Medical practitioners in Nigeria risk a five-year jail term or a fine of N500,000 if found guilty of denying victims of gunshot and related matters immediate medical treatment because they failed to present a police report.
The information is contained in the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act of 2017, which provides such victims the right to medical treatment with or without a police report.
Section 1 of the Act states that: “Every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive, for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance, any person with a gunshot wound.”
Section 11 further prescribes punishments for individuals who fail to adhere to the demands of the Act, stating:
“Any Person or authority including any police officer, other security agent or hospital who stands by and fails to perform his duty under this Act which results in the unnecessary death of any person with gunshot wounds commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of five years or both.”
However, Section 5 of the Act states that: “A hospital that fails to make a report as required under section 3 of this Act commits an Offence offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000.00 and every doctor directly concerned with the treatment is equally liable on conviction to for a term of six months or a fine of N100,000.00 or imprisonment or both.”
The measures were put in place to deter hospitals from rejecting gunshot or accident victims and to also ensure that treatment of such patients are reported to the police for investigations.
This followed rising complaints by Nigerians that hospitals refuse to promptly attend to gunshot patients who do not present police reports.
Recently, one Greatness Olorunfemi, a one-chance robbery victim and member of the Yali Network in Abuja, died following the alleged refusal of the Maitama General Hospital in Abuja to attend to her because she did not present a police report.
As a result of this, the Inspector General of Police on Saturday, October 28, 2023, ordered full enforcement of the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act 2017 to forestall future recurrence.
The Act also mandates security agents to assist persons with gunshot wounds by ensuring he or she is taken to the nearest hospital for immediate treatment, as contained in Section 2 of the Act.
The law elaborated such ‘Duty to assist’ in subsections (a) and (b) of the Act stating:
(a) A person with a gunshot wound shall be received for immediate and adequate treatment by any hospital in Nigeria with or without initial monetary deposit, and
“(b) A person with a gunshot wound shall not be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment or torture by any person or authority including the police or other security agencies.”
Also, the Act in Section 3, gives a caveat indicating that hospitals while providing prompt medical assistance to victims of gunshot or related matters, should report the case to the nearest police station within a stipulated period.
It states: “3. (1) A hospital that receives or accepts any person with a gunshot wound for treatment shall report the fact to the nearest police station within two hours of commencement of treatment.
“(2) Upon receipt of the report under subsection (1) of this section, the police shall immediately commence investigation with a view to determining the circumstances under which the person was shot.
The Act further prescribes in Section 4 of the Act that: “The police shall not invite any person with gunshot wounds from the hospital for the purposes of investigation unless the Chief Medical Director of the hospital certifies him fit and no longer in dire need of medicare.”
Section 6 of the Act, however, demands that an officer who receives a report from a medical facility under Section 3 (2) of the Act shall furnish the hospital on demand with the background information on the victim.
The offence of refusing to furnish the hospital with the needed information about the victim also attracts punitive action as contained in Section 7 of the Act which states:
“A person who fails, neglects or refuses to give the report required under Section 6 of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction, or a fine of N50,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of six months or both.”
Section 8 States: “Every volunteer or helper of a victim of gunshots shall be treated with respect and shall not be subjected to unnecessary and embarrassing interrogation in their genuine attempt to save life.
Section 9 States: “A person who commits an offence under this Act which leads to or causes substantial Persons guilty of physical, mental, emotional and psychological damage to the victim, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not more than 15 years and not less than five years without the option of fine.
Section 10 further noted that a hospital owes a duty to inform the family members or relations of gunshot victims within 24 hours of becoming aware of the victim’s identity.
In Section 12 of the Act, medical facilities are mandated to keep adequate records of treatments rendered to gunshot victims.
Section 13 States: “A corporate body that commits an offence under this Act, the head of the corporate body shall be prosecuted in accordance with the provision of sections 11 and 14 of this Act.
Section 14 (1) States: “In addition to any other penalty under this Act, the High Court shall order a person or corporate body convicted of an offence to make restitution to the victim by directing that person or corporate body to pay to the victim an amount equivalent to the loss sustained by the victim.
“(2) An order of restitution may be enforced by the victim or by the prosecutor on behalf of the victim in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action.