House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected a bill seeking to prevent public officials from seeking medical treatment abroad.
During the plenary at the lower legislative chamber, members voted against the bill, arguing that the legislation breaches the right of the public officials.
The bill, which passed second reading last, was sponsored by Hon Sergius Ose Ogun (PDP, Edo), to put an end to the huge cost often incurred by government in the treatment of public officials abroad.
It seeks to “amend the provisions of the National Health Act, 2014 to regulate international trips for medical treatment by public officers, to strengthen the health institutions for efficient service delivery; and for related matters”.
The bill sought to amend section 46 of the national health act thus: “(1) A public officer of the Federal Government shall not embark on medical trip abroad without approval; or be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation; or treatment abroad at public expenses except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation or referral shall be duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner as the case may be; or embark on medical trip abroad unless he satisfactorily proves to the office where the officer is working, that such ailment cannot be treated in Nigeria.”
Deputy speaker, Lasun Yusuf, argued against the bill, stating that the bill would discriminate against elected officials.
“This bill is against my fundamental human right. There are two fundamental wrong in this bill, it is against human right, and it’s discriminatory. Do not let us do a debate on this bill,” he said.
Razak Atunwa from Kwara state expressed a similar view, suggesting the bill is a move to punish public officials over the mismanagement of the healthcare sector.
“The fact that I am public servant does not mean I have given up my right,” he said, adding: “If the government has failed in providing hospital, we cannot punish someone for it. The intention is right, but better funding for training of doctors, better funding for hospitals is the right way to go.”
Mohammed Wase from Plateau state asked his colleagues to “throw away” the bill.
He said: “I was in hospital in Nigeria for check-up, and they said I was fine, friends encouraged me to travel for checkup, I did only to discover that I was not okay.
“I spent three months there, now you are telling me to get approval… please this bill should be thrown out. Instead of banning people from travelling, we should create enabling environment for people to invest in the healthcare sector.”
Meanwhile, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill had during the second reading of the bill, argued that, “If any public official can on his or her own afford medical treatment abroad, nothing stops the person from doing so.”
He said: “I want to make it clear that it does not bar anybody that has his/her money from getting treatment abroad.
“Nigeria is the only country where the President is flown out for treatment and then have him brought back home to die.
“Nigeria is the only country where the president is flown out for six months, without us knowing the cost of the treatment,” Ogun lamented.
Ogun had argued that the Bill, if passed, would strengthen existing public and private institutions in the country.