The controversy between the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and foreign trained doctors over qualifying exams to practise in Nigeria seems not likely to end soon. The situation has remained the same for nearly five years now as the students accuse the council of deliberate effort to deny them opportunity to practise their profession.
The situation resurfaced following the conduct of the examination in November last year for foreign trained medical and dental graduates at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) Sokoto. Just two weeks ago, the council also advertised for the conduct of its next qualifying exam due in June.
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Out of the 826 medical and dental graduates that sat for the November examination, only 357 of them passed.
This comprises 341 medical doctors representing 41.3 per cent and 16 dental graduates representing 53.3 per cent.
However, the about 500 persons that did not pass the assessment examination cried foul.
They alleged that the MDCN has discriminatory policies against them which deny many of them opportunities to pass the examination.
Some of the foreign trained graduates who only want to be identified by their first names said failing the MDCN examination subjected them to untold hardships.
They said the MDCN examination has no syllabus or curriculum to guide the participants for the examination.
They also complained of extortion by the MDCN. They said the organisation asked them to pay N900, 000 for attachment before the examination, and the amount excludes accommodation, feeding, as well as cost of travel.
They said this is in addition to $130 they pay to an American company for verification and the N130, 000 they pay for the MDCN examination.
The foreign trained medical and dental graduates said unlike medical students in universities in the country, they are not allowed to resit when they fail the examination, with many writing it over five times.
They want the examination to be mandatory for only those that want to be clinicians while those who do not want to practise should be allowed to go for NYSC.
“We are calling on Nigerians to help us,” said Mohammed, who coordinates the group of those who didn’t pass the Sokoto exam.
“MDCN asked us to pay this huge amount of N900, 000 for attachment without considering the economic realities on ground.
“They think because we trained abroad, we are all from rich homes, forgetting that the majority of us went for training abroad through state government scholarships while some parents took loans to send us abroad for the training,” Mohammed added.
He said many foreign trained graduates have given up on medicine because of the way MDCN was frustrating them and frequently introducing changes in regulations and policies concerning them.
“Unlike in other countries, the MDCN exam does not have a structure. So the students register blindly and take the examination blindly. You just pay for the exam; no syllabus, no marking scheme. Everything is shrouded in secrecy.
“When they release the result, if you see your name, you pass, if you do not see your name then you do not pass. There is no record to even show your marks.
“So the illegality that happened in Sokoto is not the first. It happened in Ilorin in 2017. In fact, some people did not even participate in the examination. They automatically passed because they had money to pay,” he said.
Mohammed added that their parents wrote a letter to MDCN concerning the anomalies but instead of responding to the letter, MDCN came up with the new rule of a mandatory fee of N900 000 for attachment before they can register for subsequent examinations.
“We don’t want any six months attachment. It should be voluntary, and if they want to force it upon us, it should be free of charge.’’
He said the exam should only be made compulsory for those who want to practise or work in the hospital.
“They have no right to say I must take a license examination before going for NYSC. That is violating my rights. Not everyone that studied medicine wishes to work in the hospital. Some go to universities, some to research centres,” he said.
Faiza, another foreign trained medical graduate, said based on the stipulations of the MDCN Red Book, they were not supposed to even sit for the examination in the first place.
“We went through the Red Book and found that if you attended an accredited university outside of Nigeria, you are not supposed to sit for the exam; they are to give you a provisional license on return to the country and you do your internship for one year, then receive permanent license after the completion of internship,” she said.
“Even if they will not give us the license, they should allow us to do the NYSC so that we can get job offers not necessarily at hospitals,” she added.
Naja’atu, on her part, said: “MDCN should have a structured exam and there should be a second chance for any candidate who fails. Writing another exam in June 2022 is not a second chance.”
Eugene, another graduate, said the MDCN examination is conducted in two days. “The exam was like a game of chance and not a true test of knowledge. The MDCN examination is the only one I know of that you will sit for a computer based test and at the end of the three hours, which is actually too small for 300 questions, you don’t know what you scored. At the end of the day, you just see pass or fail. You don’t know what you failed in or where you need to improve,” he added.
When contacted, Registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), Dr Tajudeen Sanusi, said the council has a curriculum and syllabus, and is contained in the Red Book, contrary to what the foreign-trained medical graduates said.
He said because of the kind of training they had and their massive failure, the council came up with a special curriculum for a six-month programme in selected six teaching hospitals from each of the geopolitical zones.
He said the N900, 000 fee was not to be paid to the council but to the hospitals. However, he said the foreign trained medical graduates went to the National Assembly and the lawmakers directed that the six-month training programme should be dropped.
“So what else do they want us to do? We did not make it compulsory for anybody. We said go and train wherever you want to train and present yourself for the exams,” he said.
On resit exams, Sanusi said the MDCN is a regulatory body and its assessment examination is not a university examination where there is room for resit.
“When they sit WAEC, JAMB or NECO and fail, do they resit?’’ he asked.
He said the issue of doing youth service does not arise as they are not competent enough to handle patients.
“Someone who has not been certified to be able to treat patients will be mobilised for youth service as what?” he asked.
Sanusi said JAMB handled the computer based test for the council and only a technical issue happened during the exam.
“JAMB was unable to load the questions over night from Abuja so they had to charter a flight that morning to Sokoto, so instead of the exam starting by 9am, it started by 10:30am, that was what happened,” the MDCN registrar said.
He said, “They cannot intimidate anybody. We have a responsibility in the council to safeguard the health of Nigerians and other people living in this country without fear or favour. We don’t train them, and these people are not even allowed to practise in those countries where they trained.
“What we are doing for them is called damage control. Some of them are not even qualified to sit for our examination. They are our children. If they don’t accept them over there, can we throw them away? That is why we put up a programme for them but they complained and we removed it, yet they are complaining.
“We would not allow people that are not competent to have access to our patients and start killing people.”
He described the medical programme in Ukraine as a fraud, saying Russia is the language of expression there but they hurriedly set up a parallel programme because of the quest for medical education by students from English-speaking developing countries.
“They don’t train them using patients. They train them using mannequins only. They don’t even see or touch patients and they are coming here to talk rubbish,” he said.