Penultimate week, one of Nigeri’s foremost investigative medium, the PREMIUM TIMES, published stunning news story on referral kickback scheme, exposing how the country’s top diagnostic service providers, medical doctors and hospitals steal billions of naira yearly from unsuspecting patients, who pay for healthcare out-of-pocket.
According to the newspaper which said it took 20-month undercover investigation by its reporter posing as a doctor and referring several persons to leading diagnostic centres for medical tests. The media outfit said they covered the costs of the tests as well as funded the patients’ transportation to the laboratories.
They published “shocking and disturbing” revelations. According to them, “almost all the labs paid our reporter kickbacks of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the cost of each test conducted and none of them tried to verify if the reporter was indeed a doctor as he claimed.
“One medical laboratory service provider even gives doctors loyalty tokens for every referral sent to it, which doctors can use to purchase telephone recharge cards, utility bills, spa, and vacations. The loyal tokens also qualify doctors to obtain car loans and mortgages backed by the diagnostic firm”.
The AUTHORITY agrees completely with the medium that such “fraudulent kickback scheme does not only contravene extant regulations, it also places an additional financial burden on sick Nigerians, 90 per cent of who pay for medical expenses out of pocket”.
This is just an aspect of the growing corruption in the nation’s healthcare sector, nay, the entire gamut of the nation’s socio-political economy. Kickbacks have assumed greater than life notoriety in the country. It is found existing like a colossus in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of our government. Kickback has almost become our alternative national anthem.
Criminal referral have become order of the day in our public hospitals.
Nigerians know that most public hospitals have the best of diagnostic equipment and are populated with the best calibre of medical personnel who regularly are exposed to routine training through seminar and workshops. But, it remains absolutely a wonder that such highly-rated professionals still refer patients to some ill-equipped, ramshackle medical facility, thus confirming the veracity of the PREMIUM TIMES story and our everyday experiences.
Even as some people attempt to make these seem as if they do not matter much, several Nigerians believe, and rightly so, that it is a major factor at the root of the nation’s debilitating situation. The police and military who shamelessly demand money from motorists on our highways and streets, thus allowing criminals easy passage, describe the atrocities they commit on our roads as kickback. The monies they steal from the motorists are subsequently “kicked back” to the principal who posted them on such infamous assignments (roadblocks).
The University lecturer who insists that the student pays a certain sum of money before exam scripts and projects are graded, are involved in kickback. The leadership of political parties who insist that huge sums of money must be paid to them before a member of the party picks the party’s ticket, even before or after winning in a party congress/primary, is engaged in kickback. The Minister or Permanent Secretary who must collect money from prospective applicants or candidates even before they can be shortlisted for promotion examination, is undertaking kickback. The security/protocol officer who insist that his or her hands be greased before they schedule appointment with his principal are involved in kickback. The departmental secretary in a tertiary institution who insist that his pockets be lined with wads of currency before typing out approved list of successful university applicants is into kickback. We can go on and one. All these people are thieves. They are rogues. They are criminals. They are unpatriotic. They damage the image and future of our country.
It is intriguing however, that inspire of all the expositions by the media, rather than see journalists as one of the most patriotic Nigerians, we see them as busy bodies. People occupying top leadership have ingrained this pathological hatred to the journalist, who is seen as threading in areas that do not concern them. Those people forget that Nigeria belongs to all of us and that every patriotic citizen owe a duty to make Nigeria a better country.
Since Premium Times published the investigative piece stated earlier, none of the anti-crime agencies took any interest in further probing such despicable revelation. As usual, these agencies see the media outfit as delving into an area that does not concern them and their usual reaction has been “you want to teach us our job”; the usual refrain of ignoramuses who bestride the nation’s sensitive offices.
The AUTHORITY is appalled at the insensitivity being exhibited by people who should ordinarily react and promptly act against such information. But in a country where nepotism has been elevated to a murderous level, what else can one expect? We must as a matter of urgency, drop this I-don’t-care-less attitude.
These are the very fabric that destroy our nation. Where kickbacks and bribery are viewer as if nothing despicable has happened, one can only get a country such s we are in at the moment.
Is it not surprising that countries which relied on Nigeria for lifeline in the 70s and 80s have progressively moved on while Nigeria, the giant of Africa (dwarf of the world) steadily retrogressed? At 60, it would amount to stupid to advise this elder to move away from the fire. Not deciding to do so by ourselves, will definitely lead to dire consequences which we are paying dearly.
No wonder that for over 15 years, armed herdsmen bestride our communities, killing, maiming, sacking and taking over. Insurgency have also become a way or life, while kidnapping has become a daily Alleluyah song in the country.
Is it not a shame that even out parliaments do not provide any succor for the citizenry? Parliaments that ought to be the custodian of the peoples will? Shame that everything in Nigeria is obtained through manipulation, but it is hoped that soon, the birds will return to their nests and as the wise one continued to say ‘as you make your bed, you lie on it’s.