By Abimbola Ogunnaike
The Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria has stated categorically that the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to make it compulsory for graduates in medical and dental fields to work in Nigeria for five years before being granted a full license is discriminatory, harsh and not in the interest of the people.
A member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State, Ganiyu Johnson, who sponsored the bill, said the move was to check the mass exodus of medical professionals from the country.
The legislation is 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 practise in Nigeria for a minimum of five years before being granted a full licence by the council to make quality health services available to Nigeria; and for related matters.’
But, MDCAN in a press statement signed by its President, Dr Victor Makanjuola, and Secretary-General, Dr Yemi Raji said the passion and concern for the health of Nigerians demonstrated by the sponsor of the bill as the panacea for physician brain drain is misdirected, ill-informed, and poorly thought through, adding that bill is an excellent example of modern-day slavery.
“In fact, this bill has the possible effect of doing the exact opposite: aggravating the exodus which we have been working with the Executive arm of Government to mitigate. It is pertinent to state that none of the suggestions of the inter-ministerial committee on brain drain and bonding of health workers has been implemented to date. Perhaps, a simple consultation with the primary constituency to be affected by the bill would have afforded the honourable member a clearer understanding of the hydra-headed nature of the problem he is trying to solve.
“This bill, without making any assumptions about the ill intent of the proposer, simply lacks the basic ingredients of good faith in the sense that it is both discriminatory and harsh, to say the least, and not in the interest of the people.”
The association said a further consideration of the passage of the bill will amount to a wild goose chase in addressing the challenge of brain drain.
It said without addressing the retention of the more senior doctors, coercion of the fresh doctors to stay in the system will be a futile effort if quality and effective health care delivery is the ultimate desire of the proponents of the bill.
“The question now is, are we going to have another Bill to mandate the senior doctors to stay in the system for 10 years? Curiously, the bill violates the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, as Section 34 (1) b states that “no person shall be held in slavery or servitude” while Section 34 (1) c states that “no one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour”.
“This bill is therefore an excellent example of modern-day slavery. It is shocking and very disrespectful to consider this rather odious bill as a measure for regulating one of the noblest professions.
“Bonding already exists in the civil service with clear guidelines for its application. The government at both State and Federal levels do provide sponsorship for university education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, with a proviso that individuals who benefit from such sponsorship will be bonded for a specified number of years. For this Bill to therefore consider bonding medical doctors who never benefited from any public sponsorship is, therefore, an anomaly, and a clear attempt to reap from where one has not sowed.”
MDCAN noted that the idea that Nigerian-trained medical doctors received heavily subsidised education is a pure fallacy as tuition has remained part of the fees paid by every medical student.
“The fact that this amount is smaller relative to other countries – especially the developed countries – does not amount to subsidy, as every graduate who is lucky to get gainfully employed afterwards pays back by earning salaries far lower than their peers in developed countries. The irony is that the generation that had federal and state governments’ scholarships and meal subsidies on campus are the ones suggesting bonding of self-sponsored students,” it added.