President, wife and son spent more than 250 days overseas for medical treatment

Despite allocating huge resources to the health sector, Nigeria’s leaders and politicians are treating the most common ailments at taxpayers’ expense in what officials call medical tourism. While flying abroad for the sake of the medical sector, he neglects the medical sector until it rots and continues to have a sense of distrust in the medical sector.

The health sector, like other major sectors in the country, continues to suffer ups and downs, including industrial action, lack of funding and poor access to basic health care facilities for poor Nigerians.

The Nigerian Association of Trainees, the governing body for trainees, has announced the start of a five-day warning strike on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

The strike shut down government-owned hospitals and health facilities, stranded poor citizens who could not afford treatment in private health facilities.

This is not the first time doctors and other categories of health workers have gone on strike during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

In 2016, NARD embarked on an 18-day strike under the leadership of then-President Dr. Muhammad Aquirah.

In 2017, the association went on strike again under the leadership of Dr. John Oniebze. The strike, which began on September 4th, was called off on September 17th.

In 2020, NARD members, under the guidance of Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, will once again hold a week-long national meeting on 15 June over the dismissal of 26 trainees at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital, salary cuts, and issues surrounding the training fund for trainees. embarked on a strike. . The strike was eventually called off on June 22nd.

A year later, NARD first launched a 10-day strike from April 1-10, 2021. In late July of the same year, the association went on strike for 60 days.

As the strike continues, Buhari, his wife Aisha, their son and president-elect Bola Tinub do the same. Prominent politicians, including Godswill Akpabio, the consensus candidate for the All-Progressive Council to be president of the Senate for the 10th Congress, continue to enjoy seamless medical care in hospitals abroad.

Countries where Nigerian politicians have benefited from medical tourism include the UK, US, France and India.

At the time of this report’s submission, the amount spent by politicians on medical tourism was not available to our correspondents, but the Nigerian Government Investment Authority estimates that in 2021, the public will spend an average of $1 billion annually on medical tourism for various medical treatments. said spending dollars. Oncology, Orthopedics, Nephrology and Cardiology, he serves needs across four major specialties.

In May 2019, MP Sergius Ose Ogun proposed a bill to prevent civil servants from receiving medical treatment abroad. The bill seeks to amend Article 46 of the National Health Law as follows: “(1) Federal government officials shall not undertake medical travel abroad without authorization, or sponsor medical examinations or investigations, or except in exceptional cases by recommendation and referral by the Medical Board, Treatment abroad at public expense, the recommendation or referral of which shall be duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner, as the case may be, and sufficient notice to the office where the police serve that such illness cannot be treated in Nigeria. You can’t even go on medical travel abroad unless you can prove it.”

Buhari’s family trip

Before taking office eight years ago, Buhari, who believes in change, visited London’s Chatham House in 2015 and said: there is nothing! Why shouldn’t the President of Nigeria fly with other Nigerians? Why go on medical trips abroad if you can’t make hospitals work? do I need to let it go? ”

Eight months after taking office in February 2016, Buhari embarked on a medical trip to the UK, where he spent a total of six days.

In April 2016, months after his first medical trip to London, Buhari condemned the use of Nigerian resources for international medical bills.

Amid criticism, the retired general departed on June 6, 2016 for a second medical trip. He spent 10 days in treatment for an undisclosed ear infection, then rested for another 3 days before returning to Abuja on 19 June 2016. National ear center of the country.

On January 19, 2017, the president embarked on his second-longest medical trip. Before his departure, however, he wrote to the Senate, headed by Bukola Saraki, revealing his plans to travel to London for a ten-day vacation.

In the letter, Buhari said he would hand over to assistant professor Yemi Osimbajo. The medical leave was due to start on January 23, 2017, but the president left Abuja on the same day.

He returned to Abuja on March 10, 2017 after a 50-day vacation.

In May of that year, just two months after his last visit, the president left for London on his longest medical pilgrimage, which lasted 104 days.

It is still unclear what illness he was being treated for, but the Nigerian was asked to “pray” for the president.

Speculation and misinformation about his health then circulated, with some speculating that he had died and was replaced by a body double.

Prolonged treatment must have helped, as the president did not return to London for another check-up until a year later, in May 2018, when he spent four days undergoing a “medical review.”

In late March 2021, Buhari left for London again for a 15-day “routine check-up”.

His visit came amid a health sector labor crisis in which NARD members have embarked on an indefinite strike for unpaid benefits.

On March 6, 2022, the President flew back to London for a 12-day medical trip.

Earlier, Buhari was due to travel to London from Nairobi, Kenya, where he was attending the United Nations Environment Programme, aged 50.

