Law News
How Bill on Compulsory Treatment of Gunshot Victims Clashed with ACJA

A bill on the compulsory treatment and care of victims of gunshot wounds as passed last week by the  Senate is said to be in conflict with several provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.

The bill, which was sent to the Senate by the House of Representatives for concurrence, seeks to establish a law that compels hospitals to treat persons with gunshot wounds before obtaining police report.

The bill also seeks to ensure that every person, including security agents, assists any person with gunshot wounds and ensures that the person is taken to the nearest hospital for treatment.

Additionally, the legislation mandates that no person with gunshot wounds shall be refused immediate and adequate treatment by any hospital in Nigeria, whether or not initial monetary deposit is paid.

However, Abuja-based lawyer, Hameed Jimoh, said the bill contradicts sections 5, 14(1&2), and 15(1) of the ACJA and does not make provision for a scenario envisaged in Section 48 of the same Act.

Section 5 said, “A suspect or defendant may not be handcuffed, bound or be subjected to restraint except: (a) there is reasonable apprehension of violence or an attempt to escape.”

He said Section 14(1) of ACJA provided that a suspect who is arrested with or without warrant shall be taken immediately to a police station or other place for the reception of suspect. He said the act used the word “immediately” for a reason, which is to forestall situations where a suspect attempts to escape custody if and when not taken to the police station.

Jimoh said Section 48 of ACJA stated that where a suspect escapes or is rescued, the person from whose custody he escapes or is rescued may pursue or re-arrest him.

He asked, “Will the hospital take responsibility for the escape of a suspect while following the letter of the bill?”

Senate President Bukola Saraki in his remarks on the passage of the bill said it was important that a legal framework be put into place to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.

“By the passage of this bill, the Senate has moved to ensure that every hospital in Nigeria, both public and private, must accept to treat victims of gunshot wounds without any clearance from the police,” he said.

To this, Jimoh said the bill is not realistic without the government financing private hospitals that receive such victims and the doctors that are private doctors for the treatment of such victims.

He said to address this situation, the Senate would have to as a matter of urgency pass into law the National Police Trust Fund Bill. Apart from the contradictions, Jimoh also said the bill is a duplication of the National Health Act, 2014. He said at best the bill should have been an addendum or amendment to the National Health Act.

“The provisions are unnecessary any longer since there are adequate provisions under Part III of the National Health Act, 2014, except where amendments to the act are necessary,” he said.

However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Biodun Layonu, said he believes the passage of the bill by the Senate was the right thing to do.  “Save lives first before questioning,” he said.

He said the bill should however clearly spell out that the law protects only recognised medical institutions and not quacks or clandestine treatments, except in clear and unavoidable emergencies.

Layonu said he does not believe the bill would affect the work of the police in trying to curb crime.

Another lawyer, Abuja-based Egobuokolobia Umukoro, said the CJA is not against treatment of convicts much more suspects.

“The convict has a right to be taken care of until he faces the hangman, same with suspects.However we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. Many people have died who were just victims of robbery attacks but were not treated because of fear expressed by medical personnel over absence of police report or clearance before offering any medical assistance,” he said.

He said he agrees with the Senate president when he said, “We should reserve judgment for the criminal justice system, and leave healthcare for the medical professionals.”

Source: Clement A. Oloyede
The Daily Trust News

You must be logged in to post a comment.