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Senate passes NIHOTOUR Bill, 28 years of its existence without legal backing

By Henry Umoru

As Federal University of Health Sciences, Benue state bill by David Mark scales 2nd Reading

ABUJA- THE Senate yesterday passed the Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of National institute for Hospitality and Tourism( NIHOTOUR).

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The bill was passed after it scaled through the third reading and was sponsored by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South when he was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism.

The passage of the bill came twenty- eight years after the institution came into existence under the Ministry of Information abs Culture, even as it awaits concurrence from the House of Representatives and to be assented to subsequently by the President.

According to Senator Urhoghide, the Institute was established in 1988 as a result of a tripartite agreement between United Nations Development Probramme, UNDP, International Labour Organisation, ILO and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

He noted that the Institute has been existing on paper, with capital and personnel budget running into billions annually without legal backing, just as he said that the bill seeks to give it the legal backing for its operations and with the passage, it would now have the legal backing with all its operations, certificates, others recognized.

Senator Urhoghide who noted that the Bill was read the first time in the hallowed chamber on Tuesday 22nd November, 2016, said that the Bill has a very long history with the National Assembly since 1999, adding that with this, it would enable the Institute maintain a Multi- Campus system throughout the six ego- political zones and the FCT as well as provide improved and quality services in the Hotel, Catering, Travel and Tourism Industry by introducing professional, technical abs specialized training abs post graduate course in hotel, catering and tourism, among other objectives.

In another development, the Senate yesterday passed through second reading the bill seeking for the establishment of the Federal University of Health Science, Otukpo.

The bill is sponsored by the former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, PDP. Benue South.

Senator Mark who harped on the need for the country to produce more health professionals to bridge the gap in the demand for skilled health workers in the sector, said that the bill is seeking to establish the health university to expand access to medical education to address the deficit in the admission of students desirous to study medicine and its allied sciences in Nigeria.

Leading the debate on the floor of the Senate yesterday, Senator Mark stated that the university is necessitated by the ever- increasing call and growing needs to revamp institutions of medical education in Nigeria.

According to him, ” it is a common knowledge that the health needs of the teeming Nigerian population puts enormous strain and stress on the national infrastructure and available health personnel.

” The existing medical schools based on statistics from the Joint Admission and matriculation Board (JAMB) , admits less than 20 percent of the candidates who desire and are qualified to study medicine in Nigerian universities”.

Senator Mark however quoted a recent survey conducted by the Daily Trust newspaper of July 10, 2017 edition which showed that only 3,000 out of nearly 160,000 candidates that applied can gain admission to study medicine in all the Nigerian universities.

The former Senate President who argued that the university when established would bridge the gap of the challenges of inadequate health professionals in the county, stated that statistics of practicing medical Doctors in Nigeria showed that Doctor- patients ratio in Nigeria falls far short of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation.

The WHO standard, Senator Mark pointed out stipulates the ratio of one Doctor to 600 patients ( 1:600) which contrasts with the current one Doctor to about 5,000 patients (1:5,000) in Nigeria, adding that out that Nigeria has only about 35,000 practicing Medical Doctors serving a population approximated to be about 180 million people.

According to him, the University would curb and indeed reverse the menace of overseas medical tourism with the attendant capital flight.

In the last few years, Senator Mark maintained that Nigerians have resorted to India , South Africa, America , Israel, United Kingdom, Germany and other countries of Europe for medical attention and loses no fewer than N3 Billion naira annually on account of this.

If our health sector facilities are improved, he anticipated that Nigeria could become the medical tourism destination for Africa.

He listed other benefits for establishing the specialized health university to include contribution to national economy saying that “with the current mantra to diversify the nation’s economy from the oil- based economy, the health industry offers a great potential as a revenue earner”.

Senator Mark expressed optimism that the university would not be encumbered by challenges of initial take off because there were already existing infrastructures put in place when the Federal Executive Council ( FEC) under Dr . Goodluck Jonathan approved it on May 20, 2015.

He recalled that a team of assessors including the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) inspected the infrastructures and noted with a deep sense of satisfaction the adequacy of the facilities for immediate take off of the university.

All the Senators who contributed to the debate including Senators Barnabas Gemade ( Benue North East ), James Manager(Delta South), Ahmad Lawan among others applauded the innovation for the university of health sciences for the benefit of all Nigerians.

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweramadu who presided stressed that the bill is an important one that should be given accelerated passage . The bill was referred to the committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further legislative work and would report back in four weeks

He proposed that the university be renamed David Mark university of Health Sciences, Otukpo, Benue state when passed into law.


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