NOVEMBER 14, 2016 – State governments are spending billions of naira of public funds on constructing and maintaining presidential lodges that are rarely used by presidents.
This practice has continued in spite of the cash crunch that has left many states unable to pay salaries of their workers.
Presidential lodges in several states have not hosted a sitting president for years, even as they gulp billions in maintenance annually. Some of the presidential lodges have been converted to guest houses by state officials.
Since his coming to power more than one and half years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari has visited less than 10 states. Some of the states Buhari visited included Cross River, Zamfara, Osun, Ogun, Katsina, Edo and Kaduna. The president didn’t pass the night in most of the states he visited.
Findings by Daily Trust show that while the states are voting billions for presidential lodges, other critical sectors like hospitals are voted insignificant funds.
In Abia, the state government is building presidential lodge at the cost of N4.8 billion. The project was initiated by Governor Theodore Orji in 2014.
But on the other hand, the state has budgeted N256 million for the rehabilitation of four major general hospitals in Ohafia, Obingwa, Ikuano and Umuahia in this year’s budget.
In Benue State, the cost of maintaining the presidential lodge is under the Government House administration budgetary provision of N1.7 billion as shown in 2016 budget breakdown.
The Benue State Commissioner of Finance, David Olofu, said in Makurdi that his office does not have sub head for maintenance of the presidential lodge popularly known as “P-lodge.”
The Imo State government spends close to N100 million annually on the presidential lodge. Daily Trust gathered that the lodge is under the care of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mrs Ogechi Ololo.
In Ebonyi, Governor David Umahi has allegedly spent about N300 million for the renovation of the present government house and N200 million as take-off sum for the construction of the presidential lodge.
The state government which recently performed foundation laying ceremony of the new government house at the centenary city has raised divergent tunes at this period of recession.
In Kogi State, our correspondent reports that a total of N25 million was the amount approved for the upkeep of presidential lodge in the 2016 budget.
On the other hand, the state only budgeted N200 million in 2016 budget for the provisions of infrastructure and equipment for all its five zonal hospitals in Ankpa, Dekina, Idah, Kabba and Okene.
In Zamfara State, N15 million was recently spent by the state government on renovation of the presidential lodge, an official of the protocol office confided in our correspondent.
Daily Trust gathered that before now, the Kaduna State government spent a lot of money on servicing the presidential lodge located inside the General Hassan Usman Katsina House but has stopped since the coming of Governor Nasir El-Rufai.
In the 2014 budget, the sum of N39.8 million was approved for repairs and renovation of some selected lodges at presidential lodges at the State House while the sum of N120 million was approved for furnishing of some selected government lodges at the General Hassan Katsina House and Modibbo Adama road lodge in Kaduna.
The same amounts were approved in year 2015 budget under the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). In year 2016, no money was budgeted for under the SSG office.
The presidential lodge in Kebbi State gulped over N10 million monthly by the past administration for maintain the lodge, a government official said.
The presidential lodge in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital is currently undergoing renovation. State officials declined rendering information on the cost of the ongoing renovation to our reporter.
In Plateau State, the presidential lodge has moved as many times as the Government House, with each location and period determining the maintenance cost, according to inquiries. Former Governor Jonah Jang constructed the new Government House in the Little Rayfield area, not far from the old one, and turned the old seat of government into a presidential lodge.
But his successor Simon Lalong, who initially refused to pack into the new Government House because of the controversial sum spent on it, later moved in but stayed away from the Governor’s Lodge where Jang stayed before he handed over.
Lalong rather occupied the presidential lodge in the old Government House, and designated the governor’s lodge in the new Government House in Little Rayfied as presidential lodge.
Media aide to Lalong, Emmanuel Nanle told Daily Trust that since the assumption of office of his boss, the state has not received a guest at the presidential lodge and no maintenance has been carried out, except the routine government house utility maintenance of cleaning, electricity and water checks.
“We inherited a new Government House from the former governor. We turned the governor’s lodge there to presidential lodge, but we are yet to receive a guest there, one year on. So no maintenance has been carried out on the facility, except the general Government House utility maintenance,” Nanle said.
Jigawa State presidential lodge has been under lock and key as since the coming of the present administration it has not hosted any personality, Daily Trust gathered.
Governor Badaru Abubakar took over the mantle of leadership stayed in the Presidential Lodge while his official residence was undergoing renovation.
The renovation of governor’s lodge that was awarded at the cost of N100 million at the heed of economic recession in the country attracted some mix reaction in the state.
Badaru’s spokesperson, Bello Zaki, said the state presidential lodge was not in use for sometimes now and for that reason it was not attracting fund for maintenance.
The Bauchi State Presidential Lodge, Ramat House is now serving as the temporary residence of Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar of Bauchi State.
The governor has been living in Ramat House because of the ongoing renovation of his official residence located inside the Bauchi State government house.
On the cost of running the place, a source said there is no specific amount being budgeted as running cost in the state’s budget but the place is being run based on needs apart from regular maintenance as governor’s temporary residence.
The Akwa Ibom State Presidential lodge has become deserted since 2015 when the Department of the State Service (DDS) raided it alongside other guest houses in the state’s government houses.
The Katsina Presidential Lodge is part of the new multi-billion naira government house built by the immediate past government.
The maintenance of the premises was outsourced and reviewed yearly to companies which is been handled through the state ministry of works, Daily Trust gathered.
‘Lodges should be scrapped’
Civil society organizations have condemned the state governments over the presidential lodges.
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) lead director Barrister Eze Onyekpere said there is no basis for keeping the lodges and should be scrapped.
“Presidential lodges are part of the frivolous and wasteful expenditures embarked upon by states. The lodges add no value to the security and welfare of citizens. This pattern of expenditure arises from improper prioritisation in the budgeting process,” Onyekpere said.
On her part the director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) Idayat Hassan said those governors planning such frivolities like the presidential lodges should emulate former Governor Peter Obi’s action on the lodge in Anambra State.
“We all know that the president may not visit all the states let alone sleeping when he visited any of them. The states have governors’ lodges that can be used. After all, the president would not visit any state just because he wants to sleep there,” Hassan said.
She urged the states to rather channel the scarce resources especially in the face of economic challenges to better and productive areas that would benefit the people.
Additional reporting by: Shehu Umar (Gusau), Itodo Daniel Sule (Lokoja) Christiana T. Alabi (Kaduna) Johnkennedy Uzoma (Owerri) Hope Abah (Makurdi) Hir Joseph (Jos) Ismail Adebayo (Birnin Kebbi) Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Romoke W. Ahmad (Ilorin), Aliyu M. Hamagam (Du tse), Balarabe Alkassim (Bauchi), Nabob Ogbonna (Abakaliki),Dickson S. Adama (Uyo), Hassan Ibrahim (Lafia), Haruna Gimba Yaya (Gombe), Hameed Oyegbade (Osogbo), and Habibu Umar Aminu (Katsina), Linus Effiong (Umuahia)& Abbas Jimoh