Many deaths, according to reports, have occurred due to lack of presentation of police report by victims of road accident and gunshot before they could receive treatment in private hospitals in Nigeria. There is no official statistics but deaths from accidents of gunshot and road accidents occur almost every day, according to experts.
FRSC said in a report that average of 12 people died daily in 2019 in road accidents across Nigeria.
The FRSC late last year said it recorded 8,527 road traffic crashes across the country from January to November 2019. The Corps said that 59,724 people were involved in the road crashes in which 14,425 vehicles were involved. According to its reports, 4,163 people died, while 27,408 were injured in the accidents while 27,523 escaped without injuries.
The high level of accidents either on the roads or from gunshots is understandable in a country with a population of about 200 million people, a nation battling with high level of insecurity from Boko Haram, kidnapping, outright vicious murder, poverty and poor infrastructure.
In such environment, there are likely to be many victims either from road accidents due to poor roads, carelessness of drivers, gunshots, fights or from other incidents. Therefore, when hospitals refused to treat them on lack of police reports, it will likely result in many deaths.
Sometimes, relatives of accident victims, rushed to the nearest hospital, beg doctors for treatment, with justifications that the victims are not armed robbers but to no avail. Instead, the doctors refer them to other hospitals, particularly general hospitals that are not nearby.
Doctors in Nigeria who offered explanations why they don’t treat accident/gunshot victims except on presentation of police report have tales to tell. Some of them who spoke to BusinessDay said they are divided between saving lives and police intimidation and harassment.
“Normally a doctor’s professional calling is to save life but when that service will put you in trouble, it is better you avoid it”, a doctor based in Lagos told BusinessDay. This is why some doctors don’t stop on the way to assist accident or gunshot victims because of the fear of being robbed in. He said that the police sometimes try to housecoat the doctor in their investigation, if the victim was involved in criminal activity.
According to him, though there are bad eggs in the medicine practice, but many doctors who are innocent have been interrogated, kept in cell for days or had their hospitals shut down by the police for helping accident or gunshot victims.
Another doctor who prefers anonymity complained that the police harassment is more rampant with private hospitals because police think that some of them collaborate with criminals on robbery activities. “Police can shut down your hospital during their investigation on the allegation of collaboration with criminals”.
The doctors said that they often refer such accident victims to general hospitals where they can be treated and the doctors would be defended by the authorities if the victims were eventually found to be product of criminal activity.
Determined to checkmate the pains and perhaps eventual deaths of accident victims resulting from lack of police reports, Nigerian government in 2017 enacted The Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot act. The act provides for the compulsory treatment and care for victims of gunshots by hospitals in Nigeria.
The act further imposes the responsibility on every citizen to offer any assistance to gunshot victims by taking them to the nearest hospital for treatment.
Clarifying the act in an online news report, the Pulse.ng, an Abuja based Legal practitioner, First Baba Isa, says the law specifies punishment for medical practitioners who refused to tend to gunshot victims because they don’t have a police report.
He says; “Section 1 states that “Every hospital is to receive and treat victims of gunshot wounds with or without police clearance and/or payment of an initial deposit, but are duty bound to report to the nearest police station within two hours of commencing treatment on the victim.
“Section 7 states that “Any authority or person, whose omission results in the unnecessary death of a gunshot victim shall be liable to imprisonment for 5 years or a fine in the sum of N500, 000.00 or both.” It is not yet known whether any person has been charged to court for violation of this act.
The doctors further explained to BusinessDay that it is not about enacting acts but proper implementation of the acts. “How well the act is implemented is the issue. We are law drafting people but the issue is implementation”, a doctor said.
Federal Competitive and Consumer Protection Council, FCCPC which has the mandate to protect consumer rights in Nigeria is taking the patients’ rights further.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) is the apex consumer protection agency in Nigeria. The Commission was established by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Act (FCCPCA) (Cap. 25, Laws of The Federation 2004). The overall mandate of the Commission is to protect consumers by taking both preventive and remedial measures. FCCPC was originally enacted in 1992, but the physical establishment of the Commission occurred in 1999.
The agency recognises that consumer is the greatest asset of Nigeria and would do all it could to protect the consumer from unfair practice.
Babatunde Irukera, the Chief Executive FCCPC (formerly Consumer Protection Council) who started overseeing the transition and operationalisation of the Commission since January 30, 2019, when the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act was enacted believes that demand of police report before hospitals should attend to patients must end.
This controversy over police report before doctor’s treatment must end. “It is not a debate, it is costing lives. If it is some philosophical debate about ideology, we can continue, it doesn’t matter. It is not a debate but it is costing lives”, he told BusinessDay. He said treating victims is not issue of who did right or wrong, but it is to save life.
He said apart from addressing police report issue; Nigeria should address other critical infrastructure that must exist to save lives, like ambulances. “Why can’t we have training for paramedics? Why can’t ambulance be part of insurance, why can’t we charge a certain percentage on insurance and put it in a certain fund for emergency ambulance service? So that it is private sector driven and people will set up ambulance service and know they will be paid through insurance or capitation fund”.
The agency is also intervening in electricity sector to end arbitrary electricity billings, energy theft, and issue of metering, group disconnections and to ensure adequate poor power sector regulation.
Over the years, Nigerian electricity consumers and providers have lived with these challenges including lack of state-of-art to distribute electricity, exhibition of violence by consumers against service providers, delay in addressing consumers’ complaints and discriminatory distribution of electricity.
But in an attempt to fashion a new chapter in the sector, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC has initiated a forum between consumers and electricity providers that started addressing the grey areas.
At one of those town hall meetings held between FCCPC, Ikeja Disco, consumers and electricity regulatory bodies, CEO of FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera said the meeting is to allow the discos to hear the consumers, recognise what their grievances are and to improve on how they address those grievances.
For instance, he said there is no excuse of billing consumers for power that they did not use. “An estimated billing itself seems to have been redefined, abused and mis-characterised. We use to have estimated billing in Nigeria before the discos and it was not such a contentious but the real challenge is that this estimated billing has become arbitrary and crazy and that is why people are resisting it. That is why metering seems to be the only option”.
As identified by Irukere, the greatest challenge is getting the populace to know they have rights and for them to be willing to demand and enforce their rights.
On ending the issue of presentation of police report before treatment of accident/gunshot victims, there should be a similar town hall meeting between the police and doctors and FCCPC to address grey areas. Enactment of acts alone cannot solve the challenges of human rights enforcement.