By Doun Kogbara
I hear that Nigerian doctors are very unhappy about President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to seek medical treatment for a persistent ear infection in London.
According to a report I’ve just read in the Political Economist online publication, Dr Osahon Enabulele, the Vice President of the Commonwealth Medical Association, has described this decision as “a national shame”, given that Nigeria has a National Ear Centre and more than 250 ear, nose and throat, ENT, specialists.
Nigerians apparently spent $1bn (£690m) on foreign medical trips in 2013. Most of these trips were unnecessary, in Enabulele’s opinion. And he has accused the President of reneging on a promise to put an end to such medical tourism, saying that he should lead by example by using local doctors and facilities, and also ensure that government officials do not go abroad on “frivolous” medical trips.
Frankly, I personally don’t share Enabulele’s faith in Nigerian doctors because I’ve had too many bad medical experiences in Nigeria – doctors who were downright lazy and negligent, doctors who clearly didn’t have a clue what was wrong with me and gave me random cocktails of inappropriate drugs to take, doctors who confidently delivered diagnoses that turned out to be inaccurate when I got second opinions from their British counterparts and a doctor who decided to remove a lump from my breast without first checking to find out whether it was a malignant tumour.
(And, by the way, after the possibly unnecessary operation to which he subjected me, this Nigerian surgeon sewed up the wound so crudely that my doctor in the UK was absolutely horrified when she saw what a terrible job he had done).
Having said this, while I would have advised Mr President to sort out his ear problem abroad, if I’d been close to him, I DO share Enabulele’s view that the President should not say one thing and do another.
Buhari has made a point of vigorously opposing extravagance; and in a speech that was delivered on his behalf to the Nigeria Medical Association in April, he said that government funds would no longer be spent on treating officials overseas because there are in-country experts who can provide adequate care.
Enabulele is also right to say that too many Nigerian-trained doctors are working abroad (there are 3,000 in the UK and 5,000 in the US) and that the government is failing to address the brain drain by improving working conditions and facilities.
The Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill
I have complained about our legislators’ failure to pass this Bill. A Vanguard reader, Nehemiah Sokponba (email@example.com) disagreed with me and I promised to publish his alternative viewpoint because he had taken the trouble to do extensive research and makes some interesting points. And, by the way, while I do not empathise with most of his opinions, I share his concerns about the abortion issue.
The senators who argued for the Bill’s rejection claimed it violated our culture and religions (Islam and Christianity). There has been a lot of uproar and criticism of the Senate’s decision, so I decided to download a copy of the Bill and read it.
It was designed to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). So I also had to download and read both documents.
The first problem with the bill is CEDAW. This convention has been used by the United Nations CEDAW committee to harass several nations to change their laws and the CEDAW committee has been hijacked by radical feminists…and has been in the vanguard of pushing for unhindered right to abortion even though the CEDAW convention did not call abortion a right.
The committee has made several repugnant recommendations and this write up cannot contain all. Once we incorporate CEDAW into our law, the UN CEDAW committee will start influencing our laws, policies and court judgments.
In some countries people have used CEDAW to get court judgments to nullify existing laws. Who knows if CEDAW will not be used to nullify the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Law or the Sodomy prohibition of our Criminal/Penal Codes?
Another major problem with this bill is that in Section 12 (c) the bill provides that the Government should protect the right of a woman to an abortion in the event of sexual assault, rape, incest and when her pregnancy endangers her mental and physical health.
This section amounts to the most liberal abortion legalisation one can get. It does not limit abortion to any stage in the pregnancy as is done in most countries. Thus if the bill had become law a woman could kill her unborn child at any period of the pregnancy even at eight months and 29 days. Since the law would have made it a right, the implication is that a doctor, nurse or hospital that refused to perform the abortion would be liable for prosecution as a human rights violator.
Thirdly, the bill in sections 21 to 41, provides for a 10-member Gender and Equal Opportunities Commission to monitor the bill’s implementation. The bill allocates three seats on the commission to gender rights civil society groups and one seat to civil society organisations. No seats to the ministries of justice, education and health, areas where there are potentials for gender discrimination. This means the bill has given 40% of its commission to NGOs that are more often than not financed by foreign agents whose intentions are questionable. In the West, some gender rights groups champion homosexual and trans-sexual behaviour and it is possible that affiliates of such groups may find their way into the proposed commission. Such groups will use their seats on the proposed commission to cause havoc on society.
Finally, let it be known that there are moves at the international level to expand gender rights to cover same-sex marriage and the right of men to use women’s bathrooms if they are trans-gender females.
Nigeria obviously needs to do something for the women and men who are marginalised. But the Bill is not necessary because our Constitution provides enough legal coverage if it is fully implemented. I commend the senators who voted down this bill for their vigilance, bravery and patriotism.