NCC BOARD: A PASSIONATE DEMAND TO RETRACT THE DEMEANING LABEL PLACED ON THE NURSING PROFESSION
Preamble: This letter is meant for all the Senators of the 8th Senate and we shall be glad if it is read openly on the floor of the senate. We wish to start by sincerely appreciating the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and the entire 8th senate for finding time, despite burning distractions, to assist us in the struggle for inclusion of Graduates of Bachelor of Nursing Science (B.N.Sc) degree in the internship training scheme of our health system that hitherto accommodated university graduates of every other core healthcare disciplines except nursing. When we cried out to the senate about the injustice of wrongful exclusion of the graduates of B.N.Sc degree through our letter, Ref no. UGONSA/015/ABS/01 dated 27th November 2015, you replied and assured us that the senate shall look into the matter in your letter Ref no.NASS/S/SP/R/CORRP/015/1/067 dated 16th December 2015. We cannot but be very grateful that in less than a year after you gave us the assurance, your candid intervention in no small measure did justice to the issue and culminated in the rectification of the anomaly by the National Council on Establishment (NCE) during its 39th meeting held in Minna, Niger State, in July this year.
2. This notwithstanding, our hearts have been saddened and made very heavy again by the recent unwarranted demeaning punch our revered upper legislative chamber mendaciously threw against our profession.
3. The declaration by the 8th senate that Rt (Hon.) Nurse Ezekiel Yissa Benjamin was not good enough to be confirmed to serve as a Non-Executive Commissioner in the board of the National Communications Commission (NCC), on 17th November 2016, simply because he has a nursing background is a calamitous precedent and a demeaning blow too dangerous for us to ignore as a profession.
4. On the qualifications of members of the commission’s board, the NCC Act 2003 unambiguously stated in Chapter II part 2, section 7 (1) a to h, that commissioners shall be persons of recognized standing qualification and experience in one or more of the following fields: finance or accounting, law, consumer affairs, telecommunication engineering, information technology, engineering generally, economics and public administration. (Please kindly refer to the document attached as Annexure A).
5. Having retired as a Deputy Director in the Civil Service and thereafter continued to excel in Public Service, becoming a Chief law-maker, the Speaker of the Honourable Kwara State House of Assembly, and the Chairman of Conference of Speakers, without any blemish, we are at a loss as per why his glowing exploits and experiences in law-making and public administration, which was the very reason that informed his nomination, did not count in the eyes of the senators but his nursing background, which has no bearing whatsoever with the matter of his nomination, counted heavily.
6. The Act succinctly provided the a person nominated for the post of commissioner must have a recognized standing experience in at least one of the afore-listed fields, but good enough Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa has a strong recognizable experience in at least two of the fields, notably, law-making, a very important area in law, and public administration. Will it be academic to candidly emphasize that experience in law as stipulated by the Act does not necessarily mean being a lawyer but encompasses experience in any area of law such as law-making (as is the case with the legislators), law-interpretation (as is the case with lawyers and judges) or any other area of law? For what reason therefore can the rationalization that resulted in failure to acknowledge the above stated recognizable standing experiences in law and public administration of Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa not be regarded by Nurses and Nigerians generally as lame and political?
7. Since available records also show that persons, with lesser pedigree than Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa, have been confirmed by the senate in the past, to served in this very board, does it not smack of double standard, aimed at satisfying a bearing interest, that Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa was clumsily left out? Or does it mean that our distinguished senators do not take time to review their records any longer? Or can it be true that the existing precedence was dumped for this strange methodology simply out of a vested strong resolve to get Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa tackled by all means?
8. On the alternative, we wish to be furnished with any other reason for the age-long legislative camaraderie of “bow and go”, accorded to former legislators who were nominated for confirmation by the senate, if not for their recognized standing experience in law-making and public administration.
9. How else do our distinguished Senators want us to view the sudden and surreptitious evaporation of such legislative camaraderie during the turn of Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa, a distinguished law-maker and an astute public administrator, who also hails from Kwara State, same as the incumbent Senate President, who was a Governor of the State, if not as politically motivated occasioned by political differences?
10. We would not have bordered had the Senate coined any other reason for his rejection than the lame, feeble and unconnected citation of his nursing background. Because we verily understand that our profession is a noble one that is as gainfully challenging and rewarding as any other profession where brilliant scholars distinguish themselves, we would have earnestly dismissed this uncharitable implicit classification of nurses as people that perform below average as “a cheap beer parlour talk” but for the hallowed place it came from and the weighty negative consequences it portends for our present and future generations.
