Nigeria: What Does President Buhari's Medical Tourism Mean For Political Stability And Healthcare In Nigeria?

Last Updated: 8 July 2016
Article by Nana Ampofo and Kissy Agyeman-Togobo

Event: President Muhammadu Buhari travelled to the UK on Monday 8 June 2016 for a 10-day holiday according to official statements. However, his seemingly impromptu absence from key engagements as well as the emergence of a communique that he would be seeking medical opinion in relation to a recurring Meniere Disease in his left ear[1] has fuelled doubts about his good health and raised questions about the state of Nigeria's healthcare system in general.

Main Findings:

Missing in Action

President Buhari raised eyebrows last week when he cancelled an official trip to Rivers State. He had cancelled a similar trip to Lagos two weeks before and delegated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to represent him at other events. The president was rumoured to be sick but the presidency, Aso Rock[2], dispelled the rumours. Then last weekend, Aso Rock announced that the president would be travelling to the UK on Monday and would see an ear specialist there. The president's spokesman Femi Adesina told reporters at the airport when the president got on the plane, "[til] the very last minute that he is travelling, the president performed the duties and functions of his office as the president. So illness is not the issue."[3]

Deja Vu?

This sounds a little too familiar for Nigerians. Former president, Umaru Yar'Adua, took many medical trips to the Middle East while he was president between 2007 and 2010. At first, people questioned his good health but Aso Rock downplayed the issue. Then the trips grew frequent and then from November 2009 he was away for months with no clear word about his condition, although there was speculation that a heart condition was the issue.

The Nigerian constitution says that if a medical panel finds that the president is permanently incapable of carrying out his duties after a resolution by two-thirds of his cabinet, the vice president becomes the new president[4]. Even though Yar'Adua was clearly incapacitated, his inner circle tried to prevent his vice, Goodluck Jonathan, from succeeding him until parliament intervened in February 2010 after civil society had heaped on the pressure. Yar'Adua died three months later.

State of Healthcare in Nigeria

Like Yar'Adua, Buhari's latest trip raises questions about the true state of his health. But it also highlights the state of Nigeria's healthcare system, if the president goes to the UK to be treated for a reported ear condition. It should also be noted that according to Dr Osahon Enabulele, the former president of the National Medical Association (NMA) and Vice President of the Commonwealth Medical Association,  Nigeria has a National Ear Centre and over 250 ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists, who could have responded to the president's recurring ear illness but clearly, the president has displayed a lack of confidence in the system. Paradoxically, at the 56th Annual General Conference and Delegate meeting of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) held on 26th April 2016 in Sokoto[5], Buhari, who was represented by his Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, spoke against the practice of officials using state resources of about US$1billion each year on oversees medical care.

Up-to-date data relating to healthcare access in Nigeria is difficult to come by. Having attempted to receive figures about the state of Nigeria's healthcare system from the National Bureau of Statistics yesterday in Lagos, we were told that no current data is available.

However, figures[6] dating back to 2011 suggest that a Nigerian state typically had one healthcare facility for 5,000 people. There were also about 10,000 people per doctor and less than a million people had signed up to the national health insurance scheme (NHIS). An extension of Nigeria's healthcare woes also lies in the shortage of personnel to man its 30,000 primary healthcare (PHC) posts. As it stands now, only 2,500 PHC posts, which are the critical gatekeepers of health are functional in Nigeria according to the Acting Executive Secretary of the nation's NHIS, Mr Olufemi Akingbade[7] during a visit to the Nigerian Communication Satellites Limited.

Outlook:  Buhari's current absence from the country has drawn little public concern from our vantage point of assessing sentiment on the ground. To quote one Lagos-based colleague "There is a lot of disillusionment about his administration and so most people are simply not bothered about his trip or his health. People are more preoccupied by trying to keep their heads up in view of the biting economy".

But from the standpoint of understanding healthcare delivery in Nigeria, it is clear that supply cannot meet demand, both in terms of physical infrastructure and human capital. According to Dr Osahon Enabulele, the UK and US have over 3,000 and 5,000 Nigerian doctors working in both countries, respectively. Incentivising doctors in the Diaspora adequately could be part of the solution to plugging the human resource gap.

Written by Songhai Advisory Healthcare & Social Impact Director Lord-Gustav Togobo (Accra) with input from Analyst Adedayo Ademuwagun  (Lagos) as well as Managing Partners Kissy Agyeman-Togobo (Accra) and Nana Adu Ampofo (London).



[2] Aso Rock is the official residence of the Nigerian president and is the equivalent of the US White House.






The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions