In a statement to Today News Africa in Washington DC on Tuesday, the Socialist Party of Nigeria expressed worries over President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent medical trips abroad.
The party called for a ban on medical tourism for public officials who spend millions of dollars abroad while hospital and medical facilities are home are left to rot.
Why it matters: Mr. Buhari announced on Monday that he would be going for another medical trip to London after making an unannounced stopover last week in the United Kingdom while returning from Washington DC. Last year, the Nigerian leader spent months abroad treating himself in London. His stay triggered worries that he was not strong enough to lead Africa’s most populous nation.
Read full a statement
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) condemns in its entirety another trip by President Buhari to London for medical reasons. This trip, the fifth of its kind since President Buhari came to power, is an unconscionable waste of our collective resources that could have been better utilized to fund public hospitals and meet the demands of the striking health personnel organized under Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).
Already, between February 5, 2016 and August 19, 2017, President Buhari has spent about 172 days in four trips out of Nigeria costing the country hundreds of millions of Naira. If such money were committed to funding our public hospitals, health personnel would not be on strike at the moment. President Buhari, many political office holders and the rich, which represent a tiny minority are spending over $500 million annually on medical tourism while about N340 billion is allocated to health in the 2018 Federal budget representing 3.9% contrary to 13% recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) and 15% recommended by African Union (AU).
The SPN hereby demands an official ban on overseas medical trip for all political office holders at federal, state and local council levels. If any political office holders wish to seek medical treatment abroad, they can do this with their own personal funds. Public resources must be for public good, not private interest.
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We also call on Federal Government to immediately grant the demands of JOHESU and increase health sector funding, improvement in the wages and working conditions of medical doctors, nurses and all health personnel as well as the overhauling of all public health facilities at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
The SPN is outraged that President Buhari could dare to travel to London using public resources to treat himself of an undisclosed illness in the midst of a national strike by JOHESU that has further worsened healthcare delivery for the poor masses. This is in addition to many who die daily from one violent crises or the other. If this is not an impeachable offense, then what else is it? These patients dying are Nigerians too and President Buhari is not more Nigerian than they are.
The SPN is angry that a President who has consistently underfunded public health does not flinch from using collective resources for his own medical care while many Nigerians die often from treatable ailments because the public hospitals are functioning abysmally.
As far as we are concerned, every Nigerian, and not just President Buhari, other political office holders and the rich, deserves access to quality medical care. That this is denied the vast majority while political office holders use our public wealth to fly abroad to access the best of medical care is the clearest testimony that this capitalist system and President Buhari’s anti-poor government ought to be thrown out by the populace.
We need a president and political office holders who use our public health facilities. But this is only possible on the basis of a government that takes funding of public health as a social responsibility and priority. Unfortunately this is not the case with the present ruling party, APC, as well as other pro-capitalist parties like PDP, APGA, SDP etc. Only the SPN can accomplish this.
An SPN government will make public health free and functional at all levels. All SPN political office holders and their families will depend on the public health facilities and hospitals for their medical needs, the same way they will use public schools and the likes. In addition, an SPN government will undertake comprehensive overhaul of all health facilities across the country as well as adequate attention to workers welfare to ensure all Nigerians receive standard medical care. All these are possible on the basis of a socialist economy plan under which the commanding heights of Nigeria’s economy are nationalized and democratically controlled and managed by the working class.
By Chinedu Bosah, National Secretary