Do not arrogate to yourself, the powers you do not have. Neither the Federal Executive Council nor the Federal Ministry of Health, represented by the Minister of Health, has such power as to ban private practice by doctors in public service.
Such power is vested in the National Assembly according to S4 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria (CFRN) as amended, and there is an existing law regulating private practice by medical doctors in public service . Why is it that our leaders always take actions that will be subject of litigation and the end of such litigation will ridicule their offices? Why can’t our leaders learn from the past? One of the reasons Governor Wike won his opponent(s) at the Supreme Court was that his opponent based their arguments on the Electoral guideline (which is a mere executive pronouncement) whereas Wike and his lawyers based their arguments on the Electoral law (which is an Act of the parliament). The Executive has no right to either ban or modify an existing law without passing through the Legislative arm of the government as earlier cited.
Dear Minister, let me start by drawing your attention to an already existing law regulating private practice by doctors in full time government employment. The said law was enacted by the National Assembly, which has the statutory power to make laws for the federation.
Rule 49 of the Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria 2008 edition states that:
49(1): Medical and Dental practitioners who are in full time employment in the public service in Nigeria are free to employ their spare time and unofficial hours to engage in medical or dental practice for remuneration as follows: A registered practitioner in full time employment in the public service shall not engage himself in extra-mural private practice during official duty time under any circumstances. A registered practitioner who holds the appointment of Consultant status or a medical or dental officer of more than Ten years
Post-registration experience may run one private consulting clinic, which will open for business only during periods when he is not on
official duty. A Consultant or registered practitioner of similar status in (b) above shall offer in-hospital care to his private patients only within the
public hospital he is in full employment. It is unethical for a registered practitioner in full employment in the public service to give in-hospital care, that is investigatory, admission and institutional care to patients outside the hospital in which he is in full time employment.
d. A registered practitioner of more than ten years post-registration who is in full time employment in the public service but is not engaged in clinical responsibilities in the public hospital may engage, outside the official duty hours, in clinical practice in an institution owned and run by full time private practitioners or hold consultations only in his own consulting clinic.
e. It is unethical for a registered practitioner engaged in a public health institution to demand and/or receive money from hospital patients under any guise whatsoever, either before or in the course of attending such patients.”
In view of this , it is clear, dear Honourable Minister, that neither you nor the Federal Executive Council has the right to dictate to medical doctors in public service what they will do with their spare/unofficial time as they are citizens with inalienable rights to personal dignity; liberty; freedom of conscience ;and freedom of movement as contained in sections 34,35 ,38 and 41 of the CFRN respectively . I am aware that each Federal Ministry has a legal unit that is only consulted when there is a pending litigation and you leaders cannot consult your legal units before making ambiguous statements like this current ban on private practice by doctors in public service. Also, for the non-consultants fully employed by the government, I will refer you to Rule 49(2) of the same Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria.
Dr. Paul John writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State