11. Sadly, we are unfortunately stunned to wonder whether you, our distinguished senators, ever contemplated the psychological injury you were inflicting on all of us, patriotic Nigerians with nursing background, that are selflessly giving our best, everyday and every time, for the betterment and progress of this country or the Nigerian youths studying nursing in various universities or schools of nursing within and outside Nigeria before ruthlessly devaluing us in this unprecedented manner that now portends that no matter how glowing our exploits, experience, attributes, strides and achievements in public service may be or how towering our proven character, capacity and competence may be or how meritorious our services to our dearest fatherland maybe, we can never be good enough for confirmation for higher service by the senate when nominated for such?
12. Contrary to our expectations that our revered 8th Senate, which in our own assessment has so far performed above average, would find it reasonable to amend the myriads of obsolete and flawed sections in the Act establishing the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), to be in tune with current trends and international best practices, with needful contemporary legal enablement for nurses and midwives to add greater values to Nigerian Health Services, what we got was this unexpected heart wreck- the unwarranted blatant devaluation and demeaning of the nursing profession.
13. Obviously, if there is anything our distinguished senators needed to attack in Nursing, it should have been the obsolete and flawed established legal framework for Nursing education and practice in Nigeria (the NMCN establishment Act) titled “An Act to establish the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria for the registration of nurses and midwives in Nigeria and State Nursing and Midwifery Committees and to provide for the discipline of nurses and midwives and other ancillary matters [1979 No. 89. 1992 No. 83.]” and not this needless assault on our collective sensibilities as a profession.
14. Since it seems you, Senators, have no time for finding the flaws in the NMCN Act, which has unarguably contributed much to the poor health indices of Nigeria, but have had abundant time to look for a non-existent fault in Rt (Hon.) Yissa’s nursing background, let us humbly help point out some sections in the said Act that your legislative sight should rather have been directed to.
15. Section 20 of the NMCN Act that stipulates a fine of not more than N1000 (one thousand naira), for any individual found guilty of quackery, and a fine of not more than N2000 (two thousand naira), for a hospital training or engaging the services of quacks upon conviction by a high court of competent jurisdiction, in today’s economy, is nothing but express endorsement and encouragement of quackery. Is it not a mockery of the fight against quackery that after spending a huge sum to prosecute an offender at the level of the High Court, the repercussion would be a fine of not more than N1000 (for an individual) or not more than N2000 (for a group)? When penalty for crimes that are made to serve a deterrent purpose is trivialized, it loses its essence and in turn fuels the rampant commission of such crimes with unbridled impunity. The high rate of quackery in nursing fuelled by this flawed and obsolete Act has wrecked and shall continue to wreck more havocs on our healthcare indices if left unamended. Earnestly, this is what the legislative sight of our distinguished Senators should have caught rather the nursing background of Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa that in no rational way constituted a disadvantage to the matter of his nomination.
16. Not far from this is the section 22 that places legal reins on Nurses and Midwives, preventing us from performing with the full set of competencies, skills and knowledge for which we were educated, trained, and licensed, notwithstanding that our Primary Healthcare Centres are in gross shortage of skilled and knowledgeable manpower and would be energized for optimum performance if the blanket restriction on our autonomy to practice what we have been trained for are somewhat lifted (Please kindly find the documents attached as Annexure B and C).
17. In summary, we wish to respectfully state that to us, members of the nursing profession, the excuse given for rejection of Rt (Hon.) Nurse Yissa Ezekiel Benjamin was empty, diversionary and very demeaning to our profession and therefore not acceptable.
In the light of the foregoing, we humbly demand that you kindly
a. retract the demeaning label placed on our dear profession by reconsidering and effecting the confirmation of Rt (Hon.) Nurse Ezekiel Yissa Benjamin.
b. amend the establishment Act of the NMCN to make it stringent to quackery and allow nurses and midwives the opportunity to practice with the full set of competencies, skills and knowledge for which we were educated, trained, and licensed to enable Nursing and Midwifery practice in Nigeria optimize with current trends and international best practices.
Submitted with deepest sense of respect and responsibility.
Chief (Hon) S.E.O. EGWUENU Nurse G.I. Nshi
National President National Secretary
Senator Gilbert Nnaji- Chairman Senate Committee on Communication
Senator Samuel Anyanwu- Chairman Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions
Engr. Babachir David Lawal- Secretary to the Government of the Federation