In September 2022, the Police Command in Niger arrested two suspects for allegedly operating an illegal health science college in Bosso Local Government Area of the state.
The suspects were operating a school known as Excellence College of Health Sciences and Technology, somewhere in Maikunkele.
The school was allegedly established in 2020 and commenced admission in 2021 without any authorisation or certification from appropriate government bodies.
The operators of the school allegedly forged a certificate of registration to deceived members of the public to register and gain admission into the school.
As at the time of the arrests, about 100 unsuspecting students had enrolled into the college after paying N78, 000 each for tuition and other charges.
Similarly, in July 2022, the Kano State Government shut down at least 26 illegal private health training institutions.
The State Ministry of Health in a statement explained that the institutions were established without recourse to extant regulations governing the establishment and operation of such institutions.
According to Kano State Government, the unrecognised institutions lacked definite sites and offered dubious programmes against the established curricula while extorting exorbitant fees from students and their parents.
In Kaduna State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Amina Mohammed-Baloni, recently announced plans to fish out and shut down unequipped and unregistered schools and colleges of health sciences in the state.
The commissioner also said the government had closed some of the schools some time ago because they did not meet the minimum criteria to exist and operate.
Similarly, the Gombe State Government, in 2022 banned 10 health training institutions from teaching and awarding certificates to students of health-related fields over alleged non-accreditation.
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Zubairu Umar had explained that because the institutions were not accredited by regulatory bodies and they did not have the required facilities to train health workers.
These are just few among several of such illegal institutions that scattered all over the country.
Health experts have expressed concern over the high incidence of death arising from handling of patients by unprofessional health workers.
They have tried to establish a link between such deaths and health workers who obtained their certificates from illegal and substandard health training centres.
They particularly argued that any functional health system relies on skilled manpower to deliver the much-needed services.
Worried by the development, the Federal Government, through the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) said it was taking measures to sanitise the system.
Consequently, NBTE convened a one-day meeting with provosts, proprietors, principals of health institutions and registrars of health professional bodies in Kaduna.
The Executive Secretary of the board, Prof. Idris Bugaje told meeting that the authorities will not fold its arms and watch some elements flout regulations on establishment of diploma awarding institutions.
He warned that anybody who decided to call its programme National Diploma (ND) or Higher National Diploma (HND) without NBTE registration and accreditation is creating a serious problem for himself or herself.
According to him, NBTE is determined to clean up the system because `health is the wealth of any nation`.
“This is why we invited all the provosts and proprietors of health colleges, both legal and illegal and professional bodies, to discuss the challenges and develop a common roadmap to address them.
“If it is the registration conditions that are too stringent, let us know so that we can review what can be reviewed without compromising standards.
“We will give a moratorium for every health institution to go and regularise its registration, after which, we will bring the full ambit of the law and security agencies at our disposal to close the illegal ones”, he told the meeting.
The executive secretary said that the NBTE had already reviewed Bank Guarantee mandatory requirement for registration downwards from N100 million to N25 million.
He disclosed that some of the operators of illegal health colleges were currently being investigated by the Department of State Services (DSS) in two states.
He added that the board had also constituted a standing Disciplinary Committee to try members of staff who were colluding with illegal institutions to give them fake accreditation.
“Already, some senior management staff of the NBTE involved have been suspended and as I speak, while some are facing disciplinary committees, we will leave no stone unturned.
“One of you gave one of our staff N2.5 million to facilitate registration. It is illegal and we are investigating the fraud. I learned the staff has refunded the money but must face the full wrath of the law,” Bugaje said.
Also, the NBTE Director, Inspectorate, Hajiya Bilkisu Daku, said at the session that registration with the board is crucial in the establishment of colleges of health technology offering ND or HND in the country.
Daku added that the board partnered the police, DSS, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission and other anti-graft agencies to curtail the proliferation of illegal institutions.
It has been argued in some quarters that government established institutions alone cannot develop enough manpower required by the nation’s health sector.
While acknowledging this assertion, NBTE Director, Monotechnic Programmes, Mr Samaila Tanko, said private sector participation in the training of manpower must follow approved channels.
He said NBTE was the agency that regulates all aspects of technical education that falls outside university education.
He said that health training offered by colleges of health technologies and nursing schools was among the training regulated by the NBTE and as they must comply with NBTE regulations.
Dr Sani Barka, Chairman, Association of Heads of Health Training Institutions in Nigeria, said at the event that the proliferation of illegal health colleges in the country was alarming.
Barka, who is the Provost, Gombe State College of Health Sciences and Technology, Kaltungo, commended the NBTE for taking steps to curb the trend.
Also, Dr Bayo Ojo, Chairman, Association of Provosts of Colleges of Health Sciences and Technology of Nigeria, described the move to sanitise the operations of colleges of health sciences as laudable.
Sharing a similar view, Mr Yahaya Tsumi, the Director, Special Duties, Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, said “what the NBTE is doing is a laudable move to check illegal health institutions.
“As a regulatory institution, we are in full support so that the right thing will be done to produce qualified health professionals”, he said.
For a country whose health sector needs to be upgraded, Nigeria can ill-afford poorly trained healthcare workers and care givers at whatever level.
This makes it necessary for all stakeholders to play their part in ensuring that training of health workers is done in environments that boast of global best practices.
Source: News Agency of Nigeria