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15 Apr 2020

COVID-19: Buhari urged to ban foreign medical trips for one year

The Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) on Wednesday advised President Muhammadu Buhari to, for one year, ban political office holders from receiving medical treatment abroad.

HEDA said this moratorium on medical tourism would compel public officials to fix the country’s health facilities and allow affected officials transfer their health profiles from foreign hospitals.

In an April 15 letter to the president, the anti-graft organisation reasoned that a national Social Security and Health Insurance Law is the country’s most important need in following the COVID-19 pandemic.


HEDA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, who signed the letter, said: “Nigerian health facilities will remain extremely bad, even worse than what was recently experienced by the SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation), as long as elected public officials know that they may never need to use the facilities since they have the option and state resources for going abroad.

“The surest way now is to ban public office holders from medical trips abroad. President Buhari needs to take that decision now.

“We need a radical approach judging from the experience learnt due to COVID-19. President Buhari should issue an executive order banning all public officers from seeking medical test and treatment abroad, with a moratorium of one year for the uplifting of our health facilities and transfer of their medical records to Nigeria.”

He said the only exception is that medical treatment abroad should be restricted to referral from competent medical personnel and can only be in those areas where local capacity is lacking.

Such referrals, Suraju added, should be investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to prevent medical officials from compromising the process by accepting bribes to procure fake medical reports.
The HEDA Chairman also urged Buhari to compel the Ministry of Health to initiate the Social Security and Health Insurance bill.

According to him, many Nigerians will face tough economic challenges, post-COVID-19, making Social Security and Health Insurance a necessity.

“We urge President Mohammadu Buhari to compel the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other relevant ministries and agencies, to initiate the bill.

“The law will save millions of vulnerable Nigerians who are on the lowest point of the ladder and will help tame the rising wave of social discontentment,” HEDA said.

The not-for-profit urged the Senate and the House of Representatives to prepare themselves for speedy passage of the bill.

It connected the “uprising in some parts of Nigeria” following the 14-day lockdown extension, with “poor conditions, lack of opportunities and the absence of any legal economic safety nets.”

“A social security and health insurance law will guarantee hope for Nigerians, minimize public aggression, crime and deviant behavior that we see on Nigerian streets today, largely induced by poverty” Suraju said.

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