The house of representatives has rejected a bill seeking to regulate overseas medical treatment by public officials in the country.
The lower legislative chamber voted against the bill when it came up for debate during Tuesday’s plenary.
They had passed it for second reading last year.
The bill seeks to “amend the provisions of the National Health Act, 2014 to regulate international trips for medical treatment by public officers, to strengthen the health institutions for efficient service delivery; and for related matters”.
The lawmakers argued that the legislation breaches the right of the public officials.
The bill sought to amend section 46 of the national health act thus: “(1) A public officer of the Federal Government shall not embark on medical trip abroad without approval; or be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation; or treatment abroad at public expenses except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation or referral shall be duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner as the case may be; or embark on medical trip abroad unless he satisfactorily proves to the office where the officer is working, that such ailment cannot be treated in Nigeria.”
Arguing against the bill, Lasun Yusuf, deputy speaker, said the bill would discriminate against elected officials.
“This bill is against my fundamental human right. There are two fundamental wrong in this bill, it is against human right, and its discriminatory. Do not let us do a debate on this bill,” he said.
Razak Atunwa from Kwara state expressed a similar view, suggesting the bill is a move to punish public officials over the mismanagement of the healthcare sector.
“The fact that I am public servant does not mean I have given up my right,” he said, adding: “If the government has failed in providing hospital, we cannot punish someone for it. The intention is right, but better funding for training of doctors, better funding for hospitals is the right way to go.”
Mohammed Wase from Plateau state asked his colleagues to “throw away” the bill.
He said: “I was in hospital in Nigeria for check-up, and they said I was fine, friends encouraged me to travel for checkup, I did only to discover that I was not okay.
“I spent three months there, now you are telling me to get approval… please this bill should be thrown out. Instead of banning people from travelling, we should create enabling environment for people to invest in the healthcare sector.”