Nigeria: Rights Group Sues Yar’Adua’s Doctor Over Non-Disclosure Of The President’s Health Status

A civil rights organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, to compel the personal physician of ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua, Dr Salisu Banye, to release information on oath on the present medical condition of the President, in order to definitively decide whether he is capable of continuing to perform his public trust and constitutional responsibility as President.

SERAP is further praying the court to declare that the failure and/or refusal of Dr Banye, to urgently publish in major national newspapers and to forward to the National Assembly a sworn statement on the medical records and conditions of President Yar’Adua is illegal and unlawful as it violates Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act. The group also want the court to declare that the failure and/or refusal of President Yar’Adua personal doctor to publish in major national newspapers and to forward to the National Assembly a sworn statement on the names of the medical specialists providing treatment to President Umaru Yar’Adua is illegal and unlawful as it violates Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act. SERAP’s Executive Director, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, in the suit is contending that “the failure of Dr Banye to provide a sworn statement and information on the President’s current medical condition, and the names of the medical specialists providing treatment to the President is illegal and unlawful as it violates the Applicant’s right to receive information and breaches the fiduciary relationship implied and imposed by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.”

According to him, “since his (Yar’Adua) alleged return to the country from Saudi Arabia where he reportedly received medical treatment for months, many high level government officials have been denied access to him and there are doubts about his capacity to continue to govern the country as his medical condition remains shrouded in secrecy”.

The group further contended that “this situation continues to be exploited by some people apparently for political or pecuniary reasons thereby precipitating unnecessary tension and political uncertainty in the country, and contributing to violation of internationally recognised human rights”.

It added that “publishing a sworn statement about the president’s current medical condition is of particular importance because of the documented history of deception and secrecy regarding his health and a sworn statement will ensure that Dr Banye takes responsibility for the truthfulness and accuracy of the contents of the medical report of the President and can be prosecuted for perjury if the reports are false as this is the only way to resolve the lingering doubts on the medical condition of the president”.

“Everyone has the right to access information held by private persons or bodies, which is necessary for the exercise or protection of any right and any refusal to disclose such information is subject to appeal to an independent body and/or the courts”, the group argued.

According to SERAP, “this is based in part on the following fundamental principles: that the Nigerian people have the right to be governed only with their consent; that people’s consent is meaningful only when they have access to information necessary for making informed decisions about their leader’s medical condition and that such information is necessary for making informed decision”.

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