The regulation of Physicians and Dental Surgeons in Nigeria historically preceded indigenous statutory provisions for such functions. The first allopathic doctors to come to Nigeria were Portuguese. They came in 1472. The Roman Catholic Mission opened a hospital at St. Thomas Island off the Bight of Benin in 1504. The trans-Atlantic slave traders also came with ship doctors and surgeons who attended to the healthcare needs of slavers and slaves.
The Roman Catholic Mission established The Sacred Heart Hospital Abeokuta in 1865 whilst St. Margaret’s Hospital Calabar came into being in 1898. Before the establishment of these hospitals, a Medical Examining Board in 1789 recorded doctors’ names, mainly Dutch names which were followed by Danish and British names on its register.
Doctors of the Dutch West Indies Company went to Benin and treated the local people. Many of the explorers who came to Nigeria were medical men and we easily recall such names as Mungo Park, David Livingstone, Schnister and John Kirk. The West African Medical Service originated from the Royal West African Frontier Force, (WAFF) and in 1902, the Medical Departments of the various British Colonies, i.e., Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia were established.
The regulation of conduct of medical and dental practitioners started in that era in Nigeria with the establishment of the Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Board in the Colonial Department of Health for the medical personnel whose names were on the register of the General Medical Council in England. The Director of Medical Services, (DMS) was its Chairman. This was the position of statutory regulation of the professions of medicine and dentistry until independence in 1960. Indeed, indigenous statutory provisions came into being through the efforts of the first Nigerian Inspector of Medical Services, Sir Samuel Manuwa and these culminated in the promulgation by the Federal Parliament of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act which became operational from 18 December 1963. This law established the Nigeria Medical Council, the first regulatory body for Medicine and Dentistry in Nigeria. The inaugural meeting of the Nigeria Medical Council was held on Saturday 24 October 1964 in the Boardroom of the Federal Ministry of Health, Lagos. Dr. S. 0. Awoliyi was the first President and members were drawn from:
|The University of lbadan|
|University of Lagos|
|Ministry of Health, Kaduna|
|Ministry of Health, lbadan|
|Ministry of Health, Enugu|
|Ministry of Health, Port Harcourt|
|Royal Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi, Lagos|
|Vom Hospital, Northern Region.|
This meeting appointed Dr. M.S. Graham – Douglas as the Acting Secretary until he later became the first Registrar of Council.
The Nigerian Medical Council was succeeded by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, a statutory creation of the Military Decree No 23 of 1988. This decree, with the return of constitutional government of Nigeria is now known as The Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. 221, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. The statutory functions of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria are:
1) Determining the standards of knowledge and skill to be attained by persons seeking to become members of the medical or dental profession and reviewing those standards from time to time as circumstances may permit.
2) Securing in accordance with the provisions of this Act the establishment and maintenance of registers of persons entitled to practice as members of the medical or dental profession and the publication from time to time of lists of those persons.
3) Reviewing and preparing from time to time, a statement as to the Code of Conduct which the Council considers desirable for the practice of the professions in Nigeria.
4) Performing the other functions conferred on the Council by the Act.
However, by amendment viz Decree No. 78 of 1992 The functions of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria were expanded to include:
5) Supervising and controlling the practice of homeopathy, and other focus of alternative medicine (naturopathy, acupuncture and osteopathy)
6) Making regulations for the operation of clinical laboratory practice in the field of Pathology, which includes Histopathology, Forensic Pathology, Autopsy and Cytology, Clinical Cytogenetics, Haematology, Medical Microbiology and Medical Parasitology, Chemical Pathology, Clinical Chemistry, Immunology and Medical Virology.
Since its inception in 1963, the Council has published certain documents as guidelines for registered practitioners and those who wanted to become members of either profession. Such publications are:
Guidelines on Minimum Standards of Medical and Dental Education in Nigeria. This was first published in 1975, and revised in 1993. It is now being revised by the present Council.
Rules of Professional Conduct for Medical and Dental Practitioners in Nigeria which was first published in 1963. It was revised in 1995. A new edition has been published as Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria since January 2004.
The Council shall have responsibility for:
(a) Determining the standards of knowledge and skill to be attained by persons seeking to become members of the medical or dental profession and reviewing those standards from time to time as circumstances may permit.
(b) Securing in accordance with the provisions of this Decree the establishment and maintenance of registers of persons entitled to practise as members of the medical or dental profession and the publication from time to time of lists of those persons.
(c) Reviewing and preparing from time to time, a statement as to the code of conduct which the Council considers desirable for the practice of the professions in Nigeria , and
(d) Performing the other functions conferred on the Council by this Decree or Act of Parliament.