Thursday, 25 January 2018

House of Reps move against medical tourism, pass petroleum industry bill

The House of Representatives has commenced process on a law that would discourage medical tourism embarked by some public office holders.

The Bill sponsored by Rep. Sergius Ogun (Edo-PDP) seeks to prohibit international trips for medical treatment by public officers without approval and strengthen health institutions for efficient service delivery.

Ogun said on Wednesday that the bill comprising of 13 clauses was necessitated by the need to address the abuse of opportunities by public officers who seek medical treatment abroad.

“These abuses are many, on the pretext of fabricated medical conditions, many public officials simply disappear from Nigeria and abdicate their duties for lengthy periods while their emoluments are paid for the period.

“Nigeria is also paying the bills for their medical tours.

“Even those who have not fabricated their conditions abandon their official duties on account of ailments that can be treated in Nigeria.

“It is said that hundreds of Nigerians daily embark on medical tours to countries in Europe, America and Asia; a great number of these Nigerians are public officials,’’ Ogun said.

He said that “Pharmanews’ quoted the 2014 Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) annual report as stating that the Indian High Commission confirmed that Indian hospitals received 18,000 Nigerians on medical visa in 2012.

“And these Nigerians spent about $260million on those trips in one year

“This gives us a picture of what Nigeria as a nation has sunk overall into medical tours by public officials and their kit and kin.

“There is urgent need to curtail this anomaly,’’ the lawmaker added.

Also, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Petroleum Industry Governance bill through its third and final reading.

The final report of the bill with the long title “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Governance and Institutional Framework for the Petroleum Industry and for Related Matters (HBs. 477, 878 and 1053)” which has 143 clauses was presented to the house a week ago by the chairman of the ad hoc committee on PIB who doubles as the Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.

Amongst other objectives, the petroleum bill seeks to introduce reforms that would engender transparency, while at the same time making the oil and gas sector more business-oriented and profit-drive.

If eventually signed by the president, the bill will unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and provide for the establishment of Federal Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated, Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Nigerian Petroleum Assets Management Company and National Petroleum Company and Petroleum Equalisation Fund.

The passed Bill is just a fragment of the entire Bill as this aspect is just the regulatory framework.

The bill further provides that upon the recommendations of the new commission, the Minister of Petroleum Resources can grant, amend, renew, extend or revoke any licence or lease required for petroleum or production, pursuant to the provisions of the Act or any other enactment.

The power for issuing and revoking licenses was also domiciled in the commission, as well as allocating petroleum production quotas in a non-discriminatory manner.

The bill, which has spent 13 years in the National Assembly, came from the senate and has now been concurred by to the house. It now awaits presidential assent.

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