Reps propose 7 years jail term, N500m fine for politicians seeking treatment abroad

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 Sergius Ogun, from 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 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 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,” 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.

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