By Abduwahab Abdullah

The personal Physician to the ailing President Umar Yar’ Adua, Dr. Saliyu Banye has been asked to immediately write and sworn to a statement on the medical records of President Umaru   Yar’ Adua to allow Nigerians, especially the National Assembly to decide whether the President is capable of continuing to perform his constitutional duty.

In an open letter to the Doctor,  made available to Vanguard Law and Human Rights, a non governmental organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP,  urged the medical practitioner to “urgently publish a sworn statement on the medical records of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to allow the citizens, the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly to decide whether he is capable of continuing to perform his public trust and Constitutional responsibility as president; and if he is not, to take appropriate measures to address the situation.”

The statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni stated that unless the information is provided “within one week of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, SERAP would take steps to seek the leave of court for an order of mandamus compelling you to exercise your discretion by fully disclosing accurate information about President Yar’Adua’s medical conditions.”

Apart from this, SERAP demanded publication in major national newspapers and release to the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly a sworn statement on the medical records of President Yar’Adua and that the Yar’Adua physician also publish the names of team of medical specialists he mentioned in his report. The group also asks Dr Banye to work with other physicians to be drafted by the Federal Executive Council or the National Assembly to determine if the President is capable of continuing in office.

The group also demanded an in-depth analysis of President Yar’Adua’s treatment so far, including an assessment whether he is healthy enough to continue to discharge his public trust and functions.

Mumuni said, : “Since his alleged return to the country from Saudi Arabia where he reportedly received medical treatment for months, many high level government officials have been denied access to President Yar’Adua.  There are doubts about his capacity to continue to govern the country but his medical conditions remain shrouded in secrecy.”   According to the group, “In a leaked ‘medical report’, you reportedly stated that “the President has been receiving treatment for his pericarditis with a remarkable improvement since arrival in Jeddah on 23rd November, 2009.

He has however been confirmed by a team of medical specialists to have developed episodes of chest infections that necessitated his isolation and intensive therapy.

“However, doubts remain as to the truthfulness or accuracy of the report. In fact, the Information Minister Dora Akunyili has reportedly asked ‘the cabal surrounding President Umaru Yar’Adua to speak up on the true situation of his health and save the country from the political crisis into which it is gradually slipping.”

The statement further stated “Publishing a sworn statement about the president’s current medical conditions is of particular importance because of the documented history of deception and secrecy regarding his health. A sworn statement will also ensure that you take responsibility for the truth and accuracy of the contents of the medical reports; and can be prosecuted for perjury if the reports are false. We believe this is the only way to resolve the lingering doubts on the medical conditions of the president,”it stated.

The group said that it deeply worried that the state of the president’s health has become a topic of national curiosity and concern. It said the situation continues to undermine the ability of the government to fulfil its international human rights obligations and commitments, including those requiring the government to provide economic and social rights such as  the rights to education, health, and food to Nigerians.

Emphasizing on its position, SERAP said “We strongly believe that Nigerians have the right to know about the medical conditions of President Yar’Adua. Unlike ordinary citizens who are protected by the rules of doctor-patient confidentiality, high level government officials like President Yar’Adua whose treatment is being paid for by the tax-payers cannot hide behind legal rules.

Similarly, because President Yar’Adua’s position is that of a trustee, you are obliged, as the president’s personal physician, to provide accurate information about the president’s current medical conditions to Nigerians,” SERAP said.

It added that the public nature and importance of the presidency generates a moral requirement that Yar’Adua or his doctors waive the right to privacy in this instance.

“Specifically, President Yar’Adua is required to disclose information about his medical conditions that are likely to seriously undermine his ability to fulfill the core functions of the office of the presidency. This requirement exists because (1) the Nigerian people have the right to be governed only with their consent, (2) people’s consent is meaningful only when they have access to information necessary for making informed decisions about their leaders’ medical conditions.”


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