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NMA braces for showdown with National Assembly over bill to stop doctors migration

NMA braces for showdown with National Assembly over bill to stop doctors migration

The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has vowed to challenge the nation’s House of Representatives bill seeking to withhold doctors’ full licence until they have worked in Nigeria for five years after graduation.

NMA president, Uche Ojinma, said the bill was laughable and dead on arrival, dismissing it as a misplaced priority for lawmakers he claimed were eating fat on the nation’s revenues.

The ICIR quoted Ojinma to have said vowed his association would challenge the development in court and through a showdown with the government.

“These guys will not stop making me laugh. I heard about it… For all we know, that is a knee-jerk response. Let me make it clear. The solution to a problem is finding out the origin of the problem. You find the cause of the problem, and you sort it out. Under international labour law, you do not restrict a worker from migration as long as he did not commit a crime or he is running away, owing you.

“Why can’t the members of the National Assembly serve us (Nigerians) five years for free before we start paying them?”

He challenged the lawmakers to compare what they earn in salary and allowances with what other categories of workers in Nigeria, including doctors, earn.

He said nobody would force doctors to remain in Nigeria.

“I will encourage them not to try it because we will officially find a way to depart (Nigeria) together. Everybody will go. Let’s see what they will do. It is a very wrong step. What I expect the National Assembly to do is pass a bill to say these people must be paid this amount as salary as essential staff, and these people must be given a car loan. If I have a car loan that will run for the next five years, can I leave Nigeria? Of course, I will stay till I finish paying my loan.

“I expect the National Assembly to say people should be given houses, even on a mortgage, so that they can stay. I expect them to tell the Federal Government to buy equipment and make the hospitals’ environments friendly for people to stay.

“I’m sorry to tell you; I’m totally upset with what I heard. I know that some of them with good heads will not allow the bill to scale through because it can never work. It is like putting fire to fuel. That is what they will achieve.”

He listed poor remuneration, insecurity and lack of job satisfaction as reasons doctors leave Nigeria.

He urged the National Assembly to fix the challenges he listed to keep doctors in the country.

Responding to the claim by the Nigerian government that it subsidises medical doctors’ training in the university and expects them to give back to society after graduation, the NMA president claimed every Nigerian student goes through the same university system.

While giving his final verdict on the bill, he stated, “We will test it in court. Simple. There are international labour laws. Nobody can do that in Nigeria. If it requires going on industrial action to stop it, we will do it, and nothing will happen.”

On Thursday, April 6, the Nigerian Hounse of Representatives announced that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ganiyu Abiodun Johnson, representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency (Lagos State), has passed through second reading.

The bill seeks to amend the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Act to prevent Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioners from being granted full licences until they have worked for a minimum of five years in the country.

“The bill is part of the measures to halt the increasing number of medical doctors leaving Nigeria for other countries in search of greener pastures.

“The bill 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 before being granted a full licence by the Council in order to make quality health services available to Nigeria; and for related matters (H B.2130).”

Sponsor of the bill, Johnson told the House plenary, presided over by the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, that it was only fair for medical practitioners, who enjoyed taxpayer subsidies on their training, to give back to society by working for a minimum number of years in Nigeria before exporting their skills abroad.

Most lawmakers supported the bill, though many of them called for flexibility and options in the envisaged law.

A majority voice vote passed the bill for the second reading.


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