The ‘Angel’ Who Secretly Pays Patients’ Hospital Bills

In Nigeria, very few medical services are free of charge, and if you can’t pay your hospital bill you may not be allowed to leave. Who will help? In this deeply religious society, many stranded patients hope for divine intervention.

Zeal Akaraiwai does not have the wings of an angel – he has a sleek black Mercedes, all purring engine and deep leather seats. This 40-something financial consultant – trim and neat – steps out of his car in a potholed government hospital car park in Lagos. He is greeted warmly by a team of social workers, and gets straight to business. He asks them for “the list”.

Neatly printed on A4 paper are the names of patients who are well enough to go home. But they are not going anywhere, because they cannot pay their medical bills.

Zeal has met people who have been forced to stay on the ward for six – or even eight – weeks after they have been discharged. Some Nigerian hospitals set up instalment plans, but even the first instalment might be too onerous for those earning a pittance, or nothing at all.

Heading along crumbling walkways to the wards, Zeal listens intently to the social workers’ running commentary about those he is going to meet. In a male ward the tiles underfoot are scuffed, the paint peels, and 20 beds line the walls. Ancient fans whirr overhead, and the nurses wear epaulettes on the shoulders of starched white uniforms. An orderly is sweeping up with a dustpan and brush. Everybody is doing their best in challenging circumstances.

The social workers guide Zeal to the bedside of a patient with a heavily bandaged thigh. He bends down close, and speaks in a low voice: “What happened to you?” The young man, a barber, says he was shot by he-doesn’t-know-who.

“So how’re you going to settle your hospital bill?” asks Zeal. “I’m praying to God,” the man replies.

Zeal chats to him for a while – the man does not ask who Zeal is, and Zeal does not tell him. Then, out of earshot of the patient, Zeal checks the man’s story with the nursing staff. The bill is $250. And the barber is in luck – Zeal will pay it. Later today, the patient will go home.

Zeal does not keep in touch with any of the people he helps. He does not even want to be thanked. But there is one thing he would like in return – that one day they might tell a story about him: the story of how when they were in hospital, an angel came, paid their bill and left.

“That’s why I call this the Angel Project,” he says. “Be the angel you hope to meet.”

Paying the fees of hospital patients who are not able to settle their bills is one of the ways that Zeal realises his Christian faith. He says he wants to show people that everyone can do something to help someone else. Zeal’s friends and family also give him money for the project, and he keeps receipts in a neat black book, together with details of the patients whose bills he’s paid.

In the women’s ward, Zeal is taken to see a patient in her 60s who is unconscious and on oxygen. She has had a serious stroke. The social workers want Zeal to pay the bill she has run up so far, so she can be moved to an intensive care unit for specialist treatment. He shakes his head, and moves away from her bedside.

Outside in the corridor, the woman’s daughter joins him. She is young – and resigned. Zeal quizzes her about the health of her mother. It seems that even if the bill is paid here, it will be just the first step on a very long haul – if indeed the patient survives. Zeal speaks kindly to the young woman, and says he is sorry. She thanks him, smiles, turns, and goes back to watch over her mum.

Paying for this woman’s treatment would mean breaking Zeal’s own, self-imposed, rules – he does not generally help anyone with a serious, on-going condition. The Angel Project pays for those who are well enough to go home immediately.

“Of course, sometimes I digress,” he says.

He remembers Montserrat – a woman who bled for 11 months because she needed a hysterectomy. Zeal paid $400 for her operation. And on today’s visit to this public hospital, there is a good deal more digression.

The Angel Project picks up the tab for a patient who needs a leg ulcer operation, and Zeal wants to know about the progress of a 10-year-old who is awaiting further intestinal surgery. He has paid for her treatment so far, and will continue to do so until she returns home. The social worker says the child is doing very well.

Zeal has met this little girl, but he does not want to see her again. “She has my son’s eyes,” he remembers.

Today, Zeal visits everyone on the social workers’ list. He heads out to the cashier to settle the bills of eight patients. His hospital philanthropy always makes him feel sad, and he is angered by the failure of government.

“The mere fact an individual, like me, has to go into a hospital to pay the bills of people who are stranded speaks volumes about the injustice in the system,” he says. “There’s no reason why we cannot have proper health insurance. We have clever people who can think of schemes that can work.”

In Nigeria only 5% of the population is covered by health insurance. There is scepticism about how a universal scheme might operate, given the huge disparities of wealth, and the millions of poor people whose contributions would have to be covered by the state. But Zeal is impatient.

“Every week I see the impact of not having compulsory health insurance, and people die. So where do you want to put the price of a human life?”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Linda Pressly via BBC  [1], [2]. Image sources: Grace Ekpu [1], [2].

Nigerian Ministry of Interior eCitBiz Record Migration Begins

The Nigerian Ministry of Interior recently announced a directive which seeks to move certain aspect of its services online. This is in a bid to deepen the e-governance initiative of the current administration. In furtherance of this directive, the Ministry of Interior is set to begin the migration of Business permit/Expatriate Quota and place of worship records to the eCitBiz online portal.

