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THEWILL Editorial: Nigerian Leaders’ Unfortunate Disdain For Local Health Facilities

SAN FRANCISCO, February 17, (THEWILL) The state of infrastructure in the country has over the years been a source of great worry to Nigerians. Of particular concern is the nation’s deteriorating healthcare system, which has remained comatose, making the political elite and the bourgeoisies to travel abroad for medical treatment, even for the slightest afflictions.

Within this context falls the trending medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari to the UK, which has generated lots of criticisms from citizens. Although, the health status of Mr. President is yet to be officially divulged, it would be recalled that he had traveled last year to Britain to seek the attention of Ear, Nose and Throat, ENT, specialists on what was reported to be a recurring ear infection.

Although billions of naira is budgeted annually to fix infrastructure across all sectors, our hospitals have degenerated to mere consulting clinics because of corruption and poor leadership. The anti-graft crusade of the present administration should also pay attention to happenings in the health sector to see why voted funds are not reflected in the state of facilities, and arrest the anomaly.

Meanwhile, it is inordinate that Buhari again traveled abroad for treatment at public expense, despite the country’s budget of N3.8 billion for the State House Medical Centre. It is also a contradiction of the President’s declaration in April 2016, that his government would no longer fund the medical trip of public officials. 

So bizarre are these frequent medical trips that some even go on for minor ailments like headache, malaria and toothache, dissipating scarce foreign exchange on what can be effectively treated at some of the nation’s clinics.

THEWILL observes that this situation has persisted even though Nigeria parades medical practitioners with vast expertise. It has been reported that Nigerians are among the best medical professionals in the world. They are working in large numbers across the world, particularly in Britain and America, where reports have been published about their unbroken medical feats.

It is curious that despite these accomplishments, our leaders still travel to India, Germany, Britain and America in the name of medical check-ups. The Federal Government must borrow a leaf from these countries by revamping Nigeria’s heath sector so that medical tourists from other nations can also come here for treatment.

Nigeria, as a leading oil producer with enormous potentials in agriculture and natural resources, has no reason not to have world-class health facilities. Sadly, the huge foreign exchange that is expended on these needless trips is worrisome given that the Nigerian economy is in recession and needs every dollar and pound it can get.

Aside President Buhari, it has been reported that some top public officials like the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, the President’s Chief of Staff, some ministers and governors have been undergoing medical treatment abroad using public funds.

By traveling abroad for medicals, these public office holders have demonstrated to ordinary Nigerians that they do not have faith in the nation’s health sector. Regrettably, citizens who cannot afford this luxury are the ones bearing the brunt. Little wonder they are dying like flies due to the failed system, coupled with the biting economic hardship.

It is also curious to note that former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who overthrew another regime partly on account of a dead healthcare system, just returned from a seven-week medical holiday in Europe.

According to Nigeria’s human rights activist, Femi Falana: “The practice of allowing poor citizens to die of preventable diseases while top public officers and rich private citizens are allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment can no longer be justified.”

It is also ridiculous that after Goodluck Jonathan ruled the country for six years, his wife, Patience could publicly state that part of the $31.5 million frozen in an alleged corruption case against her was to offset the medical bills that she incurred in a London hospital.

It is shameful that our leaders are bereft of ideas on how to develop the healthcare sector and have allowed corruption to erode their sense of responsibility to the ordinary citizens.

THEWILL demands, as a matter of necessity, that the Federal Government declares a state of emergency on the health sector and totally make Nigeria’s health facilities at par with what obtains in developed countries. We suggest that part of the loots recovered from corrupt persons should used to, in the meantime, to put the health sector in shape.

We also urge the National Assembly to enact legislation that will prohibit public officials, from local government councilors to the President, from traveling abroad for any ailments that our local doctors can handle. Henceforth, the secrecy that is woven around the health condition of political office holders must be done away with.

Traveling abroad for medicals must only be allowed after local doctors have confirmed publicly that such ailments cannot be treated in the country. This is the only way that leaders can sit up to develop the sector for the benefit of all Nigerians.

THEWILL recalls that Cuba’s deceased leader, Fidel Castro and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela never travelled out of their countries to treat their ailments in foreign lands. There are many African leaders who stay back in their country for medicals.

President Buhari and all other Nigerian leaders, with penchant for medical tourism, must do likewise and stop embarrassing themselves and the country in the eyes of the international community.