By Tordue Salem
ABUJA — A bill to bar the President, Governors and other public office holders from traveling abroad for treatment without court approval, has been slated for second reading in the House of Representatives.
A copy of the legislation obtained by Vanguard, yesterday, entitled: “Public Officers International Medical Treatment Trips Regulation Bill, 2019,” is sponsored by Sergius Ogun(PDP-Edo).
The proposed Act, intends to place strict restrictions and conditions on medical tourism by public officers.
It stresses that every medical trip, must come with the leave of the Federal High Court.
It states in sections 5, 6 and 7, that: A public officer shall not embark on a trip for medical treatment abroad, without first seeking and obtaining an order of court, granting him/her leave to so do.
“A public officer who desires to travel abroad for medical treatment, shall apply to the Federal High Court for leave to travel abroad for medical treatment, showing cause why he/she must embark on the medical trip abroad.
“The court shall grant the public officer leave to travel abroad for medical treatment, when it is satisfied that the treatment being sought by the public officer is one which cannot be gotten within Nigeria and that from the showing of the public officer he/she has the legitimate means to undergo the treatment abroad.”
Section 7 adds “A public officer applying for leave to travel abroad for medical treatment, shall file a motion ex-parte, before the Federal High Court, supported by an affidavit of legitimate means, deposed to by him/her with the following exhibits:
“A duly signed medical report (certified true copy thereof) from a public hospital recommending further treatment abroad for the applicant.
“A duly signed referral form, showing the name of the indigenous hospital visited and the applicant’s treatment history.”
The bill goes further with a litany of other requirements, namely laboratory test evidence, evidence of appointment, promotion, salary slip and Assets form.
“Results of laboratory investigations/tests conducted on the applicant, a copy of the applicant’s letter of appointment, a copy of the applicant’s last promotion letter (if any), a copy of applicant’s bank statement of account, a copy of applicant’s current salary pay slip and a copy of applicant’s Asset Declaration Form submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau,” it states in section 7 subsections 1-8.
The Bill also seeks to empower the Federal High Court to deny approval to any public office holder that fails to meet the requirements so listed.
“Where the court is not satisfied with the showing of the applicant, the application for leave to travel overseas for medical treatment, shall be refused.
“Where an application for leave to travel overseas for medical treatment is reused by a Judge of the Federal High Court, the public officer shall have a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal, which shall have a final appellate jurisdiction on the matter.
“Where there is likely to be a conflict of interest in application for leave to travel overseas for medical treatment, the judge before whom the application is brought, shall write to the Chief Judge, requesting that the application be assigned to another Judge,” it says.
The bill also seeks jail, with an option of fine, for false entry of the applicant’s information.
It says “Where a public officer is found to have made false declarations in his or her affidavit of means, he/she shall be liable for and offence and shall upon conviction, be sentenced to an imprisonment term of fourteen years, with an option of fine of ten million.”
Sponsor of the Bill, Mr Ogun in his explanation on the Bill, said it was necessitated by factors inimical to the economy of the country and its people.
“If those of us who can afford, all go abroad for treatment, what will our constituents who cannot afford treatment in Nigeria or do not have access to quality medication, do?
“You can see it on AIT(a private television station) every time, how our constituents are always pleading for support to attend to one ailment or the other; that’s AIT CSR( Corporate Social Responsibility), but what are we (public office holders) doing for our people in terms of quality health care?
“The purpose of the Bill, is to help upgrade our hospitals to international standards, so that the billions we waste on medical tourism, will be saved and jobs can also be provided back in Nigeria.”
The House of Representatives resumes next week Tuesday, from its Christmas and New Year recess, to consider pending legislation and key treaties.