(Watch Videos): RT HON. SERGIUS OGUN’S UNRELENTING QUEST TO END FOREIGN MEDICAL TOURISM AND WHY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SHOULD DO THE NEEDFUL
The honourable member representing Esan North-East/Esan South-East Federal Constituency of Edo State, Rt Hon. (Barr.) Deacon Sergius Oseasochie Ogun is in the news again for good reasons. Over four years after his first attempt, the Uncommon Federal Lawmaker’s bill which seeks to amend the National Health Act 2014) has scaled through second reading. The bill’s arduous journey to the second reading was by no means rosy. Its first coming was greeted with mixed reactions and hysteria from a section of the national ruling party -dominated 8th assembly so much that the bill was viciously frustrated and grievously aborted with zero regards for its inherent merits.
When the Defender of the Common People, Rt Hon. Sergius Ogun first laid the bill on the floor of the Green Chamber in the 8th Session of the National Assembly, the amendment sought was for public servants not to travel for medical check up or treatment overseas except in cases that cannot be handled in Nigeria and the approval of the Minister of Health or Commissioner of Health as the case maybe will have to be obtained for the trip to be approved and the public servant must show that he/she has the resources to embark on such treatment before the approval is granted. However for some nebulous reasons, the bill was deliberately shut down as it did not see the light of the day in the life of the 8th Assembly.
Propelled by the irrepressible desire to do what is right for the good of the nation without caring a hoot about the size of the army of opposition against it, the Voice of the Voiceless made another bold but modest attempt to amend the National Health Act 2014 in the current 9th Assembly. However given the headwinds that greeted the first attempt in the 8th assembly, the astute federal legislator chose to seek amendment to the same act ( S. 46 of the National Health Act 2014) to include stiff sanctions which was not in the principal act.
While leading the debate on the amendment bill, Rt Hon. Sergius Ogun expressly clarified that : “ I am not the one that made this law. I have the gazette here. I am only trying to cure the defects in the act because there is no punishment for flouting it. I am not debating the decay in our health sector or capital flight. There is already an act but there is no punishment for violating the act”. Going further, he explained that he was only trying to give teeth to the provisions of the act by way of including stiff penalties for violators. It is trite that an act without punitive penalties to punish law breakers cannot command compliance.
Mercifully, the bill has scaled through second reading and it is expected that it will go the whole hog including public hearing and ultimately become a law before the end of the current session of the National Assembly.
At this juncture, it is needless to reiterate the imperatives of the amendment sought by the Oluese Nomioguele of Agbazilo. Suffice it to say that the economic pain of medical tourism abroad has put a strain on the nation’s scarce financial resources. According to an authoritative CBN report : “ Nigerians spent a total of $39.66bn on foreign education and healthcare-related services between 2010 and 2020, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria data.
The BoP report also revealed that Nigerians paid $11.01bn for healthcare-related services in foreign countries. The amount spent on these foreign services is almost equivalent to the current value of the country’s foreign reserves which stood at $39.51bn as of March 23, highlighting its high cost. These statistics and their impacts were cited in a financial report released last week titled, “A Simple and Factual Explanation of Nigeria’s Exchange Rate Dynamics”
According to the report, the high cost of these services has drastically increased the demand for foreign exchange in the country, which has put a strain on the value of the naira to the dollar”
From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that if Nigeria does not kill foreign medical tourism, foreign medical tourism will kill Nigeria’s health sector. Truth be told, If Nigeria must move forward as a nation, we need more parliamentarians and public officers in the mould of Rt Hon. Sergius Ogun who can put the interests of the nation over and above personal interests. If and when passed into law, Rt Hon. Ogun’s latest legislative offering is capable of drastically reducing the high incidence of foreign medical tourism to the lowest minimum and compel public officers to begin to take the right steps to revive and rebuild the nation’s health sector to the highest standard comparable to what is obtainable in the developed world.
The House of Representatives should give its arm and limb to the National Health Act 2014 Amendment Bill and ensure its timely passage without further ado.
Team Sergius Ogun