Facts emerged yesterday why the Director-General of the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA), Dr Martin Ogharandukun, was relieved of his job by the Presidency .
It was gathered that the Presidency decided to sack the DG following the receipt of reports on the alleged abuse of office, corruption and high- handedness that led to the closure of the two Nuclear Medicine centres for three months.
Part of the report was the arbitrary increase of Nuclear Medicine annual licence fees from N250,000 to N2million without seeking the formal consent and approval of the Minister of Petroleum, who is the supervising ministry to Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority.
Acting on a report on how a senator brought his mother suffering from cancer to the Nuclear Medicine centre at the University College Hospital, and the inability of Doctors at the centre to attend to the senator’s mother as a result of their inability to pay the N2million fee, Dr Ogharandukun was invited to the Senate Committee on Health to explain the reason for the arbitrary fee hike.
After addressing the Senate Committee on Health , it was discovered that Dr Ogharandukun never sought the permission nor approval of the supervising ministry of Petroleum before the increase.
A source said the committee members were shocked at the brazen abuse of office and lack of respect to human lives as demonstrated by the sacked DG. At the end of the Committee hearing, it was learnt that the senators mandated the DG to reverse to status quo, and gave tillThursday for the DG to issue licences to the two centres ( Ibadan and Abuja) without delay to enable them commence the treatment of cancer patients.
Besides, it was said that most of the questions posed by senators to Dr Ogharandukun on the operations of the organisation he headed was not satisfactorily answered .
“He was declared unfit to hold such a sensitive public office going by his disposition to very important issues that touched on human lives. How can you arrogate to yourself the power to increase license fees from N250,000 to N2million from a body that is non profit making? You asked if he saw a letter written by the Senate President on the need to reverse the fees to status quo , he said he saw it but did nothing.
“ He was asked if he read the story on two national dailies; he said he was too busy to read newspapers. Okay, who gave you approval to increase the fees, he said nobody. Infact, after all said and done, he was declared unfit to hold such a sensitive public office,”a source said.
In a letter by the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) , Senator Pius Ayim, Dr Ogharandukun was directed to handover to Prof Lawrence Dim, a professor of Physics from Ahmadu Bello University , Zaria with immediate effect.
Reacting to the development, the National Coordinator of National Nuclear Medicine Project, Prof Bola Osifo thanked all stakeholders who contributed to making sure the fee was reversed. Prof Osifo said since the beginning of this year the two centres could not practise due to the arbitrary increase of license fee from the initial N250,000 a year to N2 million .
Without the licence , the centres would not be given clearance by the International Atomic Energy Agency( IAEA) to import radioactive nuclear materials used for diagnoses and treatment of cancer patients .
The National Coordinator of Nuclear Medicine project in a letter dated December 13, addressed to Prof T.C. Akpa, Director, Radioactive Safety under the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority expressed bewilderment over the arbitrary increase of license fees , declaring that the centres been a non profit making body could not afford to pay N2million every year for license.
The letter reads:” It is difficult for me to understand your review of fees after I had applied for licence for 2014 since November 8, 2013. The fact is that no department of Nuclear Medicine in this country can afford to pay your fees.
Your Commission is already ruining our 2014 practice as our suppliers have written to us to submit our licences latest December 23, 2013. Please remember that we are practicing in a hospital which is not a profitable business venture , rather it is to help millions of Nigerians who are very sick and cannot afford to go anywhere else for their medical care unlike the elites of this country .
We would like to remind you that we are running an IAEA project where all the equipment are given free of charge by the Agency . “ The Minister of Petroleum is the supervising minister to the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority ( NNRA) saddled with the responsibility of issuing licence to the National Nuclear Medicine project in the country. Despite repeated letters to the regulatory authority, nothing positive was done to issue the licence or review the fees three months after .
A source said several calls made by the agency to the Minister of Petroleum were rebuffed on the matter . “This place was opened in March 2006 . Few years later, they opened another centre in National Hospital, Abuja . This is the first and this is the headquarters of nuclear medicine in Nigeria .
So, Ibadan has been practising nuclear medicine since March 2006 and we need licence from another agency of the Federal Government, that is called Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority . And that licence they will give us is three licences combined.
Licence to import radioactive materials because what we use in nuclear medicine is radioactive materials; licence to practise nuclear medicine and the third licence is for where we are using it. “And we use to pay N250,000 in a year .
In November 2013, we applied, by December we didn’t hear anything from them. So, we contacted them. As we applied here in Ibadan, we also applied from the National Hospital Abuja because Abuja has to cooperate with us since Abuja is under Ibadan .
The Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority belongs to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources . Then, we wrote them after a long period then they told us that the licence fees which was N250,000 is now N2million .
Then, we said N2million a year is abominable . And that we don’t sell anything here ,we only take care of patients and Nigeria is a poor country ,” the National Coordinator, Nuclear Medicine project in Nigeria said.