Abdulsalami: Why Medical Tourism Persists


Olusegun Adeniyi in Port Harcourt

Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has listed inadequate number of qualified medical practitioners and the rising emigration of the well-qualified few as part of the reasons for medical tourism with billions of naira “spent annually in foreign countries to treat ailments which could have been easily treated in Nigeria if there are adequately qualified doctors in the country.”

Abdulsalami spoke yesterday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at his investiture as the pioneer Chancellor of Pamo University of Medical Sciences, the first tertiary institution in Nigeria dedicated solely to the study of medicine. It is promoted by the former Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili.

According to the former Head of State, the “inability of our universities to meet up with the increasing demand for placement is more pronounced in the field of medicine and medical related programmes” while recent reports “have shown that less than five percent of qualified candidates are able to gain admission into medical programmes in all Nigerian universities.”

Nigeria, Abdulsalami also said, has been witnessing an increasing out-flow of students seeking tertiary medical education in neighbouring African countries such as Ghana, Uganda and Sudan and other countries outside the continent with disastrous consequences. “The last medical and dental council of Nigeria examination of foreign trained doctors saw 680 doctors sitting for the examination. The sad aspect of this however is the monumental failure rate of the foreign trained doctors in the medical and dental council professional qualifying examination as witnessed in the last examination,” he said.

Praising what he described as a phenomenal growth in the number of private universities due to the increasing number of applicants seeking admission every year, Abdulsalami said the enormous role being played by the private sector cannot be overemphasized. Besides, he added, “we should encourage more private participation because with our large population and a significant percentage of it being under 25, the demand for higher education is going to increase in the years ahead.”

He therefore called on the National Universities Commission to, as a matter of urgency, review the requirements for the establishment of private universities. “Such a review will take cognizance of the nature of mono discipline and city based institutions like PAMO University of Medical Sciences”, he said.

In his speech, the founder and pro-Chancellor, attributed the establishment of the university to “the outcome of two providential occurrences”, the first being a 21 acres land purchased from two families in 1989 for building a ginger processing factory and an infusion manufacturing plant, a project that never took off at a period he was into ginger and cassava farming; and the second, an encounter with a ‘stranger’ in the course of a four-hour delayed flight in Abuja on 19thDecember 2016.

The said ‘stranger’, who encouraged Odili to think about giving something back to the profession that made him, by way of a tertiary institution for the training of future doctors, turned out to be the executive sectary of the National University Commission (NUC), Prof Abubakar Rasheed.

In a tone that was emotional, Odili said “Prof Rasheed has shown, through this project and the processes leading to this event, that there are still in this country, true patriots devoid of the primordial, divisive and selfish tendencies that have kept us down as a people over the years”.

Aside host Governor Nyesom Wike, his Niger State counterpart, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, former Kano State Governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and several important personalities from the National Assembly as well as the bar and bench in Nigeria were present at the event.