Nigeria's Premium Times says an illegal medical certificate business is thriving at medical institutions across the country.
According to the publication, the back-door racket has become so routine that members of the networks provide quick-time services at rates set depending on the pocket power of their clients and the urgency with which they needed the documents.
Big time business
A medical certificate of fitness, a key requirement of the National Youth Service Corps, costs 7,000 naira; a certificate of fitness for employment, N10,000 while a report certifying fitness for international travel could go as high as N20,000, writes Oladeinde Olawoyin, author of the Premium Times investigative report.
Olawoyin, who posed as an out service patient, gave this account of an exchange he had with a lady at Orile-Agege General Hospital, off the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway.
"Just pay the money, tell us your name and wait for some hours. You don't need to do any test at all," he was told. "And the money is not much because we have to pay so many people whom your report will go through", said the woman.
Fake medical records
Olawoyin told RFI that he ended up being delivered a clean bill of health, complete with an O Rh D Positive blood group, an AS genotype, details of stool analysis, urinalysis, and chest X-ray signed by a medical officer named Adeoye.
"These people are part of the institutions and understand the weaknesses," noted the Premium Times correspondent in a brief description of how the system operates.
Olawoyin says in his investigations he was able to confirm that fake medical certificates were being used to obtain health benefits, in insurance claims and other legal matters.
Nigerian Medical Association allegedly silent
"It's something they do for a living and it goes unchecked, the various authorities in charge are probably aware but unwilling to do anything about it," said Olawoyin, who said he tried, in vain, to get a reaction from the Nigerian Medical Association about the ethical failures which allowed the racket to thrive.
"The hospital back-door business is just a drop of water in the Nigerian ocean of corruption," regrets Banwo Kolawole, an anti-corruption campaigner based in Abuja.
"They are taking advantage of loopholes in public institutions and people's desperation to enrich themselves," argues Kolawole former programme manager with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, Nigeria's chapter of Transparency International, Nigeria.
"We focus on grand corruption while little attention is paid to struggling Nigerians compelled to pay underhand funds every day to benefit from basic public services."