1. My sincere thanks to the Chairman and members of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFUND for the invitation to declare open this Public Hearing on the Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo (Establishment, Etc.) Bill 2017 (SB.504).
2. To begin with, let me take this time to thank everyone here today, from officials of the relevant government bodies to other stakeholders in the education and health sectors, as well as concerned members of the general public. That you have made the time to be here for this rescheduled Public Hearing – which has been brought forward by a day – is a demonstration of your commitment to the improvement of education in the country in general, and in particular, the desire to conclude the legislative process regarding the establishment of the Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo (FUHSO).
3. I must also thank the esteemed sponsor of the Bill, my predecessor and former President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Distinguished Senator (Dr.) David Mark (GCON), for his vision and steadfastness. He has spared no effort in promoting the Bill and canvassing for the establishment of FUHSO. His focus on this goal is, no doubt, a measure of his commitment to alleviating the huge shortfall in the education and training of critical personnel in the nation’s health sector – and to the people of Benue South, who the Distinguished Senator represents. Indeed, I understand there is now a clamour in some quarters, as well as among some of my distinguished colleagues, to rename the university, upon its establishment, after Distinguished Senator Mark – and the reason would not be far-fetched, when we consider the passion with which he has prosecuted the cause of the proposed institution. Thank you, Distinguished Senator David Mark, for your leadership.
4. The Bill seeks the establishment of the Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo, to scale up the specialized training of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals in the health sector; and to address persisting admission deficit. Figures show that only about 20 per cent of those who qualify and apply are admitted to medical schools in this country. In July of this year, a newspaper survey indicated that, of nearly 160,000 applicants, only 3000 gain admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions to study Medicine and related courses.
5. Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, the question therefore arises: how can Nigeria hope to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards of one doctor to 600 patients? We are at the present time lagging behind by all indices, with one doctor to about 5000 Nigerians. 180 million of us are served by 35,000 doctors. In reality, 300,000 more medical practitioners are needed, to properly cater to the health and well-being of our citizens; and help curb the huge revenue of about 3billion naira being lost annually to other countries by way of medical tourism.
6. This Bill comes not a moment too soon, therefore. It seeks to answer the need for more effective training of our medical personnel. I am confident that, with the quality of experts, educators, practitioners and other stakeholders we have here today, we can have a robust discussion on issues surrounding the establishment of the university. It is indeed an important national assignment, for all who desire a health sector that befits our country in the 21st Century.
7. Accordingly, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it is with pleasure that I now declare this Public Hearing open. I wish you fruitful deliberations and look forward to your findings.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE.