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EXCLUSIVE: Medical Certificate Racketeering In Nigerian Hospital Threatens Food, Firearms Safety

EXCLUSIVE: Medical Certificate Racketeering In Nigerian Hospital Threatens Food, Firearms Safety
September 16, 2022

The price of each certificate varies from N500 to N5,000 depending on its category and sometimes intended purpose.

The safety of food and firearms handling is in Adamawa State in Northeast Nigeria, is in jeopardy as medical certificate racketeering flourishes unabated at the Specialist Hospital Yola.

Investigation by SaharaRareporters revealed a thriving illicit market for all kinds of medical certificates, ranging from firearms handling, food handling, travel fitness, school enrollment fitness, employment fitness and even death certificate.

The price of each certificate varies from N500 to N5,000 depending on its category and sometimes intended purpose.

Upon payment of a N5,000 fee, one can acquire a medical certificate of fitness to handle either food or firearms, as well as a death certificate. For the purposes of education and employment a N500 fee applies.

Interestingly, our correspondent went undercover and obtained a medical certificate of fitness after paying a fee.

Similarly, a popular food vendor in Yola, the state capital told SaharaReporters that she paid N10,000 to get two certificates for herself and one staff member.

The vendor who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "I think all they care about is money because no investigation of any kind was carried on either me or my staff.

"All they asked for was money, which I paid them N10,000 for the two and we were certified," she added.



However, under normal practice, a medical certificate is issued based on an outcome of expert examination to determine the health status of the person(s) involved.

Meanwhile, according to the Public Health Law of Northern Nigeria cap 109 section 14, all persons handling food must first be medically certified.

Accordingly, all persons aspiring to operate or work in a restaurant, hospitality and food industry generally, would qualify only after obtaining a medical certificate of fitness from a government recognised hospital.

"The measure is required to guarantee food safety in order to safeguard public health.

"That's why all persons handling food are by this law required to be examined by a doctor and certified medically fit before they can function in that capacity," a public health officer at the Ministry of Environment, Wahama Judson said.

For firearms handling, the law requires a medical certificate of mental fitness. Just as a death certificate requires that a next of kin claims the deceased person's estate.

Sadly, all these certificates and many more, are currently being sold to willing buyers at a price, by some unscrupulous staff members of the specialist hospital; despite huge health and social implications.

Another danger this practice poses to the society, is hinged on the current proliferation of state recognised arm-bearing organisations, besides the conventional agencies.

For instance, due to escalated violent crimes vis-à-vis shortfall in manpower, all kinds of community self-help security systems have been established with unskilled personnel handling firearms.

Therefore, it becomes expedient for this category of security operatives to undergo proper medical certification before they are allowed to bear arms.

Commenting on the mental health of such security personnel, a medical consultant, Dr Tonde Elijah Garga of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Yola, urged authorities to wake up.

He said, "In respect of medical evaluation, when it comes to handling of arms, it is not the normal routine medical exams where someone would walk into a hospital to get things done.

"Ideally, for someone who is going to handle firearms, they're supposed to undergo psychiatric and psychological examinations by a psychiatrist and/or a clinical psychologist.

"In this case, only a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist can ascertain one's mental health or explain if they're depressed or suffering from schizophrenia. As such it becomes dangerous for arms to fall into the hands of an uncertified person.

"Unfortunately, you find out that people beat the process in some hospitals to obtain medical certificates of fitness," he said.

In the same vein, the Medical Director of the Specialist hospital Yola, Dr Dauda Wadinga, who admitted that certificate racketeering was flourishing at his hospital, noted that measures were being taken to eliminate the practice.

"Not only fake medical certificate of fitness, but fake death certificate is also being sold (at Specialist hospital)," Wadinga told SaharaReporters.