Sources privy to information around President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed that he may have spent between £200 to £250 (British pounds) per hour, totaling over $250 million, for medical services provided for him in the United Kingdom, UK.
This disclosure, came as the Presidency fell under pressure to disclose the amount of money spent on his 50-day medical treatment, in London. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, and the Campaign for Democracy, among others, said it had become imperative to release the President’s medical bill in the UK.
You would recall, that the President had embarked on his second vacation in June 2016, during which he saw an Ear, Nose, and Throat, ENT, Specialist for a persistent ear infection.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had said Buhari spent less than £50,000 (N20.5m), on the treatment of an ear infection in the UK, but did not, however, state the exact cost.
Having failed to release his medical bill to the public one week after he returned to Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, said Nigerians have the right to know how much of their money was spent on the President’s treatment abroad, as guaranteed by the Freedom of Information Act.
Executive Director, SERAP, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, said: “Pursuant to the FOI Act, which was signed into law in 2011, every Nigerian has a right to know from any public office holder any information they think they must have. So, the Presidency should provide a categorical answer to the question as Buhari’s medical bill abroad. This is a democracy and in democracy, there can be no opaqueness, everything must be clear and open.”
President, Campaign for Democracy, Bako Usman, said the President as the face of the All Progressives Congress-led, APC, the government should be transparent with the use of public funds, especially as the party had attained power on the basis of its promise to bring positive change to the country.
Usman said: “Whenever you are presiding over a set of people, irrespective of how large or little they are, there is nothing as good as having a very prudent housekeeping. That will add value to your credibility and transparency, as regards the leadership role you are playing over such people. With the change mantra, we expect things to be done differently and more transparently. We expect more openness in governance.
“So the President should make available the cost of his medical treatment abroad. Someone advocating for a corrupt free society is supposed to be open. This government’s ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign, will be appreciated by the citizens if the President is open and transparent.
“It started as a vacation for 10 days, and then extended to two weeks, three weeks, and eventually to about 50 days. Nigerians have a right to know much the President spent, and he should give Nigerians such information and let there be transparency and openness, as regards whatever the administration is doing.”
Also, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership noted that the President was under obligation to disclose the expenses incurred on his medical vacation if the money did not come from his purse.
Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), said: “While the President cannot be compelled to disclose the nature of his illness if public funds are spent (on his health care), Nigerians are entitled to know how much was spent. Nigerians should know how much has been spent on the medical expenses incurred by the President, in the United Kingdom, since according to him, he has had the best of medical treatment.”
Wondering why the President would prefer to be treated abroad, some commentators accused the President of doing the opposite of what he promised to fight once elected into office.
In reaction, a source said: “All I see here is hypocrisy from the leaders. There is one rule for the rich and mighty, and another for the poor. Foreign travel for health care was banned by the government, but officials still run to the UK at the slightest headache. It will take a miracle of truly gargantuan proportions for Nigeria to become a great nation.”
Another commentator added: “What murderous politicians and leaders we have in our country. Indians are over 1.2 billion in population, what could be our leaders’ excuse for not attending to our health sector, if not share wickedness.
“The most annoying part is our role during elections; we the masses are very gullible and can easily forget the excruciating pains and suffering we had to go through under their leadership, just because of some peanuts. May God deliver us all.
“Hypocrisy is when Buhari bans medical tourism, and he himself is guilty of the same offense. He needs to be sanctioned by the poor masses he deceived.”