Nurses under the aegis of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Abuja and Lagos chapters, have protested the new circular on certificate verification by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN).
The nurses converged on the NMCN’s offices in Abuja and Lagos to express their dissatisfaction and threatened a nationwide strike, describing the new guidelines as an effort to impede their freedom.
NMCN, in its revised guidelines, states that applicants seeking verification of certificates from foreign nursing boards and councils must possess two years of post-qualification experience from the date of issuance of the permanent practicing license.
Protesting nurses in Lagos
This was disclosed in a memo dated 7 February and signed by the NMCN Chief Executive Officer and Registrar, Faruk Abubakar.
The policy is believed to be aimed at reducing the rate at which nurses leave for the United Kingdom and other developed countries in search of greener pasture.
However, the nurses have demanded a reversal, urging the council to address other pertinent issues such as nurses’ welfare, salary scale, staff shortages, among others.
The nurses and midwives displayed placards conveying messages such as “Address Unemployment among Nurses”; “Say no to Verification Rules,” and “Protect Nurses, Protect Healthcare.”
One of the nurses in Abuja, Cynthia Adeyeri, appealed to the government to improve the welfare of nurses instead of issuing new guidelines on certificate verification.
Ms Adeyeri said: “We are to give the registrar a letter and to state our displeasure over the certificate verification. We are saying no to making us work for two years before we can leave (the country), we are saying no to getting a letter of good standing from the CMD from our hospitals, and we are saying no to other things in the circular.
“The government should dialogue with young nurses to ask us why we are leaving Nigeria. We have a poor healthcare infrastructure, and that is why people are leaving, they want to go to where they have better pay and better welfare.
Another nurse in Abuja, Isioma Alexis, said: “We want the NMCN to withdraw the circular within 48 hrs because it is not benefiting the whole of the nurses.
“If we look into the present situation of the country, it is not conducive for anybody but irrespective of the condition, we are just making this peaceful appeal. If there’s nothing done after this, then we are hereby telling you that we will be going on a nationwide strike.”
The nurses in Lagos also demanded an immediate withdrawal of the circular. They also asked that the verification process should be completed in 48 hours and be made free of charge.
Addressing the nurses during the peaceful protest in Abuja, the Registrar of NMCN, Mr Abubakar, assured them that their concerns would be promptly addressed.
He said: “I have listened to you, and I want to assure you that your documents will be examined comprehensively to address every issue in a short time.”
Mr Abubakar clarified that nobody is against nurses and midwives travelling abroad, emphasising that the policy is in the best interest of Nigerians.
He encouraged the nurses to return to their workplaces, promising a thorough review of their complaints and a response within a couple of days.
The Lagos Council of NANNM, in a statement on 10 February, issued after its state executive council emergency meeting, expressed reservations about the council’s circular and its “intent and impact on the progress and welfare of nurses and midwives in Nigeria.”
NANNM observed that the prerequisite of two years of post-qualification practice casts “aspersion on the quality of nurses and midwives licensed by the council” and that it is “an infringement of their rights.”
It also raised concerns regarding the prolonged six-month minimum processing period stipulated in the circular, adding that the requirement for a letter from the Chief Executive Officer of the respective places of work is “a deliberate attempt to make the verification process burdensome.”
Apart from the withdrawal of the circular, the NANNM also wants the nursing council to fully digitalise the verification process, including the transmission of decisions to other regulatory councils.
According to the statement, NANNM called on NMCN to provide the verification service at no extra cost while optimising and automating its key processes for a 48-hour turnaround.
It asked the Nigerian government to constitute the NMCN board to ensure proper representation of the interests of nurses and midwives in key decisions.
The NMCN is the only legal, administrative, corporate, and statutory body charged with performing specific functions on behalf of the federal government to ensure the delivery of safe and effective nursing and midwifery care to the public through quality education and best practices.
The council is mandated by law to regulate the standards of nursing and midwifery education and practice in Nigeria and to review such standards from time to time to meet the changing health needs of society.