The Ministry of Interior by this notice has directed all affected companies and places of worship licenses by the Ministry to update and migrate into the new online portal.

Goals of the Migration

  • To provide online update for various Citizenship and Business Department
    Services.
  • To provide online payment platform for companies, places of worship, Marriage
    and Citizenship Processing of Applications.
  • To provide a centralized and interactive database for all services of the
    Citizenship and Business Department.

Timeframe

  • The update/migration process is set to run from 23 July 2018 to 31
    August 2018.
  • The time set to commence full automation of the online platform is 3 September 2018.

For more information about the process, contact the Nigerian Ministry of Interior here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Famsville Solicitors  [1]. Image sources: [1].

Nigeria Immigration Service Suspends Extra $110 Visa Fees

Recently, a new policy affecting foreigners entering the country with a Visa on Arrival was introduced at Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport. The new policy imposed an additional $90 on foreigners on arrival as Biometric Visa-On-Arrival charge and an additional $20 as processing fees. This newly imposed fee was regardless of the Visa Fees these foreigners must have paid in their respective countries before coming into Nigeria.

As expected there was a bit of chaos at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, on Monday when the policy was being implemented as the new immigration policy caught many foreigners arriving the country unawares. Some foreigners were forced to pay with their credit cards or contact their sponsor company in Nigeria to bear the cost. Some others were totally stranded as they weren’t granted access to the Immigration Counters till they paid the fees. It is quite surprising that even countries that had a reciprocity agreement with Nigeria exempting them from paying Visa Fees such as Mauritius, Dominica, Haiti, Fiji Island were equally not exempted from the payment of the fees.

It was gathered that concession of some of the services initially handled by the Immigration Service had been granted to private firms. The biometric visa-on arrival charges was being handled by Online Integrated Service (OIS) while the processing charge is being handled by New Works. This might have been the reason why the new policy lacked proper publicity. It was also gathered that the idea of imposing the biometric charges was borne out of reciprocity as some countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, South Africa, Kenya and China were already imposing biometric charges on the citizens of Nigeria who travel into their countries.

In the light of the discontentment expressed by the foreigners and their representatives in Nigeria and a need for a wider publicity of the policy, the policy has been suspended. There may be a possibility that the policy will be resumed when it has been appropriately publicized but as it is now, foreigners can enter the country without paying additional visa fees in-country since they would have paid the necessary fees in their respective countries.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Famsville Solicitors via Lexology [1]. Image sources: [1].

Nigeria’s Naira to be Added to Britain’s List of Trade Currencies

Nigeria’s currency, the naira, will become one of three West African currencies that the United Kingdom’s export finance agency will add to its list of pre-approved currencies, allowing it to provide financing for transactions with Nigerian businesses denominated in the local currency. The other two currencies have not yet been disclosed.

Paul Arkwright, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, stated that this is a clear indication of how much value the UK places on its relationship with Nigeria, and that it will provide a firm foundation for a significant increase in trade and investment between both countries.

Britain voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, which has forced London to rethink its trade ties with the rest of the world. The UK and the EU struck an agreement in December that opened the way for talks on future trade ties.

The naira financing will follow the same structure as a someone buying in Britain’s sterling, except that Nigerian firms taking out a loan in the local currency can benefit from a UK government-backed guarantee.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Source: [1]. Image source: [1].

Radisson Blu Hotels Aiming for 40 Locations in Nigeria

Upscale international hotel chain Radisson Blu aims to have 40 locations in Nigeria.

Radisson Blu operates as part of the Radisson Hotel Group, one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, headquartered in Minnesota, USA. The Radisson Blu brand has the largest pipeline of hotel rooms in Africa, according to a study prepared by W-Hospitality.

In a recent interview, William McIntyre, a Radisson Group regional director, said that the Radisson Blu brand is the fastest expanding hotel brand in Africa, and that the group currently has 85 hotels in Africa, either open or under development. McIntyre noted the significance of Nigeria, with its being the largest market on the continent and presenting an opportunity for large-scale expansion of Radisson operations.

Radisson has 9 hotels in Nigeria, with a long-term goal of having 40 operating simultaneously throughout the country. The group is operating in Abeokuta and Lagos, and has signed deals in Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Abeokuta.

In terms of security, the group has a strong safety and security team, and multiple measures in place to detect, avoid, and manage various crisis instances, with regular training for the broader teams, and, most importantly, the hotel staff.

McIntyre said the group has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, is always willing to be flexible, and is an ideal fit for Nigeria. When asked what Radisson Blu’s unique selling point was, McIntyre said the group’s hotels are sophisticated, iconic and stylish, and that customer’s needs are anticipated. He further said that guests are engaged with on a personal level, and are provided with an experience that leaves them with more memorable moments in contrast to competitors. Finally, McIntyre said that the group makes its relationships with its stakeholders – from guests, to owners, to customers, to suppliers – its priority.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Source: [1], [2], [3], [4]. Image source: [1].