buildings and infrastructure in the President’s and Vice President’s residences, Offices, State House Auditorium, State House Gymnasium, Presidential Banquet Hall, Council Chamber, State House Conference Centre, Presidential and Ministerial Airport Chalets and Airport Lounge in Abuja as well as State House, Dodan Barracks Complex in Lagos.
Noting that commitment to these facilities takes 65 per cent of the total appropriation, Umar noted that to keep them in optimal working condition, the sum of N7.20 billion has been proposed for the year 2023 as against N7.76 billion in 2022.
‘‘Closely following this is the dire and urgent need for the complete replacement and upgrading of the communication/telephony system and electronic visitors record management in the Presidential Villa,’’ he said, adding that N150 million has been proposed for the completion of the telecommunications infrastructure in 2023.
On the facilities and buildings in the Lagos Liaison Office Complex and Guest Houses, the Permanent Secretary told the Committee that ‘‘they are old and require not only maintenance but renovation and renewal.’
He expressed concern that the provision of N59 million for maintenance of State House Lagos Complex and Guest Houses is inadequate, saying that an estimated sum of N644 million would be required to upgrade the facilities.
On purchasing operational vehicles and following discussions with the Budget Office of the Federation, the Permanent Secretary said N1.96billion had been proposed under the phased replacement of vehicles in the Presidential Ground Fleet and those in the Conference Coordination Unit (CCU).
‘‘It is noteworthy that most of the vehicles being proposed for replacement were procured more than 10 years ago and have since exceeded their useful economic lives.
‘‘This has resulted in frequent breakdowns and an unsustainable expenditure on repairs/replacements of parts,’’ he said, adding that the released amount of N800 million was inadequate to procure the required numbers that need to be replaced partly because some of the vehicles are treated and very expensive.
On the State House Clinic, Umar thanked the Committee members for their support in getting the Presidential/VIP Wing of the State House Clinic off the ground, expressing delight that the project, which was flagged off on November 1, 2021, is at an advanced stage of completion.
‘‘This level of progress was attained given the full support of Mr President and the assistance of key stakeholders, especially this distinguished Committee which has appropriated funds needed with the backing of and support of the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.’’
He said the project, which is 80 per cent completed, would be delivered by the end of December 2022 or latest, during the 1st quarter of 2023.
Speaking on behalf of the Committee, the Chairman, Senator Abba Moro, before adjourning the meeting, said: ‘‘I am not unmindful that the State House is the hub of the government and everything radiates from there. We will do the needful, and if we need to see you again, we will invite you. But with what has been discussed and presented, we will be able to do the needful to the satisfaction of all.’’