Abolition of medical tourism, other privileges for government officials – New Telegraph

For decades, political office holders have enjoyed juicy perks despite the fact that they enjoy attractive salaries. Among the named beneficiaries are the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors of the 36 states of the federation. Others are the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Speakers of the 36 State Legislatures, and the Chief Officers of the National and State Assemblies.

Votes for medical tourism and security are among the perks allegedly enjoyed by these political officials. New Telegraph finds this development surprising as the trend has contributed the most to the hemorrhaging the public coffers have been subjected to for decades dating back to the military domain. The repeated deployment of large amounts of funds for the comfort of some of the country’s political office holders has played a major role in the high cost of governance. Such a spending pattern has deprived Africa’s most populous nation of funds to adequately ensure the vitality of some strategic sectors of the economy such as education, health, science and technology, agriculture, transport, electricity and manufacturing.

As long as funds for medical tourism, security votes and other perks are constantly provided to the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors, who represent only a small fraction of the nation’s population of over 200 million, the money will never be enough to use said strategic sectors for the vast majority.

It is short-sighted for any country to allow its political officials to become tourists, all in the name of traveling to take care of their health. Every medical pilgrimage undertaken by them, including the President, causes the economy to bleed through capital flight and other unrealistic spending that further strains our already scarce currency.

The comfort of the President is ensured by the provision of first-class accommodation, transport, meals and allowances, commonly called estacodes. The president can be likened to the biggest masquerade in a certain country. Every medical trip he undertakes is in the company of an army of assistants, each entitled to lodging, meals, transportation, and escapades.

It is common knowledge that the said expenses, including those of the President, did not originate from the personal account of Mr. President, but were incurred thanks to taxpayers’ funds. The same can be said for the security votes enjoyed by the aforementioned political officials. Resorting to duplicating security funding to invent and maintain the concept of a security vote amounts to managerial ineptitude.

We wish to state unequivocally that the highest budget allocations are annually allocated to defence/security, with national security agencies being the beneficiaries at the various levels. With the allocation given to them by the security services, they are expected to take maximum care of the security needs of the population. But the reverse is the case with insecurity, manifested in the devastating forms of kidnapping, terrorism, riots, arson and armed robbery. We are disturbed to note that instead of ascertaining how well the security agencies have used the funds given to them, the nation has decided to look the other way, allowing security voices to some political office holders to carry out the same responsibility that the respective security teams have a financially secure mandate with respect to.

Nigeria will remain far from reaching the Promised Land as long as public funds are squandered by conceding numerous privileges to political office holders. In this regard, we call for a paradigm shift. All the privileges they enjoy need to be reviewed. Medical tourism should be abolished for the president and other political figures.

The president and governors must ensure vibrant health sectors at both the federal and state levels. Their ability to do this should be a major measure of the quality of their leadership and will ensure that they will not need to travel abroad as they will be able to enjoy the same level of healthcare locally.

As well as keeping them in the country, it will also ensure that the wider population who cannot afford to make expensive forays overseas will be able to get decent healthcare in the country. New Telegraph wishes to point out that the highly effective and efficient health facilities in the diaspora that have now become places of medical pilgrimage for political office holders in Nigeria are undoubtedly products of deep managerial acumen devoid of wishful thinking but anchored on foresight, sound argumentation, realistic and logical policy formulation and fiscal discipline.

With the abolition of medical tourism as one of the perks enjoyed by political officials, there is likely to be a detour to bequeath a functional health sector to the nation. Security votes and other illogical privileges should also be abolished because of the bloodshed they are subjecting the public to.

The huge savings from the possibly abolished bonuses can then be used to ensure the revival of some other sectors such as education and health. We therefore call upon civil society groups, trade unions and professional organizations to work synergistically on this issue for success, as favored political office-bearers coming and going are likely to sabotage the worthy nationalist crusade on the altar of their selfish interests.

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