The House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected a bill seeking to stop public officials from seeking medical treatment abroad.
The bill seeks to “amend the provisions of the National Health Act, 2014 to regulate international trips for medical treatment by public officers, to strengthen the health institutions for efficient service delivery; and for related matters”.
However, the lawmakers said the bill is a breach of their rights. Lasun Yusuf, Deputy Speaker, said the bill is not just an infringement on rights of the public officials, but also discriminatory.
Razak Atunwa from Kwara state expressed a similar view, suggesting the bill is a move to punish public officials over the mismanagement of the healthcare sector.
“The fact that I am public servant does not mean I have given up my right,” he said, adding: “If the government has failed in providing hospital, we cannot punish someone for it. The intention is right, but better funding for training of doctors, better funding for hospitals is the right way to go.”
Mohammed Wase from Plateau state asked his colleagues to “throw away” the bill.
He said: “I was in hospital in Nigeria for a check-up, and they said I was fine, friends encouraged me to travel for a checkup, I did only to discover that I was not okay.
“I spent three months there, now you are telling me to get approval… please, this bill should be thrown out. Instead of banning people from travelling, we should create an enabling environment for people to invest in the healthcare sector.”
The bill sought to amend section 46 of the national health act thus: “(1) A public officer of the Federal Government shall not embark on medical trip abroad without approval; or be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation; or treatment abroad at public expenses except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation or referral shall be duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner as the case may be; or embark on medical trip abroad unless he satisfactorily proves to the office where the officer is working, that such ailment cannot be treated in Nigeria.”