Reps’ bill on medical workers

Section 4(1) of the Nigerian constitution (as amended) vests the legislative powers of the federation in the National Assembly, which constitutes the Senate and House of Representatives. Subsections 2 through 4 of the above mentioned section statutorily empower the National Assembly to make laws for peace, order and good governance of the federation. One important question is, do our federal legislators understand the laws they make for the health sector? This is important because in Latin we say, Nemo quod dat non-habet, which means ‘one cannot give what one does not have.’ In advanced countries, lawmakers are people who have either distinguished themselves or versed in a particular area hence they are knowledgeable of the laws they make but this is not so in Nigeria.

It may interest the bill sponsor and his fellow lawmakers to know that brain drain is not only restricted to medical doctors as the banking sector seems to be among the worst hit by the japa trend because most of their software engineers and other relevant workers have reportedly relocated abroad. In view of this, I encourage the bill sponsor and his co-lawmakers to sponsor more bills to stop other Nigerian professionals from leaving the country until after five years and another bill that will stop our public servants or political office holders from travelling abroad for medical tourism.

Setting governance agenda for incoming administration

I want to first remind the House of Representatives that Section 1(3) of the Nigerian constitution, as amended, is clear on the supremacy of the Nigerian constitution and must always prevail when it clashes with any other law. It states that If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, the constitution shall prevail and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. On the right to dignity in human person, section 34(1b) states that no person shall be held in slavery or servitude, while section 34 (1c) states that no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour. The next question is what is forced labour? Forced labour occurs when individuals are compelled against their will to provide work or service through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. .

What does the Labour Act say? The Labour Act is clear on how to terminate a contract of employment as contained in Section 11 of the Act. It should be noted here that this section is in line with section 34 of the Constitution. Section 11(1) of the Labour Act states that either party to a contract of employment may terminate the contract on the expiration of notice given by him to the other party of his intention to do so. Section 11(2 & 3) of the Labour Act also states how such contract termination will be executed. This is because there are factors that determine the efficiency of supply of labour; one of the factors is the state of mind of the employee. No employee will be efficient in a workplace he is not interested in and there is no law that can stop that.

Corns, beans and cassava as money-spinner

On the argument of using taxpayers’ money to train medical doctors, it is clear that the bill sponsor does not know how medical doctors are trained in Nigeria. The responsibility of paying for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination registration is on the prospective medical students and the same applies to their registrations for O’ level examinations. It is the students that pay their tuition and hostel fees, and buy textbooks and other learning materials. The medical students feed themselves and cater for other sundry expenses during their undergraduate medical training, so where comes the so-called taxpayers’ money mentioned by the bill sponsor?

Current bill contravenes Section 42 of the constitution. Section 42(1a)  of the constitution states that a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject. In view of this, Nigerian citizens from the medical community should not be made to serve the country for five years after the compulsory, one-year National Youth Service Corps scheme or for no other reason other than they are from the medical community. The bills Nigerians expect the lawmakers to sponsor are those that will reduce the huge salary if lawmakers and government spending.

  • Dr Paul John, Secretary, Rivers State Nigerian Medical Association Doctors’ Rights Committee

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