The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is deeply concerned with the persistent accreditation crises confronting the University of Abuja and most importantly the recent protest by the Medical Students of the College of Health Sciences, University of Abuja on Monday 3rd June 2013.

The protest which was hinged on the lingering non-accreditation of the College by both the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to operate full academic activities in the College primarily due to failure of the University Management to provide the needed infrastructural facilities and academic staff required for the training of doctors by the college in line with extant regulatory guidelines, led to the disruption of activities in the University on Monday, 3rd June, 2013 with a spill over to the immediate university environs.

OVERVIEW:

Investigations carried out by the Association revealed the following;

The College of Health Sciences was inaugurated in 2005 with the recruitment of basic staff for the take off of the faculty of Medicine despite unavailable infrastructural facilities with the first set of students admitted for the 2005/2006 academic session. Five (5) sets of students had been admitted since then. The first set of students at the University of Abuja have spent eight (8) years and have not moved beyond 300 level.

Despite the poor preparation as evidenced by the absence of an effective strategic plan of action or poor implementation of same, the college commenced admission processes for the pioneer class of medical students the same year despite contrary counsel.

Despite the poor commencement, attempts at improvements have been bedevilled by unnecessary politics and insincerity, mostly blamed on the ineffectual methodology of the management of the institution.

Currently, the staffing needs have not been met. It is still well below the prescribed basic minimum requirement.

The current number of students stands at 120. The most senior class in their 8th year are yet to take the part I MBBS exams. This has resulted in student restiveness and constant demonstration resulting in alleged destruction of property, barricading of the highways and reports of physical assault on some University staff. There have been several meetings with relevant bodies, with promises made but never kept.

The heightened tension, apprehension for their uncertain future and lack of concrete evidence of an end to their plight, according to the information available to us, fuelled the recent ugly developments and medical students’ protest witnessed a few days ago.

The plight of the students who have spent 8 years and yet unsure of their graduation dates could only be imagined. It was reported in the media that the medical students have demanded for compensation to the tune of N10M per student for the wasted time and unbearable mental torture they have been subjected to by the university authorities. The students are also requesting to be transferred out to other accredited medical schools to complete their programmes wherever such opportunities exist. Nothing can explain the level of frustration, desperation and total disillusionment that these innocent medical students are facing now than these.

The problems of the medical students are multifaceted; the first hurdle is the securing of accreditation for preclinical training, after this, there would be the challenges of clinical training vis-a-vis hospitals to be used. For these stages to be satisfactorily crossed great efforts must be made to address the poor management of the institution as well as the bickering and diverse interests from various quarters.

Attempts at solving the hydra headed issues of the college would be best handled in phases, first by getting the accreditation for the preclinical programme and then next proceeding to tackle the clinical programme. To sum them; The basic problems militating against accreditation of the preclinical programme are:

1. Inadequate staffing (sub-optimal manpower), poor infrastructure base and slow pace of infrastructural development;

2. Poor relationships between the ‘’designated Teaching Hospitals’’ and the university hindering meaningful progress at recruitment of clinical lecturers/consultant- a potential bottle neck for the next phase after solving the preclinical issues.

3. Massive negative interference from the university management due to inadequate grasp by the university management on peculiarity of medical training. Most of the teething problems of the College of Health Sciences, University of Abuja were aggravated by the university management and could be solved if the university top management willingly resolves to right the wrongs.

Having met with all parties concerned (including the representatives of the University of Abuja medical students) and having had a comprehensive review of the issues, in the midst of the raging and ensuing controversial developments concerning the College of Health Sciences of the University of Abuja and the peculiar nature of Abuja, as a gateway and capital city of the most populous black nation of the world, the Nigerian Medical Association states as follows;

  1. We call on the Governing Council of the University of Abuja to urgently intervene with a view to ensuring a quick resolution of the impasse.

The Governing Council of the university as representative of the government, the people and university community, is urged to demonstrate greater understanding of the issues from a ‘neutral point of view’ and to take drastic decisions and actions to reduce the tension, allay the apprehension of the disillusioned students and formulate a strategic plan of action with possible timeliness to actualise the plans.

