Senate’s investigation of MDCN assessment exam – Punch Newspapers

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Paul John
Why has the Senate decided to change the goalpost at the middle of the game? Why have they realised their statutory function of regulating professional occupations as contained in s.49 of the Exclusive Legislative List, enshrined in  Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended)? Where were the members of the Senate when undergraduate medical students in our medical schools nationwide had re-sit examinations while their mates were being inducted as new medical doctors? Where were they when thousands of candidates who registered for the postgraduate medical examinations failed and less than 40 per cent passed the examinations? Why haven’t the senators invited the deans of faculties of medicine in our medical schools to explain why some students would be inducted while their mates who wrote the same examination with them but failed would be preparing for another re-sit? What is holding the senators from inviting the registrars of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, the West African College of Surgeons and the West African College  of Physicians to explain why we don’t have 100 per cent success rate in all their examinations?
It was the late Chief Gani Fahehinmi, who first observed that Nigerian law is like a cobweb, strong when it gets to the weak and weak when it gets to the strong. I am aware that some Nigerians must have been carried away by the razzmatazz associated with the Senate’s investigation and invitation of the registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria but the truth is that the reason behind this investigation has not been made known to Nigerians. It may interest Nigerians to know that this current assessment examination is “different” from the previous ones organised by the MDCN because the children of some powerful citizens were involved in the examination hence the registrar was expected to relax the rules to allow the children of these powerful citizens pass the examination at all costs.
In the same vein, I expect the UK House of Lords to start their own investigation on why their citizens who trained as foreign medical graduates would fail the Professional Linguistic Assessments Board examinations. I equally expect the US Senate to reciprocate by starting their own investigation on why their citizens who trained as foreign medical graduates would fail the United States Medical Licensing Examination. I think it is time the Nigerian Senate sent out delegates to visit the UK, the USA and other countries to investigate why some Nigerian doctors who want to practise in foreign countries equally fail foreign assessment examinations like  PLAB,USMLE etc  since according to them almost all, if not all, candidates who registered for an examination must pass it.

If the Senate has suddenly remembered the legislative power vested in it and its power to conduct investigations as contained in Sections 4 and 88 of the constitution respectively, then this is time for it to investigate why Nigerian graduates who want to travel to English speaking countries to further their education will be forced to write and pass English language proficiency examinations like International English Language Testing System or Test of English as a Foreign Language even when English language is our official language. Why should graduates of Nigerian origin be compelled to write these examinations even when a minimum of a credit pass in O’ Level English language is a prerequisite for gaining admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions?  The question is, are citizens from French speaking countries also mandated to write similar French language proficiency examinations when they want to further their education in other francophone countries? Why must our colonial masters still continue to exploit us mentally and indirectly even when they claim to have given us our independence since 1960? Does it mean that they do not trust our own examination bodies that award these grades in English Language? Why will Nigerian doctors duly certified by the MDCN forced to sit for PLAB or USMLE examination if they want to practise in the UK or the USA? And why should any Nigerian doctor fail PLAB or USMLE examination in the first place without the Senate inviting the organisers of the examinations for proper investigation? If foreign countries do not trust the certificates awarded by our WAEC, NECO, MDCN and other professional regulatory councils hence forcing Nigerian professionals to pass through further assessment examinations in foreign lands,  does the Senate now expect the MDCN to equally trust medical graduates (though of Nigerian origin) who trained in foreign lands?
It may interest our senators to know that in the recently concluded National Council on Health held in Ogun State, the Head of Health Financing, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Francis Ukwuije, enlightened the council on the report of the just concluded National Health Accounts. He stated that “out-of-pocket” expenditure as a proportion of total health expenditure was as high as 73.8 per cent in 2016 and the implication was that many Nigerians, especially the poor and the vulnerable, were dying as a result of their inability to afford health care. He went further to remind the council that on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2018 budget proposal to the National Assembly, allocating the paltry sum of  N340.45bn to the health sector, which   comprises N269.34bn for recurrent expenditure, payment of salaries and overheads and N71.11bn as capital expenditure. It means that 3.9 per cent (and not the agreed 15 per cent) of the annual budget was allocated to the health sector and hence a mockery and an affront to the 2001 Abuja Declaration, which stipulates that a minimum of 15 per cent of the annual budget should be allocated to health sector. This is where we need their legislative and investigative power and not the other way. It may also interest our senators to note that Nigeria has not achieved this target for more than 15 years after this declaration was made in our nation’s capital. It is very clear that this target will, of course, not be met in 2018.

To this end, the Council finally resolved that subsequent NCH meetings would be held between May and June each year, in order to make key decisions for the health sector that would influence the budget proposal for the next fiscal year. I want to ask our senators why have they not begun investigation for the implementation of the National Health Act?

 Dr John, a medical professional, wrote in via [email protected], 08083658038
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