By Chigoziem Ellen Onugha Esq
One of the known characteristics of Laws is that it is dynamic and not static. An example is our Constitution which has been changed serially, with the current one being enacted on May 29, 1999. Even with that, the 1999 Constitution has also gone through a couple of amendments. Change in Laws is chiefly a direct consequence of developments within a given society. Of all the challenges confronting Nigeria, I am convinced that health problems are most discomforting, and therefore any attempt by the government to build solid foundations that suit each of the problems of the health sector is going to be a welcome one. Admittedly, the enactment of the COMPULSORY TREATMENT AND CARE FOR VICTIMS OF GUNSHOTS ACT 2017 is a direct attempt to underscore one of Nigeria’s problems with regards to health.
Nigeria has no doubt progressively changed and enacted Laws to take care of its ever-changing environments. One of the offshoots of such progressive changes has been the enactment of the COMPULSORY TREATMENT AND CARE FOR VICTIMS OF GUNSHOTS ACT, 2017.
Prior to December 20, 2017, lots of lives were being lost on a daily basis due to refusal to care and treat gunshot victims by hospitals, agencies of the government and even individuals. Before December 20, 2017; it was common to have people die of gunshot wounds simply because they could not provide either police reports or money for treatment. This is, indeed, careless on the parts of the hospitals, the governments, and individuals. The doctors, for one, appear to have forgotten the Oath they swear to at induction and had rather made money and other materials considerations the substance of their practice.
It is easy to see that the emergence of the Act in question is a complete game changer with regards to the abnormalities associated with the usual refusal to treat gunshot victims. The Act has taken care of thorny issues ranging from police procedures, hospital/hospital personnel’s involvements to that of the public involvement. Its provisions are far reaching, at least, to the extent of gunshot wounds and its victims.
The fourteen provisions of the Act alongside their sections are as follows:
- Right to treatment
- Duty to assist
- Notification of police
- Certificate of fitness
- Relations to make statement
- Withholding information
- Protection of volunteers
- Persons guilty of the offense
- Duty to notify victim relations
- Offense of standing by
- Trial of a corporate body
Far reaching and beautiful as the provisions of this Act are, citizens who the law is meant to protect may not be able to take maximum benefits of same unless those shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing the law are alive to their various responsibilities. It is easy for this same law to go the way of others before it in terms of implementation.
Unlike the previous instance where the whole burden of safety was on a victim of gunshot wounds, the Act withdraws this burden and places them on the police and the hospital/hospital personnel. The Act also goes ahead to make provisions for restitution at the instance of a High Court to be made by a corporate body or a person convicted of an offense under this Act to a victim of the offense.
Similarly, issues relating to police reports and deposits before treatment of gunshot victims have been taken care of by the new law. We expect better results in that regards, as we encourage citizens to hold on to their rights. That is all we have got.