By Frank Oshanugor
The Crime Victims Foundation of Nigeria (CRIVIFON) has commended Senator Oluremi Tinubu for sponsoring a Bill seeking to amend the 2017 Gunshot Act otherwise known as Compulsory Treatment And Care for Victims of Gunshots Act, 2017 with a view to seek for the establishment of Medical Emergency Assistance Fund.
The Foundation (a non-governmental organization) in a statement issued on Thursday by its Executive Director, Barr.(Mrs) Gloria Egbuji also commended the entire Senate for the move to amend the existing Act so that there would be a Fund to take care of the treatment of victims of gunshot, knife wounds and other life-threatening emergencies.
The 2017 Gunshot Act was primarily enacted to enforce treatment for victims of Gunshots injury. Before its enactment, victims of gunshot injuries were being refused treatment by hospitals as a result of a misinterpretation of Section of 4 of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act, 1990.
Over the years, CRIVIFON has championed the agitation for the treatment of gunshot victims by hospitals without subjecting such victims to the harrowing experience of asking them to provide police report before being treated.
It is on record that CRIVIFON as an NGO with deep interest on issues involving victims, began the advocacy for the treatment of gunshot victims since 1998 and did not relent until 2017 when the Act was enacted.
Earlier in 2021 two Nigerian victims of armed robbers with gunshot wounds have reportedly died as hospitals refused to accept them for treatment due to non submission of police report.
One of them, Ola Ayeni; a final year Higher National Diploma student of Ibadan Polytechnic was taken to no fewer than three hospitals all of which refused him treatment for non availability of police report before he passed on.
As a result of this non compliance with the provisions of the 2017 Gunshot Act, CRIVIFON in collaboration with some concerned citizens recently embarked on sensitizing medical personnel in different hospitals on the need to comply with provisions of the Act which in part provides a mechanism for reporting treatment of persons with gunshot wound to police and precludes persons from being the subject of embarrassing interrogation for helping victims.
As the Gunshot Victims Act is now undergoing amendment process, CRIVIFON would want it to clearly specify levels of treatment, so that if an hospital offers First Aid and refers the patient to another hospital, possibly due to incompetence or lack of facility, the referring hospital should not be punished by the law.
The Foundation has also called on police authorities to always be willing to prosecute negligent hospitals just as it has called the Nigerian Medical Association, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and other health sector related bodies to regularly educate their members on the provisions of the Act.
“The Nigerian Bar Association, civil society organizations and human rights activists in the country should also get involved as more incidents of gun attack, road accident and other related incidents are occuring regularly, seeking attention,” CRIVIFON said.