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Reps reject bill to restrict foreign medical trips by public officials

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted out a bill seeking to regulate medical trips being embarked upon by public officials.

The proposed law was killed at the third reading during the plenary on Tuesday.

The report on the ‘Bill for an Act to Amend the National Health Act 2014 to Regulate International Trips for Medical Treatment by Public Officers to Strengthen the Health Institutions for Efficient Service Delivery’ was considered by the Committee of the Whole.

While debating the report, several lawmakers claimed that the legislation would breach the right of public officials.

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.”

The Deputy Speaker, Mr Lasun Yusuf, however, said the bill would discriminate against elected officials.

“This bill is against my fundamental human right. There are two fundamental wrongs in this bill, it is against human right and it is discriminatory. Do not let us do a debate on this bill,” he said.

Another lawmaker, Mr Razak Atunwa, from Kwara State, alleged that the bill was targeted at public officials over the mismanagement of the health care sector.

He said in parts, “The fact that I am public servant does not mean I have given up my right. If the government has failed in providing hospitals, 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.”

The Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Mohammed Wase, from Plateau State, urged the House to “throw away” the bill.

NNPC FEB 2019 REPORT

He said, “I was in hospital in Nigeria for check-up and they said I was fine. Friends encouraged me to travel for check-up and 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 enabling an environment for people to invest in the health care sector.”

The House had similarly rejected a bill sponsored by Mr Sergius Ogun, seeking to regulate sponsorship of children of public servants in foreign schools.

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