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Legal Experts Differ On NMA’s Proposal Of Psychiatric Evaluation For Candidates

Suggestions and opinions have been made from different quarters to subject candidates vying for various elective positions, especially presidential and governorship hopefuls to drug and general fitness tests, and even psychiatric evaluation.

The Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (retd.), sparked the controversy in April when he asked political parties to include drug integrity tests as part of the screening processes for candidates.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has joined the train by asking presidential and governorship candidates and other legislative office seekers to run psychiatric evaluations.

The NMA had argued that people in the public service when vying for positions like Chief Medical Director or Medical Director are subjected to a series of tests so why can’t candidates contesting for executive and legislative positions run similar tests?

“We also want them to undergo psychiatric evaluation. These shall exhaustively evaluate the people vying for the ultimate job in Nigeria,” it added.

Against this backdrop legal experts have reacted with different opinions about the NMA’s proposal.

Naija News reports that a lawyer identified as Kunle Adegoke, who opined that the proposal is a desirable idea said its legality must also be considered.

According to him, enforcement of such a proposal must be backed by the law, noting that it was baseless without any legal backing.

Adegoke told Punch that “The legality of that proposal is another consideration altogether. If it is not backed up by law, there will be no basis for it. There is no provision in the constitution today or in any part of the national assembly, that makes it possible for political aspirants to be medically examined.

“And if that is going to be, then there must be an amendment to the constitution. Currently what we have is that you must not have been adjudged to be a lunatic. So, it’s an integral part of the judicial structure of determining if the person is sane or otherwise.”

Contrary to Adegoke’s stand, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mazi Afam Osigwe disagrees with the proposal because according to him it is irrelevant.

He submitted that the issue of corrupt leadership in the country was a far greater issue than whether or not a person is medically or mentally fit to run a political office.

The SAN noted that “How are we not certain that most of the people who have misgoverned Nigeria, states, and local governments, are not people who are mentally fit, but just corrupt and incompetent, and who will rather do the wrong things?

“We pay attention to useless things. It will achieve what to have these evaluations? What proof do we have that we have been ruled by people who have a mental illness?”

However, Naija News gathered that on the part of human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, the NMA’s proposed medical checks were not a constitutional requirement nor is it a part of the requirements for seeking public office.

Effiong advanced that even though it is a desirable idea, no one could force a candidate to subject himself to medical evaluation.

The rights activist remarked that “It does not appear that most of our leaders are of sound mind so I would personally favour any conditional amendment that would make that would provide for a process where those seeking public offices can be mandatorily subjected to a mental evaluation.”

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