Medical Students Describe Bill, As Ploy To Enslave Nigerian Doctors

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Reject Bill Proposing 5-Year Compulsory Service To Nigeria 

The proposed Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022, seeking to mandate medical graduates to render five-year compulsory service to the country, before being granted full license has begun to generate controversies.

Joining the conversation, medical students under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Students Association, NiMSA, have called for the immediate withdrawal of the bill.

Ganiyu Johnson (APC/Lagos), Sponsor of the bill titled; “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Mandate Any Nigeria Trained Medical or Dental Practitioner to Practice in Nigeria for a Minimum of Five Years Before Granted a Full License by the Council in Order to Make Quality Health Services Available to Nigeria; and for Related Matters,” said the bill was meant to checkmate the rate of brain drain in the medical sector.

However, reacting to the bill, medical students in the country, who obviously are the major stakeholders, rejected the bill, insisting it is a violation of their fundamental rights, which is against the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, as amended, noting that the bill is aimed at strangulating the medical profession.

NiMSA, in a statement signed by its President, Ejim Egba, described the proposed bill as unpatriotic, ill-timed, and a breach of the fundamental human rights of doctors.

Egba said there are better ways to reduce brain drain in the country than such bill. He noted that the country’s medical system could be made better by ensuring hospitals are well equipped for treatment, and welfare of doctors are well taken care rather than such bill.

He said; “The intention behind the sponsorship of this bill does not take into consideration the root causes of brain drain in Nigeria. The issue of brain drain is multifaceted and requires a more comprehensive approach to tackle it. Instead of trying to forcefully take doctors as slaves, the lawmakers should be focusing on creating an enabling environment that encourages doctors to stay and work in Nigeria.

“The lack of infrastructure, inadequate and inappropriate remuneration, and poor working conditions are some of the major factors driving medical professionals away from Nigeria. These issues need to be addressed if we want to attract and retain our healthcare professionals; make our land green.

“We also unequivocally state that this bill will discourage students from pursuing medical education in Nigeria, which will further exacerbate the problem of the shortage of healthcare professionals. A better way to bring up the issue of being trained with ‘taxpayer subsidies’ would be to have it optional, the option of paying for medical education at the real cost value, the option of obtaining student loans, and also the option of going for the subsidised medical education with the caveat of staying behind for a certain number of years to ‘pay back.

“Besides, not all doctors in the country are trained on subsidy; one thing the bill failed to capture. Doctors need to have a choice, even before they start their training so they can make better-informed decisions.

“Additionally, we strongly believe that the bill is arbitrary in nature and totally unconstitutional- it deprives the Nigerian-trained medical and dental practitioners of their fundamental right to freedom of movement by arbitrarily imposing restrictions on their movements against the provision of Section 41 the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“In conclusion, NiMSA vehemently opposes this bill in part and in one whole. We call on the sponsor of the bill to withdraw it with immediate effect and seek better ways of finding a lasting solution to the problem of brain drain by consultative collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the health sector coupled with the government’s willingness to address the root causes and underlying issues that drive healthcare professionals away from Nigeria.”

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