Daily Trust (Abuja)

17 December 2012

Nigeria: Fresh Opposition to Health Bill Is 'Blackmail'

Doctors Monday urged lawmakers to resist "blackmail and intimidation" as they consider the National Health Bill, after fresh opposition emerged against the bill this week.

At least three separate health-related groups said this week that passing the bill as it is damages the health sector and exposes Nigerians to being used as guinea pigs.

But NMA president Dr Osahon Enabulele said attempts to "scuttle" the bill were the result of "inordinate, illogical, irrational and un-realisable territorial quest."

The Nigerian medical establishment has called the opposition the result of "misinformation and ignorance" and urged them to seek public hearings to voice their opposition against the bill.

Dr Enabulele told Daily Trust that while no bill was perfect, "let that not prevent us from achieving our goal of ensuring that we give maximum to the legitimate aspirations, the genuine expectations and underlying desires for ordinary Nigerians in rural communities, of our women, children, elderly the toiling and long suffering."

Dr Kenneth Iregbu, president of Association of Pathologists of Nigeria, insisted Nigeria immediately needed laws to govern the practice of medicine dealing with organ donation and harvest, specimens and experimentation.

Opposition

Joint Health Sector Union, which staged a protest last week demanding for the sack of health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu, has long opposed both the bill and the minister for favouring medical doctors and being biased against other health professionals.

This week, representatives of three separate groups--Global Prolife Alliance, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria and Catholic Medical Association of Nigeria--faulted the corrected NHB as dangerous to Nigerians and medical practice.

Dr Philip Njemanze, who represents the three groups, said in an email to doctors, nurses, pharmacists and news organizations that detailed consideration of the new NHB 2012 as it related to the health sector led it to conclude "that this Bill will destroy medical practice in Nigeria and cause deaths of millions on innocent Nigerians."

"It is the best attempt by the foreign detractors of Nigeria who own the Western Biotechnological Conglomerates to obtain Stem Cell Materials for Embryonic Stem Cell Research Industry in Europe and America.

"This Bill combines the Use of Nigerians as guinea pigs for the Embryonic Stem Cell Industry with the use of Nigerians as body spare parts for the rich of the Western World," the email added.

The groups also highlight at least 14 sections of the NHB it says are contentions, including leadership of health institutions, inclusion of ward head committees in health system, exclusion of private health institutions from recognized referral system, use of specimen in experiments and use of human organs.

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