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The uncommon legislator is at it again, Rt Hon. Sergius Ogun’s bill to prohibit public officers from seeking medical treatment abroad at public expense scales through 2nd reading as house okays 7-year jail term, N500m fine for offenders

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RT HON. SERGIUS OGUN’S BILL TO PROHIBIT PUBLIC OFFICERS FROM SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT ABROAD AT PUBLIC EXPENSE SCALES THROUGH 2ND READING AS HOUSE OKAYS 7-YEAR JAIL TERM, #500M FINE FOR OFFENDERS

The House of Representatives has proposed seven years jail term and N500 million fine for any public officer of the government of the federation or any part thereof, for seeking undue medical check-up or treatment abroad.

The proposal is contained in a Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act, 2014 which scaled through second reading in the Green Chamber at plenary on Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rt Hon. (Barr. ) Deacon Sergius Oseasochie Ogun representing Esan North-East/Esan South-East Federal Constituency of Edo State, the proposed legislation seeks to amend the Principal Act (National Health Act, 2014) to make provision for sanctions against any public officer who violates the provisions of the law, especially Section 46.

Section 46 of the National Health Act,2014 provides that: “Without prejudice to the right of any Nigerian to seek medical check-up, investigation or treatment anywhere within and outside Nigeria, no public officer of the Government of the Federation or any part thereof shall be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation or treatment abroad at public expense except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation and referral shall be poop duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner of health of the State as the case may be.”

Consequently, clause 2(2) of the proposed amendment provides that; “Any public officer of the Government of the Federation or any part thereof who violates the provision above shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000,000 or to an imprisonment term of seven years, or both.”

In his lead debate Rt Hon. Ogun said if passed into law, the Bill will curtail the excessive medical trips of public officers abroad and direct their attention to fixing the poor state of the country’s health sector. He said this will in turn lead to the development of the health sector, improved remuneration for medical Doctors, thus attracting Nigerian Doctors abroad to come back home.

“This bill, when passed into law, will demonstrate government’s commitment to the welfare of her citizens in the sense that funds which were hitherto expended in foreign medical trips will be redirected into building an efficient and effective health care system in the country. This will in turn positively impact on the lives and wellbeing of the people.

“This Bill will stop the export of cash abroad and redirect same to the development of our economy. This cash which flies abroad in the disguise of one medical trip or the other will be retained here in our country and be used to develop our nation,” Rt Hon. Ogun stated.

He further argued that the Bill would reduce the export of Nigerian medical Doctors abroad, which is among the many challenges facing the country’s health care sector.

“The poor attention being given to the country’s health sector, accounts for this and has resulted in a shortage of medical Doctors in the country,” the lawmaker said.

Please find below, the full texts of the bill:

Honourable (Deacon) Sergius Ose Ogun
Suite 4.94 New Building, House of Representatives
National Assembly Complex, FCT Abuja.

LEAD DEBATE IN SUPPORT OF A BILL FOR AN ACT TO AMEND THE NATIONAL HEALTH ACT 2014, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA OFFICIAL GAZETTE NO. 145, VOL. 101 (HB. 1611)

  1. PROTOCOL

Mr. Speaker, Honorable colleagues, I have the honour to lead the debate in support of a Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act, 2014, Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No. 145, Vol. 101 (HB.1611)

  1. STRUCTURE OF BILL:

The Bill has three clauses. Clause one is the enactment clause. Clause two is the amendment clause of the Principal Act, while clause three is the citation.

  1. OBJECTIVES OF BILL:

The objective of this bill is to amend the Principal Act so as to make provision for sanctions against any public officer who violates the provisions of the Act, especially Section 46 of the Act, which provides that:

“Without prejudice to the right of any Nigerian to seek medical check-up, investigation or treatment anywhere within and outside Nigeria, no public officer of the Government of the Federation or any part thereof shall be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation or treatment abroad at public expense except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation and referral shall be duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner of health of the State as the case may be.”

  1. BACKGROUND:
    Mr. Speaker and Honourable Colleagues, this Bill which seeks to amend the National Health Act is borne out of a desire to discourage medical treatment abroad at the expense of state funds and at the detriment of our indigenous health institutions.
    Whereas the Act prohibits foreign medical treatment by public officers on state sponsorship, it makes no provision for sanctions for those who contravene the provision of section 46 of the Act (as shown above). This among other things, is the reason why I have sponsored this bill, to give a punitive effect to the provision of the Act which will serve as a deterrent to potential violators.
  2. MERITS OF THE BILL:
    Mr. Speaker and Honourable Colleagues, I respectfully urge you to look at the merits of this bill and pass same in the interest of our nation which is currently going through trying times and requires drastic steps to bring it back on its footing. The bill has the following merits:
    a. Reducing the export of our medical doctors abroad:
    Among the many challenges facing our health care sector is the mass exodus of indigenous medical doctors to other countries. The poor attention being given to the country’s health sector, accounts for this and has resulted in a shortage of medical Doctors in the country.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended doctor-to-patient ratio is one-to-six hundred. However, in an interview published in Punch Newspapers of 24th April, 2019, the President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Adebayo Faduyile, said that “Nigeria currently has just forty thousand doctors serving an approximately two hundred million population”. This shows a great dearth of medical doctors in the country. The reason for their exodus abroad is among others a lack of infrastructure in the sector, poor remuneration and government’s unwillingness to pay attention to the sector.

If this House passes this bill into law, it will curtail the excessive medical trips of public officers abroad and direct their attention to fixing the poor state of the country’s health sector. This will in turn lead to the development of the sector, improved remuneration for medical doctors and many other benefits.

b. Duty of government to see to the welfare of citizens:
Section 14(2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) Cap C23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, provides that; “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government;” This bill, when passed into law, will demonstrate government’s commitment to the welfare of her citizens in the sense that funds which were hitherto expended in foreign medical trips will be redirected into building an efficient and effective health care system in the country. This will in turn positively impact on the lives and wellbeing of the people.
c. Reduction of cash flight abroad:
This bill, as has been stressed above, will stop the export of cash abroad in the name of medical treatment and redirect same to the development of our economy. All of the cash which flies abroad in the disguise of one medical trip or the other will be retained here in our country and be used to develop our nation.

  1. PROVISIONS OF THE AMENDMENT BILL:

Mr. Speaker and my dear colleagues clause 2(2) of the Bill provides as follows:

“(2) Any public officer of the Government of the Federation or any part thereof who violates the provision of sub-section (1) above shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000,000 (five hundred million naira) or to an imprisonment term of seven years, or both.

  1. CONCLUSION:

Mr. Speaker and my dear colleagues, it is no news that Nigeria’s health care system is in a deplorable state and needs urgent attention. There is paucity of infrastructure, dearth of medical personnel, poor standards and many other challenges that need to be addressed.
This bill when passed into law, will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our health care sector. I therefore urge my esteemed honourable colleagues to vote in support of the passage of this bill. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Written by SOG

Godfrey Oyaka also known as Suleiman Odiamu Godfrey (SOG) is the second son and third child of twelve in a polygamous home. He was born on Wednesday 26th of June to Mr Suleiman Oyaka and Mrs Comfort Oyaka of the Royal House of Alla-Odiamu Community, Ifeku-Island in Esan South East LGA of Edo State, Nigeria.
He is currently a Law student in the prestigious Faculty of Law, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State. He is also a Blogger, Writer, Public Speaker and Content Creator.
He is a smart fellow and a game changer, his ability to improvise in any situation, and readily lend a listening ear to people in distress has distinguished him among equals.
He is a philanthropist and a believer.

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