Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s nearly monthlong medical leave in London is a sharp reminder to taxpayers that while they finance their leaders’ health care abroad, they often are stuck with decrepit, ill-staffed government health facilities at home.
For decades, Nigerians have paid for their leaders and former rulers to get medical treatment overseas. That courtesy also extends to senior government employees.
This is despite taxpayers’ funding of the State House Medical Center, said to be Nigeria’s best-equipped facility, which serves the president and vice president, their families and staff. The center’s budget this year of 3.8 billion naira to care for fewer than 1,000 people represents 1 percent of the entire public health budget for the country’s 170 million people.
“For years, billions have been budgeted for the State House Medical Center while it has always been evident that every president mostly accessed medical facilities outside the country, going back to the 1980s,” said Oluseun Onigbinde, co-founder of BudgIT, an organization that tries to bring clarity to the West African nation’s opaque budget.