Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari in his tenure since May 29, 2015 has made five medical trips since he was inaugurated president of the federal republic of Nigeria. Also the elite class amongst the public officers are also known to seek health care services abroad on a frequent basis. This has been shown to have various consequences in the development of Nigeria as a whole.
Medical tourism refers to people traveling to a country other than their own in order to obtain medical services. This is as a result of the high quality of healthcare service obtained in such other countries. As Nigeria is not known to be a tourist destination for healthcare, its citizens form a good number of medical tourists. A great number of Nigerians troop abroad every year in search of the best medical treatment and healthcare service.
As a way to ameliorate the economic problems and improve the health sector, a bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act to regulate and prohibit medical trips abroad by public servants has passed through second reading at the House of Representatives on February, 2018. This is to facilitate the development of effective healthcare as well as strengthen the public and private healthcare institutions for a more effective service. Sergius Ogun who sponsored the bill expressed confidence that if the amendment is passed into law, it would regulate medical tourism by public servants.
The root cause of Nigerians seeking healthcare abroad can be said to be corruption and poor management by officials in charge, all other problems are just symptoms of the aforementioned. Among the symptoms we have are underfunding and out of date medical equipment. Policies put in place to address the issues in the health sector are barely implemented.
As at 2016, 4.3% budgetary allocation was given to the health sector which is very much lower that the 26% allocation recommended by the United Nations. Lack of adequate basic infrastructure in the healthcare sector is appalling, as most government hospitals do refer patients to private diagnostic centers and laboratories.
Also the frequent embarkment on industrial strike by those in the medical field also brings about the exodus of citizens in search of medical healthcare. The frequency of industrial strike amongst medical professionals have led to numerous avoidable deaths of patients across Nigeria. As a result, those who have the means do not hesitate to leave the country for healthcare purposes.
According to Rep Johnson Agbonayinma the passage of the bill will encourage public servants to fix the healthcare sector by providing world class equipment and facilities through proper funding and implementation in the sector. The implementation of the bill will bring about a turning point in the health sector as the government will begin to pay close attention to the healthcare sector. Once the Nigeria health sector is properly developed, the country will then be a destination for medical tourism.
Doesn’t the amendment of this bill infringe on the fundamental human rights of a public officer? Rep. Nnena Elendu Ukeje is of the opinion that the amendment does infringe on the fundamental human rights of public officers as seen in chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to Sec 41(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom. Therefore it will be an infringement on the rights of public officers to prohibit them from traveling on medical grounds unless as provided in the Sec 41(2) of the Nigeria constitution.
In conclusion, it is expedient that the government fix the problems which brings about medical tourism by Nigerians abroad. Therefore bringing our healthcare system up to world class standard will go a long way to benefit Nigeria.
About the author
Nduka Delight is a 500 level Law student of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, she is a Writer and a social Justice activist.
For knowledge and Justice