The Incessant Contravention of the Provisions of the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots Act 2017: A Call for Enforcement

Abstract

The lackadaisical attitude towards the treatment and care of victims of gunshot in Nigeria, especially by Medical personnel, whose primary and paramount duty is to save lives, makes one to wonder if at all, the law regulating and protecting such victims is in force and effective in Nigeria.

Various reports and incidences of the death of the victims of gunshot has shown that, such death would have been avoided as of first instance, if not for the flimsy request of the hospital attendant, to be presented with a police report before carrying out such treatment on the victim, not minding the challenges to be encountered before obtaining such report and the critical condition of the victim. Hence, making the death of the victim inevitable.

This calls for an incursion into the provisions of the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots Act 2017, and to ascertain its level of contraventions and a dire need for enforcement of the provisions of the law therein.

Introduction

Over time, the disheartening state where family members, relatives and friends lose their lives, due to the stringent procedures of requesting a police permit from a gunshot victim in a Nigerian hospital, is so pathetic.

Historically, in Nigeria, the act of denying stabbed/gunshot victims treatment until they tender police reports and clearance can be traced to the period after the civil war (1967-1970), when there was a proliferation of firearms and armed robbery cases around the country.[1]

This prompted the passage of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act. [2] Section 4(2) of the Act states that:

“it shall be the duty of any person, hospital or clinic that admits, treats, or administers any drug to any person suspected of having bullet wounds to immediately report to the police”.

The Act states further in Section 4(4) that: “a person convicted of contravening this law, shall be liable: in the case of an individual, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; and in the case of a hospital or clinic, to a fine of N10,000 and in addition, the hospital or clinic shall be closed down”.

The rationale for such requirement is that, it is intended to avoid a scenario wherein a suspected armed robber, cultist, kidnapper or even a terrorist, after sustaining a gunshot wound during an engagement with the Police or other law enforcement officers, gets treated and probably continues in his criminal activities.[3]

Howbeit, to retrench this inextricable practice, the National Health Act 2014 [4] was enacted on 31st October 2014 and assented to in December 2014, by the former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

The Act though belated, was a breath of fresh air, heralding a sign of change to the deathly norm especially, for those who had lost loved ones untimely because, they could not tender police reports during medical emergencies.[5]

The objective of the Act was to criminalize the demand for police reports by health personnel before attending to medical emergencies.

Section 20 (1) of the Act states that: “a health care provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency medical treatment for any reason whatsoever”.

Subsection (2) states that: “any person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both”.

In as much as the Act provides a legal framework for the regulation and management of Nigeria’s national health system, hospitals still deny victims of medical emergencies treatments for failure to tender police reports.

Consequently, to stop the ugly trend and to uphold the sanctity of life, in 2017, the President, Muhammadu Buhari noticing the ineffectiveness of the National Health Act, reviewed it to a new Act titled: “Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshot Act.” In lieu of the above stated, the provisions of the Act will be dissected.

An Overview of the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshot Act 2017

In Nigeria, the primary and current law protecting victims of gunshot is: the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshot Act 2017 (hereinafter referred to as “The Act”). It was passed by the Senate on 11th July, 2017 and was assented to by President Buhari on 29th December, 2017.

The Act mandates all medical practitioners to receive and accept victims of gunshot for immediate treatment without a police report. And a victim under the Act is defined as: “a person who sustains injuries as a result of gunshot powder, burn and other injuries arising out of or caused by the discharge of a firearm”. [6]

Furthermore, the Act contains important provisions if properly enforced, would totally eliminate the challenges faced by gunshot victims in Nigeria.

Section 1 of the Act confers on a gunshot victim, the right to treatment, by providing that: “As from the commencement of this Act, every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance any person with a gunshot wounds.”

Section 3 of the Act, reiterates the position of the Law as contained in Section 1 above by providing that: “No gunshot victim shall be refused immediate and adequate treatment whether or not an initial monetary deposit has been paid”.

