Nigerians weigh cost of Buhari’s medical vacation abroad

Former governor of Lagos State Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, President Muhammadu Buhari and former national chairman of APC Chief Bisi Akande at Abuja House, London PHOTO: TWITTER/PRESIDENCY

• ‘President does not have cancer, not terminally ill’
• ‘He may have spent £2000 on private treatment’

The real cost of President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued stay in London for his medical vacation and the attendant fraternal trips by politicians dominated the social media landscape yesterday. Some Nigerians called on government to improve the nation’s health system and make it more suitable for medical tourism.

Circulating in social media platforms was the year 2000 World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ranking of the World Health Systems in which Nigeria was placed 187th of 190 countries — worse than Liberia (186th), Malawi (185th), Mozambique (184th) and Lesotho (183rd) and only better than Democratic Republic of the Congo (188th), Central African Republic (189th) and Myanmar (190th).

Some of the tweets argued that many London trips by government officials and some politicians constitute a strain on public finances and Nigeria’s already troubled foreign exchange situation. Checks by The Guardian on private medical consultants based at Harley Street and at other National Health Service (NHS) hospitals found that some charge between £200 and £250 per hour, for medical services.

The president had left the country for his medical vacation since January 17 after transmitting a letter to the National Assembly informing lawmakers of his intention to proceed on annual leave from January 20 to February 6, 2017. The leave was however extended indefinitely on Sunday February 5, through another letter informing the legislators of the need for the president to undergo some tests as recommended by his doctors. Before and even after Buhari reportedly spoke to US President Donald Trump on telephone, Nigerians and politicians alike have been speculating on the President’s state of health.

The President’s supporters yesterday rejoiced after new photographs emerged with Speaker Yakubu Dogara confirming he was fit. But a Nigerian, Samuel Philip @The_improviser stoked controversy. His 9.48 am tweet yesterday morning instantly got 30 retweets. “If Buhari’s jet is still in London waiting to bring him back… it must have amassed a lot of parking cost,” he said, with Steven Jeff Sakada @sakalajeff retweeting: “Yep, landing fees for a jumbo jet liner are up to 1000 pounds a day at Heathrow.” Samuel Philips responds: “Tax payers’ money or the President earns that much?”

Temitope Ajibola@drteepie in response to -Tayo’s (@wiikiz) conclusion that the President’s prolonged medical vacation was a “waste of public funds,” said: “Crew per diem, hotel, maintenance etc.”

Enas @Dapresi also tweeted: “Even if his own came back to NG, the costs of the ones those going to visit are using would make up for it. #wasted funds.”

Before the leadership of the National Assembly — comprising the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki, Speaker Dogara, and Senate leader Ahmed Lawan — visited the president in London on Wednesday, politicians have continued to call on the London’s Abuja House where Buhari is said to be spending his vacation. Prior to Senators Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Daisy Danjuma’s February 9 visit, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and Chief Bisi Akande, all leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), were with Buhari on January 27.

The current exchange rate of N510 to $1 (at the parallel where it is readily avaialable) has pushed cost of overseas travel beyond most Nigerians. Fillers from the industry show that only the very rich or political officeholders travel these days, irrespective of the airlines.

Enquiries from the market show that a First Class return ticket to London now cost N3.4million on the low side and as much as N5.1million, if on the high side.

For instance, a First Class seat on British Airways cost between N3.6million to N5.1million depending on the travel agency of choice and time of booking. Other carriers like Emirates offer similar fares of between N3.5million and N4.7million. On Kenya Airways, a Lagos-London First Class cost about N4million.

A Business Class ticket for the same route costs between N887, 000 and N1.1million depending on the time of booking and airline of choice. Economy Class, which is the last hope of the flying masses ranges from N215, 000 to N360, 000 on Lagos-London route.

Travel agencies said they have been worst-hit by high coszt of airfares, as frequent travellers are becoming uninterested. Akindele Martins of Flyworld said only the very rich can afford to buy ticket from Nigeria, while several others prefer to book their tickets from overseas, where they are not worried about foreign exchange scarcity or naira rejecting foreign airlines.

A source at British Airways confirmed that it is not the case that the airline increased prices, but for the high cost of exchange rate of Naira to Dollar.

Meanwhile sources close to the President in London said, contrary to speculations in many reports in the past two weeks, Buhari is neither terminally ill nor does he have prostate cancer. “We don’t know where they’re getting all these fake reports from, a reliable source told The Guardian in an exclusive chat earlier this week in central London .

According to the source, who is one the very few people to have seen the president, the fact that the First Lady, Hajiya Aishat Buhari, could perform the lesser Hadj is evidence that president is not terminally ill. Asked who could be behind the rumoured death and cancer prognosis as some media reports claimed, the source replied: “Don’t forget that the anti-corruption crusade of Mr. President is still very much on, so it could be some of those people who are behind it.

