When Healthcare Is Not Healthy

Imagine being chased by a pissed-off grizzly bear and you run into a small cabin and shut the doors. You see a cute polar bear chilling in the cabin, and you feel all is well, but as exhaustion sends you sleeping, the polar bear pounces on you and tears you apart with the agility of a hunter; nothing else seeming amiss except for your warm blood splattered across its cute face. Now, that’s a really horrible nightmare to preface this article.

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Thou Shalt Not Undertake Research

As I picked up my laptop to draft this article, a thought crossed my mind whether the Nigerian antipathy to research and development is in obedience to some religious instruction, or if a fatwa had been declared on any government in Nigeria that dares pay any attention to funding and facilitating research efforts. This thought inspired the title as the best excuse I can conjure for what might be intellectual laziness on a national scale.

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Person being beat up
Change, Politics

Frustration 601: When Brethren Fight

They say the grasses suffer when two elephants fight, but I wonder what happens to the elephants when the grasses fight over their lowly state. While you may cringe at the impossible metaphor of grasses fighting themselves, I have chosen it to highlight a paradoxical happening in society where one group of oppressed persons would take out their frustrations on another group of oppressed persons, while the oppressors pick out pieces of meat stuck in their fortunate teeth from a continuous meal of oppression.

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Illegal Deaths: Saving Gunshot Victims in Nigeria

A popular social critic, Ayo Sogunro, has argued that “Everything in Nigeria is going to kill you”. Whereas we can debate whether this statement is valid, it is clear to me that many events that are routinely managed in saner climes are effectively death sentences in Nigeria. People die due to preventable causes, such as accident victims or gunshot victims, where speedy transfer to a hospital and immediate start of resuscitation can be the difference between a refurbished body and a formaldehyde-preserved one.

On Friday, 15 January 2021, a budding Nigerian, David Ntekim Rex lost his life in saddening circumstances. Although it is clear that the root cause of his death were the bullets of some mindless robbers, there is dispute as to the role of the Nigerian Police and healthcare facilities in facilitating David’s death. Regardless of whether some police officers refused to help David, or some hospitals denied him care, reading about his death made me realise that anyone in Nigeria could have been David. You go about your business trying to earn an honest keep; unfortunately, you find yourself at the other end of a gun barrel, and your staying alive suddenly depends on whether hospitals would agree to treat you. Why should this be so?

For several decades, many Nigerians lost their lives to gunshot injuries. Thanks to the feared propensity of police officers to ignore the concept of “right to life”, most healthcare facilities refused to treat gunshot victims except a police report was presented. Just think about your sibling bleeding outside a hospital while you run to the nearest police station to get a report from a police officer who may not be on seat, or may not have paper to print, or may not even have electricity to draft a report. You finally get a report authorised after a few hours and run back to the hospital to learn your sibling is dead. Gruesomely murdered not by the gun but by a dysfunctional system that could not care about his life and dreams.

To fix this anomaly, in 2017, the “Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots Act” was passed by the National Assembly and assented by President Muhammadu Buhari. The very first section in this Act clearly stipulates that:

“As from the commencement of this Act, every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive, for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance, any person with a gunshot wound.”

Section 11 of the Act, if truly enforced, would have made this article unnecessary. It states that:

“Any Person or authority including any police officer, other security agent or hospital who stands by and fails to perform his duty under this Act which results in the unnecessary [illegal!] death of any person with gunshot wounds commits and offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of ₦500,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of five years or both.”

In my view, there are three reasons why after three years we still have gunshot victims being denied care. Firstly, there is ignorance by the police, healthcare personnel, and the general public. Many persons are unaware that there is actually a law banning any demand for police reports before treatment. Secondly, there is fear among healthcare personnel that they could be harassed by unruly police officers if they were to treat gunshot victims, or they may fall foul of the Act’s requirement to inform “the nearest police station within two hours of commencement of treatment”. Thirdly, there is unenforcement of the Act by the police establishment. If there had been any reports of police officers or hospitals being prosecuted and convicted for illegally killing a gunshot victim, maybe the status quo would have changed.

