NiMSA opposes Bill to stop migration of Nigerian-trained doctors
The Nigerian Medical Students Association (NiMSA) on Thursday registered its strong opposition to the move by the House of Representatives to force medical practitioners to work in Nigeria for five years before they would be given full license to practice.
The lawmakers proposed this amendment to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act in order to cure the migration of Nigerian doctors to othercountries in search of better working conditions.
NiMSA said the proposed amendment was “unpatriotic, ill-timed and a breach of the fundamental human rights of doctors as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria as amended.”
The association lamented that “this bill is aimed at strangulating the medical profession and making mockery of her autonomy.”
In an official statement signed by NiMSA president, Ejim Egba, a copy of which was obtained by Nigerian Sketch, the association contended that the sponsor of the bill, Rep Ganiyu Abiodun Johnson (APC, Lagos), did not give it a careful thought as the bill appears set to achieve the opposite of reason he gave for sponsoring it; the enslavement of Nigerian trained doctors and the paralysis of the healthcare system.
The statement said the lawmakers were not realistic enough to examine the “root causes of brain drain in Nigeria”, adding that “the search for greener pastures abroad can be reduced by making our land and pasture green…”
NiMSA insisted that it “vehemently opposes the 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…”
The Nigerian House of Representatives commenced the amendment of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act to stop the migration of Nigerian-trained medical practitioners.
The amendment, sponsored by Ganiyu Johnson (APC, Lagos), is proposing that Nigerian-trained medical doctors must serve in the country for five years before they are given a full practicing license.
During the debate on the general principle of the bill on Thursday, Mr Johnson said it was only fair for medical practitioners, who enjoyed taxpayer subsidies on their training, to “give back to the society.”
Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia) spoke against the bill, saying it would infringe on the rights of doctors to move freely.
Mark Gbillah (LP, Benue) also spoke against the bill and called for better framing of the legislation.
“I want to suggest that we look at how to rework this bill in itself because as a professional myself I do not think you should be able to practice anything without your licence.
“A person in such a critical field as medicine, how would you give somebody a temporary licence or what would that imply? You would need a licence to be certified to practice.
“Do we try to restrict these people and infringe on their fundamental human right or apportion more resources to the medical profession,” he said.
Before putting the bill to question, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila said the proposed bill was not infringing on the rights of medical practitioners because section 45 of the 1999 Constitution allows the government to suspend certain rights due to certain conditions.
“Let me clear the issue of fundamental human rights that has been raised.
“If you go to section 45(1) of the Constitution, it actually allows you to deviate from your fundamental human rights under certain conditions.
“One of these conditions concerns public health. So if the government feels that to safeguard public health this restriction should be put then we have not violated anybody’s human rights,” he said.
Members passed the bill for second reading when it was put to vote by Mr Gbajabiamila.
Despite the shortage of medical personnel in the country, Nigeria continues to experience a mass exodus of healthcare professionals, especially doctors, pharmacists, and nurses.
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