DANGER AT NYSC CAMPS: How Hospitals Issue Medical Fitness Certificates Without Test

“…thanks to the sharp practices and corruption that have permeated nearly every sector in Nigeria, many prospective corps members seldom carry out the required tests that will certify their fitness, instead, they pay different prices ranging from three thousand naira to ten thousand naira to get a clean bill of health,” an investigation by THE WHISTLER has shown.

Advertisement

Chukwuma Adekunle is a fictitious name coined by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) in its answer guide from 1998-2018, virtually everybody who passed through the Nigerian secondary education system during this period will be acquainted with this name.

Today, this imaginary person has three certificates of medical fitness, thanks to a racket that procures medical fitness certificates for individuals without an actual medical test, revealing the high degree of rot in the Nigerian health sector.

Every year, thousands of Nigerian graduates enroll for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme which is preceded by a mandatory 21-day orientation camp in various parts of the Nation. In these camps, the graduates are made to learn military drills and other skills, as such, a certificate of medical fitness is required for admittance into the campground.

However, thanks to the sharp practices and corruption that have permeated nearly every sector in Nigeria, many prospective corps members seldom carry out the required tests that will certify their fitness, instead, they pay different prices ranging from three thousand naira to ten thousand naira to get a clean bill of health, an investigation by THE WHISTLER has shown.

Of the 15 ex and serving corps members who shared their experience with this reporter, only one person actually underwent the necessary tests to certify their fitness, others simply bought their medical fitness certificates for a convenient price ranging from 2500 naira to 15,000 naira.

Helen, a corps member currently serving in the NYSC 2021 batch C stream II in the FCT told this reporter that when she attended the orientation camp in Yikpata, Kwara State, she presented a medical report obtained through ‘agents’.

“When I was to attend camp in Kwara State last year, the medical report I presented upon entry and the one I used to process my redeployment was obtained through these NYSC agents, they can help you with direct posting, redeployment and medical and fitness certificates, you just have to pay,” she said.

However, beyond the gullibility of the corps members lies a racket that involves acclaimed NYSC agents as well as medical personnel, administrative assistants and even security guards in government hospitals.

RACKET AT MAITAMA DISTRICT HOSPITAL

When this reporter visited the Maitama District Hospital and requested to do a medical fitness test tenable at NYSC orientation camps nationwide, he was directed by security guards to meet a certain Mr Eric at the admin office on the second floor of the hospital complex. Before the staircase stood an old complaints box placed by the Code of Conduct Bureau gathering dust.

The Code of Conduct Bureau is an agency of government established to maintain a high standard of public morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behaviour of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability.

At the admin office, the reporter was directed to wait at the lobby. A few minutes later, Eric, a fair-skinned, sturdy young man appeared wearing a brown vintage shirt and black face cap.

After the reporter stated his intention to obtain a medical fitness certificate for admission into NYSC camps, he was given the option of paying 10,000 naira for a detailed medical report or 5,000 naira for a shorter version.

According to Eric, the shorter one could be gotten immediately while persons interested in the detailed version had to pay, drop their details and come for the document the next morning.

After a series of unsuccessful attempts to make him reduce the price, the reporter agreed to transfer the sum of 10,000 naira to his bank account, but he protested and took the reporter to a UBA ATM stand inside the hospital premises.

At the ATM stand, a young man in his mid-twenties who had obviously been looking for Eric approached him and said he recently secured an appointment with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and needed a medical fitness certificate as part of the documentation required for him to resume the job.

Within 5 minutes of getting his details, Eric returned with the medical fitness report, he then led this reporter and the new client out of the main hospital complex premises because he does not collect money where ‘bad belle’ people can see him.

Certificate of Medical Fitness issued by the Maitama District Hospital, Abuja.

After receiving the sum of N5,000 in cash, he handed the shorter version of the medical report to the new client, he then led this reporter to the staff section of the hospital’s canteen.

At the canteen, Eric explained in further detail how the racket works.

“The money is going to different places, I have to settle my boss, the doctor and even the security man that referred you to me, so at the end of the day, what I get from it is not much,” he said when the reporter quizzed him on why the price was so high.

“I stay in Nasarawa State and I come here every day, it is this small-small change that I use to transport and feed myself and my family, and this period NYSC people have been coming in their numbers.

“When they finally post the corpers, I know a lot of them will still come back to process a different medical report for redeployment,” he said as he devoured the last bits of rice on his plate.