Section 13 contains very important provisions and essence of the Act. It provides that:

“Any person or authority including any police officer or other security agents or hospital who stands by or omits to do his bit which results in the unnecessary death of any person with bullet wounds commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to 5 years imprisonment or a fine of N50,000.00 or both”.

Hospitals are required to promptly report to the nearest police station, within two hours of commencement of treatment, so as to enable investigation by the police and to ascertain the circumstances behind the gunshot injuries, failure to do so would amount to an offence and on conviction, shall be liable to a fine of N100, 000.00 and every doctor directly concerned with the treatment shall be liable on conviction to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of N100, 000.00 or both. [7]

Section 14(1) of the Act further provides that: “In addition to any other penalty under this Act, the High Court shall order a person or corporate body convicted of an offence to make restitution to the victim by directing the person or corporate body to pay to the victim an amount equivalent to the loss sustained by the victim”.

The Act also provides for certain duties binding on the Police and other security agencies. For instance, the Act mandates: every person including security agents to render every possible assistance to any person with gunshot wounds and ensure that the person is taken to the nearest hospital for immediate treatment.[8]

Also, the fundamental right to dignity of the human person is further secured by the Act as it provides that: ‘No person with a bullet wound shall be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment or torture by any person or authority including the police or other security agencies’.[9]

From the various provisions of the Act, it is clear that, it is an offence for hospitals to deprive victims of gunshot treatment with or without Police report. However, irrespective of the stringent law, various incidences have shown that this law is been colossally breached rather than followed.

Incidences of the neglect of victims of gunshot from receiving treatment in Nigerian hospitals

It is six (6) years from the time of the enactment of the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshot Act 2017. Notwithstanding the law, incidences of the death of victims of gunshot is exuberant. This is due to the fact that, on several occasions, medical practitioners have vehemently renege to treat victims of gunshot brought to the hospital except, with the presentation of a Police report.

One of such recent instance, is the case of a lawyer, Barr. Omobolanle Raheem, who was shot by a police officer in Lagos on the 25th of December 2022.[10]

Reports had it that, following the unprovoked shooting of Raheem, who was in company of her husband, and others in their family car on Christmas day by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Drambi Vandi, she was first rushed to Budo Specialist Hospital where she was rejected ostensibly due to non-submission of police report.

She was subsequently taken to a second hospital, Doren Hospital but no help was forthcoming before she was rushed to Grandville Hospital where she was confirmed dead.[11]

Another instance is that of Ebenezer Ayeni, a gospel music producer, who was reportedly shot by armed robbers when he was attacked in his Ibadan residence early on Friday, June 11, 2021.

He was rushed to the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, where the management demanded a police report to account for the gunshot wounds. The family then took him to a private hospital, J-Rapha Hospital, where he was denied treatment as well.

The third hospital, Oyemesi Hospital, accepted him but it was late, as he had lost much blood and gave up the ghost hours later.[12]

Also, on Monday the 22nd of July 2019, news broke that one Mr. Precious Owolabi, a youth corps member serving at Channels Television News in Abuja, was shot while reporting the clash between the Nigerian Police Force (“NPF”) and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (“IMN”).

The news spurred further outrage when it was reported that, Mr. Owolabi was rejected by the various hospitals where he was taken to for treatment of his gunshot wounds, which unfortunately led to his untimely and preventable death.[13]

Furthermore, on the 13th of May 2018, the sad story of an Ogun State based Engineer, Adebayo Akinwunmi, was reported to have been shot by armed robbers in his house at Ofada-Mokoloki, Ogun State. He was later rushed to Reddington Hospital  in a pool of his blood,  but doctors refused to attend to him insisting on a police report.

Rather than attend to him, they referred him to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja where he was confirmed dead on arrival. [14]

These to mention but a few, are instances of the brazen disregard of the law by hospitals, which have developed a pattern for trampling on the law with irritable arrogance.

Likewise, the act of these medical practitioners in itself, contradicts the Hippocratic Oath of doctors to protect lives of people. The hospitals’ rejection of emergency cases of this nature borders on the abuse of the most important fundamental human right, which is the right to life, as enshrined in Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Conclusion/ way forward

It is obvious from the discussion so far, that the problem with the treatment of gunshot victims in Nigerian hospitals, is not with the enactment of law to protect such persons, as the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshot Act 2017, clearly provide for mandatory treatment of such victims, alongside punishment for disobedience and disregard of the provisions of the law.

