Travails Of Foreign-Trained Nigerian Doctors


JOHN SHIKLAM writes about the complaints by foreign-trained Nigerian doctors on the conduct of the licensing exams by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, calling for transparency and restructuring of the conduct of the exercise

The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), is the regulatory and licensing body for medical and dental practitioners in Nigeria.

The body conducts the qualifying exams twice in a year to license university graduates who studied medicine and dentistry to practice as medical doctors and dentists.

Any graduate of medicine or dentistry who desires to practice in Nigeria must first take the MDCN exams and undergo a compulsory one year housemanship before being licensed as a qualified medical practitioner.

However, foreign-trained doctors have continued to complain about the conduct of the exams, calling for transparency and the restructuring of the exercise.

Most of those who often fail the exams, according to the authorities of the MDCN, are foreign trained doctors.

The registrar of the MDCN, Dr. Tajudeen Sanusi, had in an interview with a national daily sometimes in June 2022, disclosed that of the over 640 foreign trained doctors who wrote the MDCN exam in 2022, 463 of them failed.

But the foreign trained doctors and their parents alleged that the mass failure was a deliberate attempt for extortion.

According to them, the MDCN had in 2017, proposed to introduce a six- month remedial programme for foreign-trained doctors at a fee of N900, 000.

The proposal was trailed by the doctors who protested to the National Assembly and it was suspended.
They alleged that the mass failure is a deliberate ploy to re-introduce the remedial programme, which according to them, is about two times the cost of training a doctor in a Nigerian public university.

Besides, they said the exams should not be made compulsory for those who don’t want to practice medicine or dentistry.

They called on the MDCN to allow people who are not interested in medical practice to be exempted from the licensing exam and be allowed to participate in the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) to pursue their desires in other fields of endeavours,
noting that without the NYSC certificate or exemption certificate, it is not possible to get a job or go for further studies in Nigeria.

They maintained that many of their colleagues who don’t want to practice medicine have been stranded and frustrated as they cannot use their degree certificates because of the MDCN policy.

Some of those who spoke with THISDAY in an interview, demanded that the exams should be conducted in such a way that one will be convinced that he failed.

Fred Thomas, who studied in Ukraine, said he wrote the exams twice before he passed.

He alleged that foreign trained doctors are being frustrated because of the perception that their parents are wealthy.

According to him, the mass failure among foreign trained doctors is a deliberate ploy to force them to accept the proposed six months remedial programme which was rejected because of N900, 000 fee.

He said the MDCN had in 2017, attempted to introduce the six months remedial programme “but we and our parents rejected it because the fee was too exorbitant.

“It was clearly aimed at extorting us, so we protested at the National Assembly and they stopped them.
That is one of the reasons for the mass failure among foreign trained doctors. They want to force us to accept it. Actually there is nothing wrong with a remedial programme, but the fee is too outrageous.

“A Nigerian trained doctor does not spend up to N350,000 throughout the six years in the university, why should we spend N900,000 for a six months remedial programme? This is unrealistic!”

Thomas also dismissed claims by the MDCN Registrar that those who trained in Ukraine are half baked and urged him to “stop spreading such false narrative aimed at tarnishing the image of institutions in Ukraine.

“I trained in Ukraine and I want to debunk the lies that those trained in Ukraine are half baked. I trained at Kharkiv National Medical University and their system is better and organised than Nigeria”.

Also commenting, another foreign trained doctor who identified himself simply as Peter, lamented that the result of the exams were always shrouded in secrecy as nobody sees his scores.

“Why are they not allowing us to see our scores? As far as the Computer Based Test (CBT) does not have any structure, they will keep on manipulating it. I would like to use this medium to call for a total restructuring of the examination to make it more transparent.

“We should be able to see our results. As you are clicking, the computer should give you your score. That was what they used to do before, but they changed it. All they do, is to release the names of those who passed, without knowing our scores”.

Peter also called for the decentralisation of the exam centres, suggesting that a centre should be located in each of the six geopolitical zones in view of the security situation as well as reduced travel expenses.

Also narrating his ordeal, another foreign trained doctor, Gloria Adekoya, criticised the MDCN for being inconsiderate about the plight of final year students in Ukrainian universities considering the war ravaging the country.

According to her, final students who had about three or four months to complete their studies, were given lectures online to complete the remaining few months, but were being prevented from writing the licensing exam by MDCN which claimed they studied online.

“You cannot reject their certificates because they took online courses to complete the remaining months of their studies.

“This is very unfair. During COVID-19, most countries conducted lectures for their students online. The MDCN should allow them to write the exams, if they don’t pass, tell them to go and do this or that”, she said.

She argued that, “Extra-ordinary situations require extra-ordinary solutions. Is MDCN expecting the universities in Ukraine to wait till the war is over before they complete the three months to graduate the doctors?
“Do they know when the war will be over? This is unfair and inconsiderate”, she lamented.

Speaking in similar manner, another doctor who studied in Belarus, Abdullahi Ahmadu, said the MDCN exams are not difficult but foreign trained doctors failed because it is conducted in a “substandard manner.
“It is the easiest exam that anyone can pass, but the system does not seemed to be transparent.

“I wrote the exam twice, the exam is not difficult compared to foreign exams that we write. But the issue with the exam is the people conducting it”, he alleged.

He said, “We are not asking them to do anything unlawful or to favour us. We are not asking them to lower the standard, we are only asking them to conduct the exam in a more organised fashion, more transparent way and make the scores available for us to see instead of saying this person passed or this person failed.”

He argued that foreign trained Nigerian doctors do well in the US, UK, Canada and other parts of the world and passed their exams without prejudice, “but in Nigeria, it is name calling.”

He said it was unfortunate that the MDCN was promoting a false narrative that foreign trained doctors don’t know anything and the solution is to introduce a compulsory six month remedial programme that will cost them N900,000.

He said many foreign trained doctors were being frustrated because “MDCN has made it so difficult that if you are a foreign trained doctor and you don’t write this licensing exam, you cannot move forward with your life”.

According to him, “There are people who came back home in 2017 and 2018 after their studies and have been trying to write this exam but they have been failing and cannot achieve any other thing.”

He recalled that, in 2018, when he failed the exam, he tried to apply for a masters degree programme in ABU, Zaria, but he was denied admission because he did not have a practicing license and NYSC certificate.

“That is how difficult they have made it for foreign trained doctors. It is not like that for foreign trained lawyers and engineers. Let the authorities look at this”, he urged.

In April 2022, parents under the aegis of Association of Parents of Foreign Trained Nigerian Doctors, wrote a letter to the National Assembly lamenting alleged “financial extortion, blackmail and violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians who studied medicine and dentistry in foreign countries”.

The letter was signed on behalf of the parents by Dr. Abdulmalik Lawal, Habibu I. Ahmad, Vitus Okwudili Ajeagbu and Prof. Lukman Diso, among others.

The parents had alleged that, “The MDCN, for years have systematically blackmailed medical graduates of Nigerian origin from foreign countries and even blackmail Nigerians that studied medicine in Nigeria by forcing them to take license exam, do internship of one year before they can go for NYSC.

“We see the act of denying medical graduate the right to NYSC without medical license as act of blackmail and human rights violations”, the parents said.

The medical profession is key to the well being of every society and every effort should be made to ensure that stakeholders are carried along.