With 17 days to the end of his regime, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has moved out of his official residence inside the Aso Rock Presidential Villa to the Glass House, a temporary structure that has served as the abode of outgoing presidents since 1991.
The move is to allow for maintenance works on the residence in preparation for its next occupant, President-elect Bola Tinubu.
Saturday PUNCH reports that most of Buhari’s aides have also been moving their personal belongings out of the seat of power in order to create room for Tinubu’s personal aides and key Presidency officials.
On the nature of renovations in the main residence, a senior State House source told Saturday PUNCH that the 32-year-old edifice was being coated with white paint, while some of its sections were being cleaned and fumigated.
However, the renovation, which largely entails finishing and fittings, will not include the provision of new sets of furniture as the incoming President will determine whether to change the existing ones or not.
“You know that most of the structure is white. So, the renovation will involve repainting of the stained sections and replacing fittings that have gone weak or bad. The furniture may not be changed. But that will depend on the new President,” the source said.
According to a two-minute video clip earlier published on her Instagram handle, the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, revealed that the Glass House had since been the new residence of the first family.
Aisha was seen showing the incoming First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, around the State House official residence, adding that the Glass House should remain in use as the transition base for outgoing presidents and their spouses.
She said, “I have taken the incoming First Lady, Senator Remi Tinubu, around. She has seen the main house; we are now at the popular Glass House. The Glass House is a transitional home for outgoing presidents.
“I’m advising that the Glass House should maintain its tradition of being a transition home for outgoing presidents. As I am talking to you now, I am residing here with my husband.
“Only two of us here, I think it should remain so as a norm of the institution and of the house.”
Saturday PUNCH had last week reported that the State House Management had begun renovating and refurbishing sections of the Presidential Villa.
The concrete perimeter fence encompassing the President’s office, official residence, the Council Chamber, press gallery, as well as other administrative offices were being overlaid with new white and green paints.
Our correspondent also oberved the delivery of a new set of furniture to the green room adjoining the Council Chamber. Months earlier, the management had carried out a routine upgrade of card readers and installed barricades in areas, which were once freeways.
Meanwhile, the Villa Clinic located at the administrative section of the State House has been relocated to the N21bn VIP wing of the State House Clinic, now a medical centre.
Our correspondent observed the evacuation of hospital beds, surgical suction machine, oxygen cylinders, mini theatre light stands, pedal bins, dressing bowls, file cabinets and blood collection tubes, among others.
A medical member of staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the old equipment would be relocated to the old Aso Villa Clinic outside of the Villa as they would not be needed at the VIP section.
The medical officer said, “We are moving them to the old Aso Clinic outside, while we move to the VIP Clinic. All our staff members are relocating there since it has been completed.
“Villa staff members can use the clinic as an out-patient clinic, but they will not be admitted there. It is only for senior officials.”
On the State House Management’s plans for the now-empty clinic, the source said, “I don’t know what they plan to convert this place to. But what I know is that we will no longer be there.”
Construction giant, Julius Berger Plc, had begun work on the VIP Clinic edifice in November 2021 with a completion deadline of December 2022.
In March 2023, Buhari approved the re-designation of the State House Clinic as the State House Medical Centre.
The Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, had disclosed after a pre-inauguration inspection of the new presidential VIP wing of the State House Medical Centre by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba.
Saturday PUNCH observed that the President’s aides started packing their personal belongings out of the Villa earlier this month in order to avoid last minute focus on them by “overzealous security officials,” who might be taking pictures to give the impression that the aides were engaging in last-minute looting of the residential apartments.
One of the presidential aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said items being moved out of the Villa included personal books, electronic gadgets, fittings and other personal effects that he said were not purchased with government funds.
Another aide of the President, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said, “Since we all know that the tenure of the present administration ends on May 29, which is about 17 days’ time, why will we wait until the new appointees start to resume before we move out?
“Already, the President and his family have also moved from the main building to a smaller one within the Villa, and I am sure that the first family will soon start moving their belongings out of the Presidential Villa.
“The First Lady, Aisha Buhari, has taken the incoming First Lady round the residential areas and buildings in preparation for the handover. So, what are we going to be waiting for? The outgoing First Lady did that because she knows the incoming First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
“However, we are not sure who will occupy our offices now. So, the idea of waiting for them or taking them around is not feasible. That is why we will have to move out of the official quarters.
“We know how Nigerians begin to crucify an outgoing government and vilify its officials as soon as the handover is completed. We are not immune to that. We are expecting the same, but we won’t wait until we are disgraced before moving our personal effects out of the Villa.”