The visit of President Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu to the United Kingdom for medical care amid the ongoing strike by the National Association Residents Doctors (NARD) has sparked outrage across the country.
Resident doctors have been on strike for over 15 days in protest of government’s failure to respect agreements on welfare.
In this report, NEWSMEN x-ray the promises of the All Progressives Congress’ manifesto on the health sector.
Before the 2015 elections, the APC released a manifesto on what it intends to do if given the power. In the manifesto, the then opposition party stated that “Sadly, the best healthcare in Nigeria remains a plane ticket abroad.”
The APC had promised, “to immediately increase the proportion of Federal spending on healthcare from 5.5% to 10%, to bring it to 15% by 2020.”
NEWSMEN check reveals that the party has failed to achieve this goal of 10% allocation to healthcare, let alone the 15% target set for 2020. In the 2021 budget, the entire allocation to healthcare was 7%.
In addition, the party stated that “we need to urgently improve our healthcare infrastructure, with a new network of local clinics and dispensaries providing free drugs and services.”
To this, the APC promised to “build a network of local and mobile clinics providing free health services and drugs.”
Wike mocks Buhari, vows not to travel abroad for medical checkup
Despite the promises, 6 years into the administration of the APC, the leaders of the party continue to contribute to medical tourism overseas.
N14.6 billion on Aso Villa clinic but Buhari jets out constantly
Over N14 billion have been spent on the statehouse clinic located in the presidential villa.
Despite this, President Buhari has spent over 200 days in the UK for medical care in his 6 years as President.
In 6 years, over N14.5 billions have been allocated to the statehouse clinic located in the presidential villa, but the President and his household continue to seek medical assistance abroad.
However, the spokesperson to the President, Femi Adeshina had said that, “President Buhari has been with the same doctors and medical team for upward of 40 years. He should continue with those who know his medical history.”
But in 2017, when Yusuf Buhari, the only son of President Buhari had a motorbike accident in Abuja, he was flown to Germany after initial treatment in Nigeria.
While the first family and others could afford the alternative, Nigerians are dying from cholera outbreaks. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), over 800 persons have died from cholera outbreaks in Nigeria.
How APC-led House rejected a bill to stop medical tourism by public officials
In 2019, the House of Representatives rejected a bill to ban the travel of public officials overseas for medical care.
The bill, sponsored by Sergius Ogun from Edo State was rejected by the committee of the whole in May 2019.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Idris Wase, who was then the Deputy Leader, had argued that the bill should be thrown out. He cited a personal experience of the medical situation in the country.
“I was in a hospital in Nigeria for a check-up and they said I was fine; friends encouraged me to travel for a checkup, only to discover that I was not okay, I spent 3 months there, now you are telling me to get approval from the Attorney General before I can travel for a medical trip; please this bill should be thrown out, he (Sergius) just came back from abroad. Instead of banning people from traveling, we should create enabling environment for people to invest in the health care sector,” argued then.
While Mr. Wase can afford alternatives, most Nigerians are unable to get alternatives.
Abdulkareem Babarinde, a medical doctor, who spoke with NEWSMEN, said the reason politicians seek medical care abroad could be attributed to the “insatiable appetite for anything foreign.”
“Over the years, the sector has been underfunded by the same politicians. The tertiary healthcare sector where presumably most of them would have loved to access their healthcare; that sector is nothing to write home about. You can count the number of teaching hospitals that have functioning MRI machines and CT scans. These are the basics.
“But the politicians ought to be able to use the private hospital because there has been some traction in that sector. A lot of private investors have invested in private healthcare delivery. A lot of these politicians are still not patronizing them.
“The hospitals they are going to in the UK and are being managed by doctors trained in Nigeria. Annually, doctors are moving to the UK in droves. Go to Canada, there are Nigerian doctors there. So, the doctors are ready. Let them invest in the sector, and they will get the best care.”