In a landmark decision, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) has agreed to waive the requirement for back payment of registration and licensing fees for Nigerian physicians who have been in practice outside Nigeria. The news of this agreement was conveyed to the ANPA members by its President, Dr. Fiemu Nwariaku today. The President said the MDCN decision was conveyed to ANPA representatives by the Registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria during the recently concluded signing of the MOU between ANPA and Federal Government of Nigeria in Abuja.
Before now, foreign-based Nigerian physicians were required to pay back registration and licensing fees whenever they requested for certificate of good standing, often needed to register or obtain licenses in their countries of practice. The fees in some instances may be for over twenty years as was the case for one of my colleagues who recently moved to Chicago and had to obtain an Illinois license. Many have condemned the payment of fees for a period during which one is not practicing in the country as exploitatory and punishing. The granting of this waiver is therefore a welcome relief. The waiver according to the Dr. Nwariaku is contingent on the Nigerian physician being able to demonstrate that they have been and continue to be in good standing (dues paying) in their current location. Practitioners who wish to renew their licenses will however be required to pay renewal fees for the current year of practice.
ANPA Blog has learned that the Chairman of MDCN, Professor Roger Makanjuola, was swayed by representation made on multiple fronts by ANPA, pleading the case for thousands of diaspora Nigerian doctors who are eager to contribute to their homeland. Former ANPA President, Dr. Julius Kpaduwa, raised the matter at the the July, 2009 retreat with the Ministry of Health attended by the the health minister, Professor Buchi Chukwu. Furthermore, ANPA Blog pestered Professor Chukwu with the issue during our interview with him in the fall of 2010, and extracted his promise to present our case to the MDCN.
In his message, Dr. Nwariaku said: “ANPA has worked hard to secure a waiver of the requirement for back payment of medical license renewal fees for physicians and dentists who have been out of Nigeria for some time. We strongly argued that this was a major barrier to the desire of Nigerian trained physicians and dentists living outside Nigeria, to resume practice (fully or intermittently) in Nigeria, and that this regulation worsened the critical shortage of a skilled healthcare workforce within Nigeria.”
This decision by the MDCN couldn’t have come at a better time as the Nigerian government struggles to attract diaspora doctors to contribute their skills to the development of the country. In addition, the long drawn issue of whether Nigerian physicians practicing outside Nigeria need to obtain temporary licenses when they go on medical mission trips can be put to rest. With this agreement, obtaining a temporary license will be much easier for foreign-based Nigerian doctors who want to spend time back home providing care for our citizens without the back payment of fees hanging over their heads like a sword of Damocles.
I salute the hard work of the ANPA leadership in securing this waiver and join the President in applauding the current leadership of the MDCN for making right the wrong that has been perpetuated over many years.