Lest we become the next David, there are two corrective measures that I believe would make the 2017 Act more relevant for preserving lives in Nigeria. The first measure is to revamp the Act, especially Section 3(1) that requires hospitals to report gunshot cases to the police within two hours. Unless otherwise stated, if we are dealing with a government institution in Nigeria, two hours is too small. Half of that time might even be spent in traffic. I would rather have that timeline increased to something like five hours, with a provision for more time in cases where the entire five hours are spent trying to stabilise a victim. Still on this section, rather than have a hospital try to find a police station, why not have the police setup a toll-free dedicated line (nationwide coverage) that can be reached via text message? A hospital that receives a gunshot victim would only need to send a text message stating that it has a gunshot victim in its facility; then it becomes the duty of the police establishment to identify the nearest police station and dispatch its officers if required. This way, hospitals can focus on what they are actually established for – saving lives!

The second measure concerns the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC). I deem these two agencies responsible for public ignorance regarding the 2017 Act, and therefore guilty of facilitating the deaths of all who could have been saved from gunshot injuries since December 2017. While there is a place for well-meaning individuals and non-governmental organisations to help, if NOA and FCCPC are properly funded and do their jobs correctly, every Nigerian should be aware that police reports are not required before a gunshot victim is treated. This would also give the public confidence to approach hospitals for treatment, especially in cases where the gunshot victim has not committed any crime, and is therefore free of any fear that involving hospitals could lead to future arrest after treatment. The same way we have public campaigns via diverse media for polio eradication and COVID-19 response, there should be nothing keeping NOA and FCCPC from a grassroots drive to get every police officer, healthcare personnel, and the general public aware that hospitals can and should treat gunshot victims without any encumbrances whatsoever.

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Alex Ekwueme: Asking the Wrong Questions

In his book, Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon added a thought-provoking quote: “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” Getting citizens to look at the wrong places has been a key operating principle for governments around the world disinterested in true accountability nor doing right by their citizens. Trying to get at a problem without asking the right questions is like trying to diagnose pregnancy by asking if a mosquito recently bit a lady. Unfortunately, Nigerians flirt with such irrelevant questioning.  Continue reading “Alex Ekwueme: Asking the Wrong Questions”

Change, Politics

Celebrating 100 Days of Excuses

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy … therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”

  • Jesus Christ (Luke 12:1 + Matthew 23:2)

In writing this article, I understand that some persons’ sensibilities would be offended; maybe a little more than some. Yet, I choose to write because we cannot continue to shy away from important issues that affect Nigeria’s existence. During the 2015 general elections campaign, the then General Muhammadu Buhari pledged to ban medical tourism by government officials. Today, we are celebrating 100 straight days of President Buhari’s sojourn in London, his second trip this year.  Continue reading “Celebrating 100 Days of Excuses”


Random Thoughts on STDs

It’s been about two weeks since I wrote anything for this blog, and I realise that two weeks is a really long time. My excuse is that I’ve been very busy handling some essentials, but someone once told me that if you value something or someone, you would always make out time for that thing or person. So, I’m going to force myself to sit and pen a few words, and hope those words manage to stay on course.  Continue reading “Random Thoughts on STDs”

Change, Politics

Treating a Healthy President

I understand that the world is going through a lot right now with Trump fencing with his American comrades, Britain uncertain over Brexit, and the continued carnage in the Middle East. That is so much for the world to digest, but I would beg the world’s indulgence to allow me add more to its plate. You see, a president is missing. Well, not exactly missing, but missing all the same. Out of the abundance of my selfishness, I think we need to temporarily ignore the world’s problems and talk about this president. Continue reading “Treating a Healthy President”


Ministry of Death: Fake Drugs Division

With the crash in the value of societal morals, people are prepared to reach alarming extents in a bid to acquire wealth. If you think that there is any limit to the Ministry of Death’s terms of reference, forget it! The Fake Drugs Division proudly trumpets its achievements, and it is rapidly recruiting new staff members. Continue reading “Ministry of Death: Fake Drugs Division”