Eric at the Maitama District Hospital Staff Restaurant

As the conversation ensued, Eric repeatedly ignored calls made to his phone. When the reporter asked him, he said, “don’t mind the guy, he has been disturbing me since morning, he missed work for about a week without an excuse, now he needs a strong medical report to tender when he resumes at work.

“I will collect nothing less than twenty-five thousand naira from him for the report,” he retorted.

The reporter handed him the money, dropped his details and promised to pick up the report the next day.

The next day, the reporter met Eric at the canteen around 9am and he received a medical certificate of fitness marked FCTA/HHSS/HMB/MC/9672. Hospital number 657890 had also been created for him.

“The patient is physically, mentally and medically certified to participate in your activities,” the report which was stamped and signed on behalf of the HOD, Family Medicine read.

RACKET AT KUBWA GENERAL HOSPITAL

At the Kubwa General Hospital, the reporter was directed to stay in a designated area by the security guards after he requested to do a medical fitness test tenable at NYSC orientation camps nationwide, the security guards then made a call to a staff of the hospital.

When the hospital staff who identified herself as Chinenye came, she led our correspondent to another waiting room where she explained the different types of medical fitness certificates and their prices. For a general medical fitness certificate for admittance in camp, she said the price was 10,000 while for a medical report indicating that the bearer had serious medical problems and should be redeployed back to his/her state of residence, she pegged the price at 15,000.

Chinenye at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja.

After several minutes of back and forth, she agreed that the reporter should pay the sum of 4,000 naira in cash. When the reporter objected and demanded to transfer the agreed sum to her bank account, she refused and instead took him to a POS operator within the hospital premises.

At the POS stand, the reporter withdrew the sum of 4,000 naira plus an extra 100 naira transaction charges and handed over the money to Chinenye who requested his full name.

POS Withdrawal at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja.

Advertisement

Within 4 minutes she was back with a signed certificate of medical fitness with file number FCTA/HHSS/HMB/KGH/MCF/09351 declaring that the reporter had been medically examined and found to be physically fit for employment and admission into whatever organization or institution the certificate is tendered.

Certificate of Medical Fitness Obtained at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja

WHY THEY DON’T DO THE TEST

Asked if the test will be conducted if a patient insists, she said “do you think doctors have time to be conducting fitness tests for corpers? Have you seen the number of sick people waiting to see the doctor? Don’t worry they will accept this one in camp, we have been doing this for years and there has been no issue.”

She then gave the reporter her phone number telling him to refer her to his friends who might need similar services, “if you have anybody that needs a medical report just tell them to call me,” she said while handing the reporter a piece of paper where she scribbled her phone number on.

Another staff of the hospital who simply identified himself as AB provided another medical report with file number FCTA/HMB/KUB/VOLI/222 after the payment of 6,000 naira in cash.

The medical fitness certificates asserted that the reporter was tested for Hepatitis, HIV, Skin Allergy, Drugs and Urinalysis and bore the seal of the hospital.

HOW NYSC AGENTS ISSUE E-MEDICAL REPORTS

Mustapha Zubair who described himself as a ‘go-to-guy’ for all NYSC related ‘runs’ offered to get the medical fitness certificate for this reporter for 3,000 naira.

Mustapha has a WhatsApp group of 81 prospective corps members where he answers their questions and ‘helps’ with direct posting, redeployment as well as medical fitness reports.

In a WhatsApp voice note, he explained to this reporter how a prospective corps member will get their fitness certificate after payment is made.

“When you make payment, I will send you a pdf format of the medical report, you’ll print a coloured copy and sign it yourself because they don’t accept scanned signatures. It will carry an official stamp too,” he said.

Continuing further, he said “I can get you a medical report from anywhere you stay nationwide. Your medical fitness certificate has to be from where you are staying, you can’t say you are staying in Abuja and go and bring medical reports from Lagos, that’s what I’m trying to explain to you. So, no matter where they post you to, as far as your residence and medical report are from the same place, you won’t have issues.”

Mustapha said he has ‘helped’ many corps members overcome these hassles and described the job as his side hustle. He also confirmed that while he does not work with the NYSC, he has ‘plugs’ that can help with almost anything.

“I’ve been helping people with NYSC problems for a long time now, it is my side hustle, so I know what I’m saying. Nobody will detect in camp whether the report was printed by you or signed by you. They won’t even have time for that because there are plenty people doing registration. I also know you will be smart enough to use a different signature when signing the medical report,” he said when the reporter asked questions on the possibility of NYSC officials detecting the medical report is counterfeit.

PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS WARN OF IMPENDING DANGER

Medical and public health experts told THE WHISTLER that the issuance of fake medical fitness certificates could lead to the spread of infectious diseases and cause an epidemic in NYSC camps.

Dr. Oladoyin M. Odubanjo, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Science told this website that the medical fitness report racket will have dire repercussions, public health-wise.

He noted that corps members should insist on conducting the tests as it helps them to ascertain how healthy they are and even treat asymptomatic illnesses before it becomes an emergency.

“Corps members need to realize that the requirement for medical fitness certificate is for their own good. Sometimes, when you conduct some of these tests, they give you the opportunity to have a baseline idea of how healthy you are, so the corpers have to insist that they want the test done because if there is something wrong with you, you just might catch it right there and then and treat it.

“By doing that you may have saved your life and saved the lives of others that you may come across in camp because you might be asymptomatic and have serious medical issues.

“Also, the healthcare system itself loses the opportunity to be able to help the society, to curb diseases, prevent illness, prevent sudden death. Because sometimes when people die suddenly and you say nothing was wrong with them, it’s not true, there might have been precursors to that incident that the system would have been able to find and prevent if the test was actually conducted.

The public health expert also called on the government to improve working conditions in the Health sector, to prevent the players from further corrupting the system.

“The biggest driver in any system including the health system, is the Human Resource, so government must look at how the Human Resources can perform optimally, what would you expect if you don’t pay your doctors well? How do you expect integrity? How do you expect commitment?

“The call for improved work conditions is not just to keep doctors quiet or stop them from going on strike, we should look at the bigger picture

“Can you trust a nurse who is not paid enough and whose salary has not been paid? How do you expect such a person to perform optimally? Whether a nurse, doctor, or lab technician, will he not collect money and issue certificates? The implication is that when people don’t trust the system, doctors and patients alike, they begin to corrupt the system. So government should do more,” the public health physician added.

On his part, Mustapha Abubakar Jamda, a professor of community medicine and public health at the University of Abuja warned that beyond the spread of infectious diseases, individuals with cardiovascular problems may experience heart attacks which can lead to sudden death.

“A lot of things can go wrong, the essence of the medical test and certificate of fitness is to ensure that you don’t bring in an individual with an infectious disease, that can be transmitted to others in a populated place.

“For example, infectious diseases of the lungs that can transmit through the air, once those diseases are allowed in camp, it means an epidemic will happen which is also not in the interest of the person faking the test result.

“They also falsified ECG results, which is a test that assesses the health of the heart, so if someone has heart defects or cardiovascular issues it can be detected.

“At NYSC they do a lot of physical and rigorous exercises so anything can happen. The person could have a heart attack that could lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death. So it is neither good for the individual nor the other people in camp and it’s also not good for the system.

Jamda, who is the vice-president of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) opined that the Medical and Dental Council as well as Medical Associations need to do more to ensure the integrity of medical reports.

“The system needs to find a way of ensuring that the medical certificates of fitness are genuine. It is something that needs to involve the Medical and Dental Council, the Medical Association, and even beyond that.

“In this country, Doctors’ reports do not carry the Doctor’s registration number and doctors in Nigeria do not use a personal stamp, the stamp is an identifier that says ‘this is me, this is my registration number’ so that if I receive a certificate of fitness from any individual that I doubt and I want to confirm, I can call the Medical and Dental Council and say ‘I have a report with this number and I want to confirm whether the person bought the result or not, so they can easily even call the doctor.

“That is a way that the medical and dental council and the medical association could help to ensure that in the first instance, let’s have a register of all the doctors in this country with their sub-specialization and even places of work.

“This practice also affects the integrity of the medical institutions, so the government needs to take it up, but for me, the first organization that needs to act is the medical association, let’s have a register of all medical practitioners in the country with their registration numbers and make it available to the public. and let all registered medical practitioners have personal stamps so that any certificate or report emanating from them can be authenticated.

“Nigerians should also understand that requests for medical certificates of fitness are an opportunity for people to do medical check-ups, very few Nigerians routinely have a medical checkup, so these little opportunities that we have for NYSC, promotion, employment, admission and so on should be utilized to ensure that we detect diseases as much as we can and treat them so that it would reduce the spread of diseases, especially infectious ones, to others. Our health system is weak and we should not overburden it,” he added.

Leave a comment