President Muhammadu Buhari has spent over 193 days on medical leave in the United Kingdom since he assumed office in 2015, findings by SaharaReporters have revealed.
On Tuesday, Buhari embarked on a medical trip to the UK in what the Presidency described as “routine medical leave.”
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President is expected back in the country in the second week of April 2021.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari proceeds to London, the United Kingdom, Tuesday, March 30, 2021, for a routine medical check-up.
“The President meets with Security Chiefs first in the morning, after which he embarks on the journey.
“He is due back in the country during the second week of April 2021.”
The president's trip thus attracted a lot of backlash on social media as the announcement came around the time the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) announced that its members would be going on strike over government's failure to meet its demands, including non-payment of allowances.
SaharaReporters examines a timeline of the president's trips abroad for medical treatment since he assumed office on May 29, 2015.
1. February 5, 2016 to February 10, 2016: Buhari took a six-day vacation in the United Kingdom, saying that his doctors lived in England.
2. June 6 to June 19, 2016: Buhari spent nearly two weeks in Britain where he had treatment for an ear infection and a holiday.
He reportedly flew to London on June 6 to see an ear, nose and throat specialist after two doctors in Nigeria recommended further evaluation "as a precaution", his team said.
He extended his trip by three days to rest.
3. January 19 to March 10, 2017: Buhari went to London again on a medical vacation on January 19. He wrote the National Assembly on February 5 seeking extension of his London medical leave. The president didn't return until March 10 but didn’t resume work immediately at Aso Villa. The Presidency said “he’s working from home.” Buhari spent a total of 51 days outside the country.
4. May 7, 2017: Buhari embarked on a trip to London for another medical vacation. He returned after 104 days on August 19 but could not resume work because rats had reportedly damaged furniture in his office.
The Presidency announced he would be working from home.
5. May 8, 2018: Buhari went to London for a four-day “medical review.” The president returned on May 11, 2018.
6. April 25 to May 5, 2019: The president again embarked on a 10-day private visit to the United Kingdom.
7. March 30 to April 6 2021: The president has embarked on another trip for a routine medical check-up in London. He is to return on April 6 tentatively.
For the current trip, he has already spent two days away, with five more days to go.
In summary, Buhari spent 19 days in 2016, 155 days in 2017, and four days in 2018 getting treatment in the UK.
In 2019, the president embarked on a 10-day private trip to the UK suspected to be for medical reasons.
In 2020, the president could not make his trip due to the coronavirus pandemic which caused a halt in flight operations.
Meanwhile, Buhari had on more than one occasion criticised medical tourism.
For instance, Buhari, in a speech delivered on his behalf to the Nigeria Medical Association in April 2016, said the government's hard-earned cash would not be spent on treating officials overseas, especially when Nigeria had the expertise.
In April 2019, the President, represented by the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, lamented that the country was losing N400 billion annually to medical tourism.
Similarly, in August 2020, the first lady, Aisha Buhari condemned frequent travels abroad by top government officials for medical treatment, saying that it was a waste of resources and against the development of the healthcare sector in the country.
In the first three years of his first tenure from May 2015 to May 2019, he was outside the country for a combined 404 days – one year and 39 days in 33 countries, which was both for official and medical purposes, according to a Saturday PUNCH computation.