The case filed by Femi Falana at the Federal High Court seeking to compel the Federal Government to equip public hospitals in Nigeria could not proceed to trial this morning due to the refusal of the Justice Minister to accept service of the processes in his Lagos office.
When the case came up for hearing before Justice Stephen Adah, Mr. Falana prayed the Court to issue an order for service of the processes on the Attorney-General of the Federation through his Lagos office pursuant to Order 5 Rule 7 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009.
In his short ruling Justice Adah stated that he agreed with Mr Falana that substituted service could be resorted to since it is a fundamental rights matter. The judge therefore ordered that all the processes in the case be served by the bailiff on the Federal Attorney-General through the Federal Ministry of Justice Annex in Broad Street, Lagos. The substantive case was adjourned to September 20, 2010 for hearing.
Earlier, Falana has said the Federal Government “failed to ensure that there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons in the country; and to take the necessary measures to protect the health of the people and ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick.”
In Suit Number FHC/IKJ/CS/M59/10 brought pursuant to Order 1 Rule 2 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 as preserved by Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution, and the inherent jurisdiction of the Court, the Applicant also claimed that, “only few public officers are allowed to receive medical treatment at public expense in foreign hospitals whenever they are sick. The public hospitals and health centres patronized by the majority of Nigerians are neither equipped nor staffed.”
“I am highly disturbed to know that most Nigerian citizens have no access to adequate medical care and attention. In 1991,the military President, General Ibrahim Babangida was taken to a hospital in Paris, France for the treatment of radiculopathy at huge public expense. Chief Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, the wife of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was treated in a hospital in Spain where she lost her life in 2005. Mrs. Maryam Babangida, the wife of the former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida passed away in a hospital in the United States in December 2009. President Umaru Musa Yar’adua who assumed office in May 2007 was taken abroad for medical treatment on several occasions at huge public expense until he died in May, 2010. The regular treatment of President Yaradua in foreign hospitals seriously exposed Nigeria to ridicule before the international community,” the Applicant also said.
According to the Applicant, “Many other public officers are taken abroad for medical treatment at public expense from time to time. Top public officers and private citizens who can afford overseas medical attention now travel to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India for medical check up and treatment. Millions of poor Nigerian citizens die of preventable diseases in the local hospitals because they cannot afford the exorbitant costs of medical treatment in foreign hospitals. Several foreign hospitals patronized by privileged Nigerians are manned by Nigerians doctors, pharmacists and nurses who left the country due to the neglect of the health sector by the Defendant.”
The Applicant also said argued that, “Contrary to its obligations under the law and in spite of abundant resources of the country the Federal Government has refused to equip public hospitals and medical centres located in Lagos and other the various parts of the country. Many countries that are less endowed than Nigeria have well equipped hospitals with qualified specialists many of whom are Nigerians. The 469 members of the National Assembly have just demanded for increase in their salaries to 47 million per House of Representatives member and N60 million per Senator per quarter. In the 2010 Appropriation Act the Defendant has budgeted N57 billion for the entertainment and N27 billion for traveling by members of the National Assembly. The Federal Government has just budgeted N6.6 billion for the celebration of the 50th Independence Anniversary Celebration on October 1, 2010. “
“Owing to the neglect of the health sector millions of Nigerians would have died but for the intervention of the Jimmy Carte Centre, the Bill Gates Foundation, UNDP etc which have expended billions of dollars on the eradication of guinea worm, polio and other preventable diseases. I have recently lost many close family members and friends including the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN due to lack of adequate medical care in Nigeria. If I am seriously sick I may lose my life as there are no adequate medical facilities in Lagos and other parts of the Federation, the Applicant added.
Mr Falana is seeking the following reliefs:
A. A DECLARATION that Nigerians are entitled to the best attainable state of physical and mental health guaranteed by Article 16(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
B. A DECLARATION that the failure or refusal to repair and equip public hospitals and medical centres in Nigeria constitutes a violation of the duty of the Defendant to protect the health of Nigerians and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick as required by Article 16(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
C. A DECLARATION that the failure of the Respondent to save lives through the provision of adequate medical facilities is illegal and unconstitutional as it constitutes a threat to the Applicants fundamental right to life guaranteed by Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
D. A DECLARATION that the practice of having public officials treated at public expense in foreign hospitals is illegal as it violates the right of other Nigerians to equality before the law and equal right of access to the public property and services guaranteed by Articles 3 and 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
E. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Defendant from taking any public officer to foreign hospitals for medical check up and/or treatment in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.
F. AN ORDER directing the Defendant to repair and equip Federal Government owned hospitals and medical centres to ensure that Nigerians receive adequate medical attention when they are sick forthwith.
Falana & Falana’s Chambers