However, he returned to Nigeria on Friday 4 March 2022, but left for London two days later.

Special Assistant to the President for Media and Public Relations, Femi Adesina, said Buhari will travel from Kenya to London for “a routine medical check-up lasting up to two weeks.”

On October 31, 2022, the president left Owerri, the capital of Imo State, for London for another medical examination lasting about two weeks, returning home on November 13, 2022.

A presidential spokesperson has repeatedly defended Buhari’s overseas medical travel, saying he has “used the same medical team for almost 40 years.”

Recently, the president reiterated that Mr. Buhari visited a hospital abroad for dental treatment.

The president isn’t the only one involved in medical tourism, as his wife Aisha was flown to Dubai in August 2020 due to “persistent neck pain.”

Similarly, his son Yusuf was taken abroad for treatment after being involved in an e-bike accident in 2018.

In August 2020, Buhari’s nephew Manman Dawla was also flown to the UK for treatment.

President-elect Bora Tinub is no stranger to medical tourism.

The former Lagos governor will spend a total of 90 days in the UK in 2021 after knee surgery.

Last election People’s Democratic Party presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar flew to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in December 2015.

Similarly, on October 22, 2023, Atiku also flew to France in search of what was simply tagged as “medical”.

Earlier, in December 2022, the former vice president said he could not patronize hospitals in the country due to the limitations of the country’s healthcare system.

In June 2022, former Ekiti Governor Ayodele Fayose was taken to a closed hospital abroad for back surgery.

Education Minister Adam Adam, who will retire in 2020, was flown to Berlin, Germany for treatment. Since then, he has made numerous medical trips abroad.

In a letter sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on March 27, 2023, Akpabio revealed that he did not accept the anti-corruption agency’s invitation because he was receiving treatment abroad.

In September 2015, then Senate Minority Leader Akpabio was injured in a car accident and traveled abroad for treatment.

In March 2022, Yobe Governor Mai Mara Buni returned from a medical trip to the UK.

In August 2020, former military dictator Abdulsalam Abubakar returned home after spending nearly three months abroad for treatment.

In April 2018, the Nigerian military announced that seven of its soldiers injured in fighting with Boko Haram had been airlifted to India for proper medical treatment.

In June 2018, Senator Opeemi Bamidel, who represents the central senator constituency of Ekiti province Ekiti, was flown to the UK for treatment on a private jet owned by Tinub.

Vamidel and five others were shot at a reception meeting held for candidates for the All Progressive Congress.

In November 2017, the president’s office announced that Buhari had approved immediate overseas treatment for former Vice President Alex Ekuemé.

In August 2016, Ayodere Adhu, the President’s Senior Special Advisor to the Vice President’s Office for economic affairs, died in an Indian hospital.

Former Ekiti Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi confirmed the death of the presidential adviser in a tribute message issued by Special Advisor for Media Olinka Oebode.

The list of notable politicians and Nigerians who have embarked on medical tourism over the years is endless.

NARD condemns medical tourism

Former vice-president of NARD, Dr. Julian Ojevo, said in an interview. saturday punch Nigeria has skinned politicians who have traveled abroad for conditions that are easily diagnosed and treated.

Ojevo lamented the poor condition of the country’s medical facilities.

“When it comes to the amount spent on medical tourism, the available data are underreported. We need to understand that the population is divided into lower, middle and upper classes. Yes, lower-middle-class people who are forced to go abroad for treatment go to low-income Asian countries like India, spending around $800-900 million.

“But we have rich people and politicians, they are one percent of one percent. I can’t even get any data.

“Medical tourism affects our economy, how the world views us, and the quality of health care we have at home. We tend to forget and not care: Yes, we now have excellent private institutions like Dutchess Hospital and NISA Premier, but how many people in the lower classes can afford those services?

“How many public hospitals have working MRI machines? If the money raised is put into our health care system, it will go a long way in reviving the sector.”

Similarly, Dr. Victor Makanjuora, National President of the Association of Nigerian Medical and Dental Consultants, said, “Medical tourism is a highly damaging scourge to the healthcare sector in Nigeria. presumed to suffer.

“Besides directly benefiting the sick, medical tourism undermines the corporate health of the nation.

“Inadequate healthcare provision for the average Nigerian contributes to the underfunding of the health sector because most of those involved in medical tourism are politicians and senior civil servants (usually at the expense of taxpayers). ) and are expected to mobilize resources for the local health sector, resulting in a chronic underfunding of the health sector.

“Medical tourism indirectly affects the country’s economy through capital flight, significantly increasing the demand for foreign exchange and making the country’s trade balance negative.”

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