NMA urges that appropriate sanctions or punishment be meted out to any individual or group of persons that have contributed in the stagnation of these innocent students who are bona fide citizens of Nigeria with a right to quality education.

In this regard, the Governing Council of the University is invited to wield the big hammer if and where necessary in order to restore sanity in the university administration system and restore the confidence of the general public in the ability of government to solve issues like this.

2. Following from above, the Nigerian Medical Association expresses deep and strong convictions on the capacity and ability of the Governing Council, particularly the distinguished Chairman of the Governing Council of the University of Abuja, Dr Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia to do the needful in this regard.

  1. Immediate and concrete steps must be taken, aimed at providing all the required infrastructure and staff for accreditation by the relevant accrediting bodies, for full commencement of medical training. In this regard, NMA calls on all relevant ministries, agencies and parastaltals of the Federal government and where possible the Federal Capital Territory to accelerate the infrastructural development of the proposed Faculty of medicine through all possible means. All road blocks to the full realisation of UNIABUJA Medical School must be removed.

4. We advise the management of the University of Abuja to complete the recruitment process for the lecturers in the relevant departments in accordance with the college guidelines without further delay.

5. Noting how excruciatingly painful the teething problems of the University of Abuja medical school has turned out to be, NMA advises any other university in the country- federal, state or privately owned, to observe all the prescribed accreditation guidelines by MDCN and fulfil all the prerequisite obligations before admitting medical students or establishing a medical school. This is to avoid all the pains, agony, disillusionment, huge economic wastages and moreover, the bitterness and unmitigated frustration played out in these trying times of the university.

The situation at the College of Health Sciences, UNIABUJA call to question the wisdom in University administrators admitting students into programmes they were least ready to carry through.

CONCLUSION

It is indeed sad to note that these students have spent a whooping eight (8) years for a programme that lasts for six (6) years and are still at 300 level, implying that if everything goes well from today they will be graduating after eleven years. This colossal loss of very useful years is a consequence of the inactions of the management of the University of Abuja.

The quality of medical practice a nation enjoys is a reflection of the quality of her medical education. We make bold to say that the medical school is not a place for average students or left overs, and therefore poor products cannot be because of the raw materials but the result of a defective or failed system. This is what the management of this institution has advertised itself to be.

The NMA is a major stakeholder in the medical education of this country; we can no longer sit and watch the dragging of the profession into disrepute by institutions, individuals or groups. It is in the light of this that we request the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to ensure that no institution ever admits a student into its approved medical programme until it has secured the first accreditation. Any institution violating this rule should be sanctioned appropriately together with the principal officers of the College (who are members of the medical profession). All academic activities undertaken before the accreditation should be disregarded.

We call on the teachers and seniors to take up mentorship as a priority responsibility in this particular case.

The future of these students as productive citizens of this country is gradually being jeopardized due to the laxity, ineptitude and gross insensitivity of the University Administration. This must now stop.

The University deserves much more than what it is getting now. The Federal Government should urgently take a holistic approach and look at the numerous issues rearing up regularly in the University in recent times.

The NMA greatly appreciates the role so far played in efforts to resolve the crisis by several concerned Nigerians, particularly the Governor of Delta State, His Excellency Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, CON.

The NMA is ever ready to collaborate and proffer solutions aimed at quickly resolving these issues affecting the training of medical students at the University.

We sincerely share the grief of the students and their parents/guardians. We also appreciate the mental disposition that led them to their recent action.

We however make haste to remind medical students that while exercising their legitimate right to protest we advise they refrain from acts of disobedience, insubordination and lawlessness.

The profession of medicine is a noble one, and we are not about to mortgage that. We urge them to be law abiding while putting across their grievances.

Hopefully, we believe those concerned would act appropriately and fast too to allay the restiveness of the medical students.

God bless Nigeria.

DR OSAHON ENABULELE, M.B; B.S, FWACP, MHPM

President, Nigerian Medical Association.

11th June, 2013