VICTIMS OF GUNSHOT IN NIGERIA: ANY RESPITE UNDER THE LAW?
DR. G. Okey Omeh
There is no doubt that both the targeted victims as well as the innocent victims of violent attacks in Nigeria have been treated in the hospitals as if they are the attackers themselves.
In that sense, victims of gunshots who are rushed to the hospitals for their lives to be saved end up losing their lives due to the non-attention of medical personnel who feel unsafe treating such victims.
The police has not helped matters in this direction because during investigations, they have gone to the extent of arresting any person who in one way or the other was associated with aiding or the treatment of gunshot victims.
It is against the background of given respite to victims of gunshot in Nigeria that the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has passed a law known as “Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots”. This law became operative since December 20th, 2017 but the public including legal practitioners, medical practitioners are ignorant of its existence.
Unfortunately it has been observed more in breach largely because of ignorance of the law or unwillingness of the executive arm of the Government in Nigeria to implement the laws by arraigning the offenders. It is also arguable that people have not taken interest in reporting the violations of this law to the law enforcement agencies.
Basic Elements of the law
This law made by the National Assembly in Nigeria applies to the private and public hospitals and makes it obligatory for private and public hospitals to give immediate and adequate treatment to any person with gunshot wounds with or without police clearance or initial money deposit.
The law compels every person, including security agents to assist a victim of gunshot to ensure that the person is taken to the nearest hospital for immediate medical attention; and prohibits any person including security agents from subjecting a victim of gunshot wound to torture, degrading or inhuman treatment.
The hospital that accepts any victim of gunshot wound for treatment has the legal duty to report the case to the nearest police station within two hours of commencement of treatment and the police upon receipt of the report shall immediately commence investigation with the aim of unraveling the circumstance that led to the gunshot; failure to make a report by the hospital attracts a fine of N100,000 while the doctors on duty are liable on conviction to a term of six months imprisonment or N 100,000 fine or both.
Until the Chief Medical Director of a hospital certifies a victim of gunshot to be fit, the police shall not invite such a person for interrogation.
Any person who is expected to know but withholds any useful information in this respect is liable on conviction to six months in imprisonment or N50,000 fine or both.
The police and the public are prohibited from subjecting a volunteer or helper of a victim of gunshot to unnecessary and embarrassing interrogation as a result of his/her genuine attempt to save the life of a gunshot victim.
The hospital that receives a victim of gunshot wound is further obliged to as far as practicable within 24 hours notify the relation(s) of the victim of gunshot.
Any person who commits an offence under the law which causes serious physical, mental or psychological damage or harm to the victim of gunshot shall be liable on conviction to a term of not less than 15 years without the option of fine.
It an offence under the law for any person or authority including security agents to stand by and fail to perform the duty imposed under the law, which failure results to death of any person with gunshot wound.
The offender is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 5 years or both. If the offender is a corporate body the alter ego shall be prosecuted in accordance with the provisions of this law. This is in addition to commensurate restitution which the High court shall order an offender to pay to the victim.
The High court of the state is the High court with jurisdiction to trial offences under the law and the Act may be cited as the Compulsory Treatment and Care of victims of Gunshots Act, 2017.
Ignorance of the Law is not an excuse
About Dr Omeh
DR. G. OKEY OMEH (Ph.D LAWS; LL.M; LL.B; BL; MBA, B.SC Hons), is a Corporate Governance and Management Consultant ; Associate Dean, Faculty of Law at Godfrey Okoye University based in Nigeria.
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