Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), on Sunday called on Nigerians to demand improved health care from the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Falana said it was unfair that Buhari “always travels abroad for medical care while the generality of Nigerians have no other choice but to go to Nigerian hospitals that have become mortuaries.”
The lawyer recalled that back in 1984 when Buhari was a military dictator, a human rights activist, the late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, was detained for six months for agitating for improved health care in the country.
He spoke on Sunday at the 14th Annual Beko Ransome-Kuti Memorial Lecture organised by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights.
The lecture, titled, “Activist’s participation in politics; a myth or a reality?” was delivered by Prof. Lai Olurode with Mrs Yemisi Ransome-Kuti in attendance.
Falana said, “When this same President, as a military Head of State, came in 1984, December 31, and said our hospitals had been reduced to consulting clinics; it was a confirmation of the struggle of the Nigerian doctors. So, Beko and others thought he meant well and after six months, there was no improvement, they went on strike that paralysed the medical sector.
“Of course, Beko was grabbed, though he was the first Vice-President of the NMA, the regime knew he was the moving force in the NMA. And so, he was detained together with the NMA President then, Dr Akpabio. He was kept in Kirikiri for six months. When the regime became tired, they were released.
“But one thing that is important is this – because we must link events – the man who said hospitals were consulting clinics in 1984 is the President today, those hospitals have become mortuaries. Hence, he flies abroad for treatment at public expense.
“Currently, I have a case at the Court of Appeal, I lost at the high court, to compel the government of Nigeria to give medical treatment to everybody because ori o j’ori (all heads were created equal). If you can go abroad for treatment, you must fix our hospitals to international standards, so that every Nigerian can have quality health care.”
Also, Falana said the hardship currently being experienced by Lagosians following the ban on okada and keke Marwa should be blamed on Buhari, who, in 1983, cancelled the $200m metro line contract signed by then governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande.
“We had paid $200m and there was a penalty that if the contract was cancelled, Nigeria would pay colossally. We were dragged to arbitration, I don’t remember the figure now, but we were fined. So, metro line, we don’t have; money we have lost and inconvenience has continued since then.
“So, we also have a right, if we are organised in a civilised manner, to demand from the Abuja people, ‘You must pay back the cost of that metro line that you cancelled; so that we can restore it.”
In his lecture, Olurode called on activists to get involved in politics, stressing that ideals of activists must be institutionalised to be able to endure.