Ever heard stories where a gunshot victim in Nigeria dies because the hospital refused to treat him without seeing a police report or people dying avoidable deaths because eyewitnesses and bystanders refused to help and just watched while the person dies as they would get harassed or arrested by the police for just trying to help? I’m sure you must have.
One of such stories was the story of Mr. Christopher Ojika aka Scanner who died one of such deaths in Port Harcourt in October last year. He was shot by armed robbers at the ATM while trying to make a withdrawal to fix his vehicle. He was taken to three different hospitals and yet was not treated by any of the medical personnel until he gave up the ghost.
However with the advent of the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act, 2017 signed into effect by President Muhammadu Buhari in December, 2017, it is hoped that these kinds of happenings are soon to become a thing of the past.
Here are a few important highlights of the law:
- Every hospital is to receive and treat gunshot or bullet wound victims without police clearance even without the payment of an initial deposit but are duty bound to report to the nearest police station within two hours of commencing treatment on the victim;
- Every volunteer or person who assists or helps a gunshot or bullet wound victim shall not be subjected to embarrassing interrogation or harassment in their genuine bid to assist the victims;
- Any authority or persons inclusive of the police who by standing by or an omission in doing his bit and these results in the unnecessary death of a gunshot victim shall be liable to imprisonment for 5 years or a fine;
- No person with a gunshot wound shall be subjected to torture or any inhuman or degrading treatment by any person or authority including the police or any security agency;
- Until the person with the gunshot wound is certified okay and no longer in need of medicare by the Chief Medical Director of the hospital where he is receiving treatment, the police may not receive or collect such person;
- The hospital who receives the gunshot victim has the duty of contacting the victim’s family within 24 hours of confirming the victim’s identity;
- The High Court shall order a person convicted under the Act in addition to other penalties to pay damages to the victim as restitution for injuries or loss sustained;
- Every hospital shall keep adequate record of the treatment of bullet wound victims;
- Any person who commits an offence under this Act especially, when the offence does not lead to death of victim but led to substantial physical, mental, emotional and psychological damage, shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not more than 15 years and not less than 5 years without the option of fine.
Other bills the President signed into law on the same date are Anti-Torture Act 2017; Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Amendment Act, 2017; the Federal Capital Territory Water Board (Establishment) Act, 2017; and the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) Act, 2017.