By Bayo Aka.
Recently, Kogi State House of Assembly proposed a law on compulsory treatment of accident and gunshot victims by debating a bill on it during one of its plenary sittings.
Leading the debate on the bill for a law to provide compulsory treatment and care for victims of accident and gunshot injuries and other matters connected therein 2023, the member representing Dekina/Biraidu State Constituency, Ochidi Shehu Usman said that the bill was borne out of his concern to the nonchalant attitude of healthcare providers to the victims of accidents and gunshots in the society.
He brought to mind the story of a Lagos based victim who was pushed down from a moving vehicle by suspected criminals but was not attended to by the health facilities till she bled to death, adding that the bill, if passed to law would reduce the number of casualties as a result of accidents and gunshots.
The lawmaker argued that every person including security agents was to attend to accident victims and victims of gunshots without requesting for money or police report by commencing treatment and give adequate attention to the victims before the arrival of their relatives.
According to him if this legal instrument was put in place for mandatory enforced treatment and care of accident and gunshot victims by our health care providers, pending police report and the arrival of the victim’s relations, lives will be saved.
Hon. Usman added that a victim of accident or gunshot wound should not be subjected to inhuman treatment or torture by any person or authority including the police or other security agencies.
He, however, added that as a way of ensuring that criminals don’t hide under the development to carryout evil acts, healthcare providers that accept any person with gunshot wounds shall report that fact to the nearest police station within two hours of commencement of treatment.
In his contributions, the lawmaker representing Ibaji State Constituency, Hon. Comfort Ojoma Nwochiola who aligned herself with Hon Usman on the bill, pointed out that the current situation in the country required that medical practitioners should attend to medical emergencies before asking for police reports or payment for treatment.
Also Hon Akuh Lawal, representing Ankpa 1 state constituency who noted that on July 1st 2017, the National Assembly had passed same bill which former President Muhammadu Buhari accented to, said it is a domestication of what is operating nationally and therefore it should be speedily passed into law in Kogi State.
The duo of Hon Bode Ogunmola who represents Ogori/ Mangogo and Hon Abdulrasaq Sulyman of Okene Town who doubles as Majority Leader also supported the bill.
After the contributions above, it was agreed that the bill be given its second reading.
It is often said by Yoruba elders that only the view of a mad man differs from that of the wise people. Thus the Inspector General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, few days ago, ordered the compulsory treatment of gun shots and accident victims before police report.
This directive was contained in a police internal memo signed by the Force Principal Staff Officer, Olatunji Disu.
According to Egbetokun, the directive was in line with the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act 2017 which was accented to by former President Buhari
It was gathered that the Minister of State, Health and Social Welfare, Olatunji Alausa had earlier written a letter to the IG, stressing the need for awareness on reasons to comply with the provision of the 2017 Act.
Alausa, in the letter dated October 3, 2023, noted that taking care of gunshot victims before police reports would mitigate the impact of the needless death of some Nigerians.
The health minister argued that asking for police reports before treating gunshot victims has no legal backing.
The Minister further stressed that the Act mandates all medical facilities to receive and accept victims of a gunshot for immediate treatment without a police report.
“I am constrained to say that compliance is still very low and the cause of the compliance may not be unconnected to poor awareness among field police officers and sympathisers who may fear being implicated for coming to the aid of these victims, particularly for the purpose of litigation.
“Gunshot injury is generally a medical emergency, every minute counts in the fight to preserve the life of the victim. Therefore, a gunshot victim requires urgent medical care to avoid permanent damage or death of the victim.
“Unfortunately, several hospitals still demand police reports before they can admit and treat gunshot victims. They delay and sometimes deny medical attention to victims. It is important to note that the practice of hospitals demanding for police reports has no legal backing. Police officers also should provide needed support and reassure health facilities or workers that taking care of gunshot injuries will have no legal consequence to the management or patients.
“I will kindly request your recirculation of this important provision of the National Act to all Police divisions nationwide and also for it to be put on paid adverts in all the relevant news media,” the minister stressed.
Against the above backdrop, it is therefore imperative for all hands to be on deck in the compulsory and immediate treatment of gun shots and accident victims.
One must not fail to commend the foresight of Hon Ochidi Usman who sponsored the bill in the House as well as the members who supported it.
The 8th Kogi State House of Assembly has shown, no doubt, that the welfare of their constituents is paramount in their hearts.
Without sentiment, one should hasten to say that the quick consideration and passage of such a bill will go a long way to help people who are likely to be injured (God forbids) during a chaotic period. In such chaotic situations, the injured will be treated compulsorily and immediately thereby reducing the number of likely deaths.
For critics who are likely to point out one or two faults in the bill, they should note that two hours after treatment, the reports of the treatment should be taken to the police.
With this, criminals who might want to hide under this gesture will not be able to do so while the innocent have nothing to worry about.
One may recall that Hon Bode Ogunmola stated that one of the essences of being lawmakers is to contribute to good governance and therefore making a law to safe lives is a bold step in the right direction.
The House should therefore not relent in debating people- oriented motions and sponsoring bills that have the welfare of the citizens at heart.
– Bayo Aka is the Deputy Clerk Administration and General Services, Kogi State House of Assembly.