HOW LAWMAKERS FRUSTRATED BILL ON KIDNEY, CANCER DISEASES
A few years ago, Mr. Abdulraheem Fadhili, a Port Harcourt-based engineer, watched a television advertisement of a former national coach of the Super Eagles, appealing for help to enable him receive adequate treatment for Cancer.
Moved by the pitiable sight of a man who had served his nation well but abandoned, Fadhili, a football fan and native of Ihima in Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State, resolved to launch a frontal attack on terminal diseases.
The product of that resolve was a draft bill aimed at providing easy access to funds for treatment of terminal ailments.
Known as the Kidney, Cancer, Skin Burn by Fire, Heart Treatment Bill, the proposed legislative document intends to establish a National Kidney, Cancer, Skin Burn By Fire and Heart Treatment Foundation otherwise to be known as the NKCSHTF.
Among the objectives of the foundation are the enhancement of 'access to treatment of the rather expensive ailments' and reduction of frustration and delays in treatment delivery through provision of a framework for raising funds as well as co-ordination of treatment.
It is also expected to co-ordinate a compulsory free comprehensive medical check-up at least twice in the life time of all Nigerians between the ages of 18 to 21 years and 40-46 years.
The foundation when functional, would also co-ordinate the training of Nigerian doctors in the treatment of the KCSH diseases and enable Nigerians acquire skills for designing and building medical equipment especially in the area of the listed ailments.
Funding of the foundation will be sourced from a mandatory deduction of one percent of the value of GSM airtime loaded within Nigeria into the NKCSHF fund.
Fadhili told Daily Sun that the bill if passed into an Act, 'is capable of generating N11 billion annually and perpetually'.
Bereft of the basic knowledge in law and Bill drafting and faced with the exorbitant charges from his lawyer friends, Fadhili had to grapple with the task of drafting his dream bill.
Thanks to the friendly disposition of some officials of the Rivers State House of Assembly, he was able to overcome this initial frustration: 'I knew that I needed a format for drafting the Bill but I am not a lawyer. I am an engineer. This made me contact a lawyer who gave me a bill I could not afford. Later, I contacted other lawyer friends who felt there was no urgency to it since I was not going to pay them. So, I went to the Rivers State House of Assembly to get a prototype of a Bill from which I could draft my Bill.
'At the Office of the Clerk of the House, officials asked for my identity and wanted to know why I did not go to Kogi State House of Assembly. I showed them my International Passport and told them that although I am Kogi by birth, I have been in Rivers State for more than 20 years.
'They felt at home with me when I told them I am also an alumnus of Stella Maris College, Port Harcourt. They gave me a file copy of a Bill. I am grateful to them because that gesture kick-started the drafting of the Bill.' The draft Bill ready, Fadhili felt it was time to go to Abuja to turn in his dream project to the Federal Legislature. He made a stop-over at Ihima, his hometown, hoping to meet the member of the House of Representatives representing his constituency to talk him into sponsoring the Bill but drew blank. This was the beginning of another round of frustration for Fadhili.
'I could not meet the House of Representatives member. I made contacts with him but his reaction to my proposed Bill was not encouraging.'
Undaunted, he met the father of a minister from the area who referred him to another member of the House of Representatives (names withheld) from the state and their eventual meeting was no less frustrating: 'The minister's father gave me the member's GSM number and when I got to the gate of the National Assembly, I called him (member). He seemed too busy to see me.
'I had to still call the minister's father who assisted in calling him and it was then that he called me. When I eventually met with the Rep member from my constituency, I showed him the draft Bill. He approved of it and asked me to liaise with his personal assistant to fine tune it because he was going for a meeting.
'Surprisingly, he came back late, a changed man who seemed not to be interested in the Bill anymore. Though he didn't say that, I saw it in his countenance and action because he later told his personal assistant to tell me I could go without seeing me again.
'It took the persuasion of my cousin, Mallam Abdulateef Yakubu to call him again and he gave me another appointment. Unfortunately, President Yar'Adua died on that day and we had to shift the appointment for another week. After that, it became increasingly difficult to talk to him and get any appointment. Since I was the one to call him always, I concluded he was not interested in the Bill. I wasn't annoyed and I didn't give up.'
Fadhili later went to Mr. Dahiru Abdullahi, immediate – past National Secretary of the Progressive People's Alliance (PPA) who, satisfied with the intentions of the Bill, promised to make the needed contacts with the party's representatives in the National Assembly. While Fadhili waited, Abdullahi abandoned the PPA ship and joined the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).
Yet another 'road' closed, he moved to an official of the African Independent Television (AIT) and gave him a copy of the draft Bill. The AIT official promised to call back but never did.
Four days later, he moved on to see Mr. Cyril Stobber of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Although the newscaster was away on assignment, his colleagues promised to deliver the document to him. So far, nothing has come from that end.
'Then, I was introduced to a former member of the House of Representatives, Saiki, who promised he would give the draft Bill to Hon Abike Dabiri and also facilitate my meeting with her.'
Forced by a dwindling purse, Fadhili appealed to Saiki to go ahead with the arrangement and returned to Port Harcourt. Like others before it, that move yielded no fruit.
Looking back, a frustrated Fadhili wondered why it is so difficult to get Federal legislators to get interested in a Bill that is intended to bring succour for the teeming patients of deadly ailments.
'From my experience, it is more difficult to get into the National Assembly than getting into the nation's Defence Headquarters. It will do Nigerians and the National Assembly a lot of good if the Office of the Clerk of the Assembly that is supposed to liaise with the general public is brought outside the main Assembly Complex so that ordinary Nigerians who feel strongly that they have antidotes to problems of the nation can offer them without stress.
'Secondly, the attitude of many of our lawmakers themselves leaves much to be desired. Their attention seems to be more toward self-serving issues than the people who put them there.
'Also, I see a lot of disarray in the ways things are done. Before now, I had thought that the things I read about the National Assembly in the papers were exaggerated. Now, I don't think I can still say so with my personal experience'.
Fadhili, who is the National Vice President of Ihima Welfare Association and Assistant Secretary of the Rivers State Chapter of Ebira Vabe Association urged the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure unhindered access for the people to the clerks of both chambers.