Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has frowned at the medical treatment of President Muhammadu Buhari abroad.
The senior lawyer said such an act not only constituted a gross abuse of the rights of the less privileged but a serious reflection of pervasive inequality among Nigerian citizens.
He said since such benefit cannot be enjoyed by all Nigerians irrespective of their status and class, it was a sad reflection of class differences in the country.
The lawyer also said that the federal government should henceforth be responsible for the payment of ransom demanded by kidnappers for any kidnapped Nigerian, stressing “the responsibility of government is to protect our lives and property.”
The human rights lawyer made the statement on Thursday at Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti during the launching of a book entitled, ‘Financing Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria’ written by Dr Olaofe Ogundipe.
He said, “Let me say, if I am kidnapped today and I pay ransom to secure my freedom, I will surely take FG to court to refund my money because it is the responsibility of government to secure my life.”
Falana further wondered why the president and other top Nigerians like the late Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme could be hurriedly flown abroad for medical treatments, while Nigerian hospitals were being ill-equipped thereby causing death of poor Nigerians who suffer lesser afflictions.
Falana spoke on the topic, ‘The Justiceability of Health As a Human Right’, maintaining that the Section 17 of the constitution and National Health Act 2014 made it a matter of imperative for government to foot the medical bills of poor Nigerians, regretting that these are not being implemented.
“In the last couple of years, President Buhari has been flown abroad for medical treatment at public expense.
“In the same vein, the federal government recently announced that it would pick up the medical bills of the late former Vice President, Dr Ekwueme in a London hospital.
“While the nation’s leaders deserve the best medical treatment for the preservation of their lives, it is our submission that the FG must bear the medical bills of all citizens without discrimination.
“This submission is anchored on Section 42 of the constitution which has guaranteed the fundamental right of every citizen to freedom from discrimination in a manner that no citizen shall be accorded any special advantage over and above others.
“While it is correct to state that section 17(3) of the constitution which has imposed a duty on state to ensure that there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons is not justiceable, it is submitted that the fundamental right to health which is inseparable to the right to life is enforceable”, he said.
He called on the federal government to ensure the effectiveness of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, by making it affordable for every citizen.
“Instead of the healthcare providers to do the right thing, they were only using the opportunity to cheat the subscribers by giving them undeserving patronage for them to make more money”, he alleged.