“When I saw Mr. President, he was walking unaided, and didn’t show any signs of being sick.” Asked specifically if Buhari’s illness is prostate cancer, as widely reported in many media last week. The very credible source replied, “ he is not even in hospital . It is true that he goes for his appointments and then returns to Abuja House — the official residence of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom — but he’s never been admitted to hospital since he arrived here on a Thursday with the First Lady, who then left a few days later.

Receive News Alerts on Whatsapp: +2348136370421

  • princejoe2320

    You just cant imagine this kind of things in civilised country as that president could have gone by now. I read the other that Minister of Health saying he was incompetent to speak about Buhari health!. To me President is a huge liability in APC government.Most workers are not paid according to NTA. AIT viewed in London. Prices of things is so high.. At the inflation rate of 18.7 % nigerian economy is in a big mess and greatly impoverished yet u got the president staying in the comfort zone in london and people said that all is well

  • ede

    We can live our life either by design, or by chance.
    As famous success philosopher Jim Rohn put it,

    “If you don’t design your own life, chances are you’ll
    fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they
    planned for you? Not much.”

    People living with no goals rarely have any purposes.
    Without purposes, what’s the point of living?

    If you’re looking for a way to accomplish your goals and live a fulfilled life.


  • Jen

    Stop comments and analysis here. Act to make Nigeria like western country. I need your rational thinking to let people know their power to vote out bad government.

    Just imagine our president or governor goes to same hospital you go to.

    Imagine state houses use the same power supply you use without generator.

    Imagine president or governor children goes to the same government school children attend.

    Imagine president relatives search for job on Jobberman or myjobmag, having the same struggling your family pass thru.

  • Arit Bassey

    This whole drama is not necessary…Mr. President is hale and hearty and does not require several visits to him from Nigeria to prove that. The year just began and for the President to be on vacation indefinitely in London does not cut it at all. With the myriads of problem facing Nigeria at the moment, I expect the President to be on ground in Nigeria brainstorming with his cabinet members on how to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.

  • vic

    o yes, buhari is terminally ill and prepare to receive him in nigeria in a casket.

    • Frederick Omondiale

      Your children would be received in a casket very soon.

      • vic

        and so will be yours.

      • Osanebi Osakuni

        He who kills by the sword dies by the sword. Within two years this animal called man presided over the killing of 6,000 Nigerians in Agatu, 1,200 in Southern kaduna, unspecified hundreds in Enugu and many other Southern cities. He will never find peace in his life again. Indeed, he will envy the dead since he could inspire his kinsmen to kill Nigerians for animals to access grass.

  • Osgg Nigeria

    The presidential plane, the cabin crew have nothing to offer the the president after dropping him at the airport in London, knowing fully well that he is there for treatment that will take at least 10 days. For God’s sake, it does not make any economic sense any where in this planet earth, to ask your plane to be parked in idle state, occupying valuable space even for that 10 days in a busy airport that is not your own. If it is true that the presidential plane and its cabin crew are still waiting in London amassing huge foreign bills for that purpose, then it is unfortunate how we manage our lean resources. Immediately they drop the President, they should make a u-turn back to Nigeria pending when the President is ready to come back. Now the President’s coming back is indefinite. Nigeria can spend any amount to heal our president, no problem, but spending money for nothing keeping a plane and cabin crew indefinitely when they are not medically useful, is highly a misnomer.

    • Frederick Omondiale

      The thing is many Nigerians just comment on state issues out of their ignorance! For security reasons, the presidential plane cannot ‘drop’ the president off in London, fly back and pick him up again, when he’s ready. The plane must stay, whatever the cost to tax payers, he’s a president on foreign soil, for christ sakes!!! What if he needs to evacuate, leave London quickly because of some imminent threat, he would use British airways in the abscence of his plane? Imagine Obama, or Trump, having the need to stay outside America for any reason, would ‘airforce one’ just drop him off, and leave only to return when he’s ready to leave? Please, ask questions if you don’t know, otherwise, shut up and stop inciting people with wrong information, when you don’t know or understand best practice in governance, worldwide.

      • Osgg Nigeria

        Oga Mr Frederick i understand your patriotic and good regard for our President. i am not in the habit of threading views with people after my comment. But your reply is a good one that needs consideration. Our President is not on diplomatic visit to London. It is strictly private and confidential. As you suggested, it is much more cheaper to charter a comfortable plane in an emergency than to keep a plane and its crew on the tarmac indefinitely. We in OSGG and several Nigerians are wishing the President the best of health, the almighty God can give a man of his courage and age who has offered to rule a nation twice. I will advise him to rest longer if need be. Nigeria will never stop to exist till end of this world, but myself, yourself and our President need a peaceful and healthy stay for a definite time on earth. I pray you and other readers understand the economics.

  • sunday

    for me, if the president like he can spend any amount of money he like, all i need is the recover of economic status in the country, people are suffering.

  • Osanebi Osakuni

    He who kills by the sword dies by the sword. Within two years this animal called man presided over the killing of 6,000 Nigerians in Agatu, 1,200 in Southern kaduna, unspecified hundreds in Enugu and many other Southern cities. He will never find peace in his life again. Indeed, he will envy the dead.