Reactions have continued to follow the proposal by the Federal House of Representatives to restrain Nigerian-trained medical or dental practitioners from getting their full licenses until they have worked for a minimum of 5 years in the country.
The bill sponsored by Ganiyu Johnson, the member representing Oshodi Isolo II Federal Constituency has passed second reading and is considered part of the measures to halt the increasing number of medical doctors leaving Nigeria for better working conditions abroad.
The lawmaker, speaking on the floor of the House, said it was only fair for medical practitioners who have enjoyed subsidized training to "give back to the society" by working for a minimum number of years in Nigeria before exporting their skills abroad.
Medical students oppose bill
The Nigerian Medical Students Association or NiMSA has opposed the bill, describing it as a breach of the rights of medical practitioners in the country and an attempt to enslave medical practitioners.
In a statement signed by Ejim Egba, the NiMSA president, the group described the bill as “unpatriotic, ill-timed, and a breach of the fundamental human right of doctors as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended."
The body also noted that the brain drain in the medical profession could be reduced by “properly equipping our hospitals, better treatment for doctors," while advising the lawmakers to “be steering conversations on medical tourism and not doctor slavery,” the statement reads.
Nigerians react on Twitter
Nigerians on the microblogging site, Twitter, have also expressed their concerns over the bill, asking the lawmakers to dismiss it and focus on the real issues affecting health care in the country.
Dr. Chinonso Egemba, a health influencer popularly known as Aproko Doctor, said the bill is exploitative and does not address why doctors are leaving the country in droves.
Rinu Oduala, activist and social media influencer, also added her voice to the debate, describing the lawmakers as “tone deaf” and the bill an attempt to make medical practitioners “waste five years” of their lives.
Ugochukwu Madu, a health communication specialist, said the decision is a slippery slope that will soon be extended to all those seeking greener pastures outside the shores of Nigeria.
The bill which is now at the public hearing stage has the long title " 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 (5) before being granted a full licence by the Council in order to make quality health services available to Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HB.2130)."
It would be recalled that a 2022 report by the National Association of Resident Doctors or NARD showed that over 2000 doctors left the country for greener pastures abroad.