New Telegraph

Abolishing medical tourism, other perks for public office holders

F or decades now, political office holders have been beneficiaries of juicy perks despite the fact that they enjoy attractive salaries. Among the referred beneficiaries are the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors of the 36 states of the federation. Others are President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Speakers of legislative assemblies of the 36 states as well as principal officers of the National and State assemblies.

Medical tourism and security votes are among the perks said to be enjoyed by these political office holders. New Telegraph finds this development surprising as the trend has contributed maximally to the haemorrhage that the public till has been subjected to for decades dating back to the military area. The recurring deployment of a large volume of funds for the comfort of some of the nation’s political office holders has played a major role in the high cost of governance. Such spending pattern has denied Africa’s most populous nation the funds to adequately ensure the vibrancy of some strategic sectors of the economy such as education, health, science and technology, agriculture, transportation, electricity and manufacturing.

For as long as funds are continuously made available for medical tourism, security votes and other privileges of the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors, who account for only a tiny fraction of the nation’s 200 million plus population, money will never be enough for the utilisation of the referred strategic sectors for the vast majority.

It is an exhibition of short sightedness for any country to allow her political office holders to metamorphose into tourists, all in the name of travelling to take care of their health. Each medical pilgrimage undertaken by them, including the President, makes the economy bleed through capital flight and other unrealistic expenses which put a further strain on our already scarce foreign exchange.

The comfort of the President is ensured through the provision of top-notch accommodation, transportation, feeding and allowances commonly referred to as estacodes. The President could be likened to the biggest masquerade in a defined polity. Each medical trip undertaken by him is done in company of an army of aides, with each one also entitled to accommodation, feeding, transportation and estacodes.

It is common knowledge that the referred expenses including those of the President do not emanate from the private account of Mr President but are made possible courtesy of tax-payers’ funds. The same could also be said of the security votes enjoyed by aforementioned political office holders. It amounts to managerial rascality to resort to duplication of security funding to have conceived and sustained the concept of security votes.

We wish to state unequivocally that the highest budgetary allocation is ceded annually to defence/ security, with the nation’s security agencies as beneficiaries at the different levels. With such allocation delivered to them, the security agencies are expected to maximally take care of the security needs of the populace. But lo and behold, the reverse has been the case with insecurity manifesting itself in the devastating forms of abduction, terrorism, insurgency, arson and armed robbery. We are dismayed to note that rather than establish how well the security agencies have utilised the funds made available to them, the nation decides to look the other way, allowing security votes available to some political office holders, to discharge the same responsibility that the relevant security outfits have financially-backed mandate with regard to.

Nigeria would remain far away getting to the Promised Land, for as long as public funds are frittered away through the ceding of multiple privileges to political office holders. It is in this connection that we call for a paradigm shift. There is a need to review all the privileges enjoyed by them. Medical tourism should be abolished for the President and other political office holders.

The President and governors should ensure vibrant health sectors at both federal and state levels. Their ability to do that should constitute a major measuring rod for the quality of their leadership and will ensure that there will be no need to travel abroad since they will be able to enjoy the same level of health care locally.

Apart from keeping them in the country, it will also ensure that the wider populace, which does not have the wherewithal to make expensive overseas forays, will still be able to receive decent healthcare in the country. New Telegraph wishes to point out that the exceedingly effective and efficient health facilities in the Diaspora that have now become places of medical pilgrimage for Nigeria’s political office holders are, doubtlessly, the products of profound managerial acumen, devoid of mere wishful thinking, but anchored on foresight, sound reasoning, realistic and logical policy formulation and fiscal discipline.

With the cancellation of medical tourism, as one of the privileges enjoyed by political office holders there is likely to be a detour to bequeath a functional health sector to the nation. Security votes and other illogical privileges should equally be scrapped for the haemorrhage they subject the public till to.

The huge savings from the eventually abolished perks can then be used to ensure the revival of some other sectors like education and health. We therefore enjoin civil society groups, trade unions and professional bodies to synergise on this issue, for success, as the benefitting political office holders, outgoing and in-coming, are likely to sabotage the worthy nationalistic crusade on the altar of their selfish interests.

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