The problem therefore, is with the application of stringent enforcement mechanism to aid compliance with the law.

From the above, it is apparent that, in as much as the Act is commendable, yet it is bristle with implications such as the need to improve the commitment by government to the health of Nigerians, the need to oversee medical treatment of patients brought in the hospital and to ensure that the law enacted is followed by health practitioners.

Consequently, it is recommended that, the relevant enforcement agencies like the Nigerian Police Force, should be more proactive in ensuring that the provisions of the Act are strictly complied with and if any provisions of the Act is breached by any hospital, urgent need to make an example of offenders, regardless of their status or position, be it hospitals, companies or police officers should be made through prosecution or imposition of fine.

It is also the opinion of this writer that, sensitization is key. Various sensitization programmes should be conducted by the Governments at all levels in the country, through the appropriate information dissemination agencies, such that citizens are informed of their various rights under the Act.

Additionally, hospitals should be educated on the fact that, they are duty bound by law to treat all victims of gunshot anytime, with or without police permit.

References:

  1. Awele Ideal, ‘What the Law Says About Insistence of Police Report for Accident and Gunshot Victims’ (September 30, 2021) <https://dnllegalandstyle.com/2021/what-the-law-says-about-insistence-of-police-report-for-accident-and-gunshot-victims> Accessed on 5 January 2023
  2. 1984 Cap R11, Vol 14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
  3. Oringo Bamidele Gabriel, ‘The position of the law vis-à-vis victims of gunshots in Nigeria’ <https://www.thejetlawyer.com> Accessed on 5 January 2023
  4. Act No. 8 of 2014
  5. Percy Ani, ‘Police report: Families of gunshot, accident victims in tears amid rising cases of needless deaths’ (5th September 2021) https://punchng.com/police-report-families-of-gunshot-accident-victims-in-tears-amid-rising-cases-of-needless-deaths/> Accessed on 10 January 2023
  6. Section 15 of the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshot Act 2017
  7. Section 7 of the Act
  8. Section 2 ofctct
  9. Section 3(ii) of the Act
  10. Oluwakemi Adelagun, ‘Christmas Day Tragedy: Police officer kills lawyer in Lagos’ (26 December 2022) <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/572407-christmas-day-tragedy-police-officer-kills-lawyer-in-lagos.html> Accessed on 15 January 2023
  11. Olugbenga Soyele, ‘Gunshot Victims Act: Prosecute Hospitals For Rejecting Bolanle Raheem’– Foundation <https://leadership.ng/gunshot-victims-act-prosecute-hospitals-for-rejecting-bolanle-raheem-foundation/> Accessed on 15 January 2023
  12. Samson Toromade, ‘Gunshot victim: Ebenezer Ayeni dies after hospitals refused to treat gunshot wounds without police report’ (June 11, 2021) <https://www.pulse.ng/ news/metro/gunshot-victim-police-report-ebenezer-ayeni-dies/xs4vbgv> Accessed on 18 January 2023
  13. Ebuka Obidigwe, ‘Nigeria: An Appraisal Of The Compulsory Treatment And Care For Victims Of Gunshot Act, 2017: Late Precious Owolabi’ (8 August 2019)<https://www.mondaq.com/home/redirect/1778848?mode=author&article_id=835070&location=articleauthorbyline> Accessed on 18 January 2023
  14. Samson Folarin, ‘Family of killed Ericsson engineer blames hospital, seeks justice’ (17 May 2018) <https://punchng.cct/family-of-killed-ericsson-engineer-blames-hospital-seeks-justice/> Accessed 20 January 2023

 

About the Author

Wayii, Bariledum Deebom is a graduate of Law, from the University of Uyo. An erstwhile Justice of the Court of Appeal, SUG (Uniuyo Chapter). She is a voracious researcher and writer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like