The National Assembly is likely to address the issues around Nurses’ verification, the continuous insecurity nationwide, and the ban by the Republic of Niger restricting flights to/from Nigeria on its Air Space.
As the National Assembly reconvenes for another session, it finds itself confronted with a myriad of pressing issues that demand urgent attention. Among the top trending concerns are the recently stipulated conditions for the verification of nurses, escalating insecurity as seen by an increase in kidnappings, and the recent ban of Nigerian flights by the Republic of Niger on its airspace.
Each of these issues poses a unique challenge to the nation’s well-being and requires swift legislative action.
The nursing profession is an integral part of the healthcare system, and the recent calls for the verification of nurses have gained significant traction.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) on February 7, 2024, issued a circular revising the guidelines for requesting verification of certificates for nurses and midwives.
The circular signed by the Registrar of the council, Dr Faruk Abubakar, read in part, “A non-refundable fee per application shall be paid for verification to foreign boards of nursing as specified on the portal. This shall cover the cost of courier services to the applicant’s institution(s) of training, place of work, and foreign board.
“Eligible applicants must have a minimum of two years post qualification experience from the date of issuance of the permanent practicing license. Any application with a provisional license shall be rejected outright.
“The council shall request a letter of good standing from the chief executive officer of the applicant’s place(s) of work and the last nursing training institution attended and responses on these shall be addressed directly to the Registrar/CEO, NMCN. Please note that the council shall not accept such letter(s) through the applicant.”
The council also stated that applicants must have active practicing licenses with a minimum of six months to the expiration date, and processing of verification applications would take a minimum of six months.
It added that the implementation of the guidelines takes effect from March 1, 2024.
However, nurses and some state chapters of the body have expressed displeasure over what they described as an attempt to hinder their freedom to pursue career opportunities, asking the council to address nurses’ welfare, salary scale, shortage of staff, and other rights.
The National Assembly is under pressure to address this issue promptly and implement robust measures to ensure that the nursing profession is preserved for the sake of healthcare.
Insecurity remains a persistent challenge for Nigeria, with various regions grappling with kidnappings, insurgent activities, banditry, and communal conflicts.
Very recently, a commercial bus company confirmed that a driver of one of its buses shuttling passengers from Lagos to Abuja was killed in an alleged attack by some suspected gunmen along the Ikare-Akoko Road of the Akure Expressway.
The management of the transport firm, in a statement posted on its official Facebook page on Sunday, added that other passengers, except a three-year-old child, were allegedly kidnapped along the corridor.
While confirming the attack, the statement by the company read, “GUO Transport Co. wishes to use this medium to confirm that there was a bandit attack on one of our buses en route to Abuja from Lagos.
“The unfortunate incident occurred at about 3:15 pm on Friday, February 9, 2024. Along the Ikare-Akoko area of the Akure Expressway, the kidnappers ambushed and attacked oncoming vehicles, among which was one of the Hiace buses from Lagos with passengers onboard.
“This unfortunate event led to the death of our driver at the crime scene, while our passengers are believed to have been held hostage and led into the bush. A child of about three years old was rescued from the scene and handed over to the military personnel on the ground while the family has been contacted.
“Our prayers are with those directly or indirectly affected by this unfortunate incident.
“While we empathise with the families of our slain driver and the families of our kidnapped passengers, we are cooperating with security agencies to ensure a quick and sore release or rescue of our passengers.”
Lawmakers are expected to engage in comprehensive discussions on the security situation, exploring legislative measures to empower security agencies and promote collaboration between federal, state, and local governments.
Niger Airspace Ban:
The military government in Niger Republic recently reiterated its ban on flights from Nigeria, insisting that flights emanating from Nigeria would not be allowed to land in Niger.
This was contained in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by the country’s airspace management authority on February 6, 2024.
Nigeria had earlier issued a statement reinstating its earlier ban on flights to and from Niger in a NOTAM, stating that the action was taken as part of the ECOWAS resolution.
In the NOTAM issued by Niger Republic, the airspace authority stated that the country’s airspace “is opened to all national and international commercial flights from ground to unlimited except for Nigerian flights to or from Nigeria.”
“This restriction doesn’t affect commercial flights that fly over Nigerien airspace without landing there. However, it is recalled that ADB-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast) or Radar transponders (for surveillance and communication) must remain on for any flight taking place in the Niger Republic airspace.
“On the other hand, the Niger Republic Airspace still remains closed for all military, operational and other special flights. These military or special flights are only permitted subject to prior authorization from the competent authorities.
“This circular, which only concerns Niger and Nigeria does not repeal no NOTAM in force,” the circular stated.
Nigeria had also issued a NOTAM reiterating the ban of flights from Niger or to Niger, saying that the decision was part of the ECOWAS resolution against the Niger Republic.
According to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the restriction included the directive that no commercial flight from Niger should overfly Nigerian airspace and no flight from any Nigerian state should overfly Niger’s airspace.
The NOTAM was contained in a letter titled: “ECOWAS Restriction on the Republic of Nigeria,” from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Aeronautical Information Services and signed by the Director of Air Traffic Services, Tayo John, on behalf of the agency’s Managing Director and Chief Executive.
The letter stated: “In accordance with ECOWAS resolutions, all commercial flights from Niger to Nigeria, or from Nigeria to Niger, or from Niger overflying Nigeria, or any state overflying Nigeria to Niger are suspended.”
However, the letter added: “These restrictions do not affect: (a) Overflight aircraft through Niger airspace; (b) Aircraft in a state of emergency and (c) Special flights” adding that “special flights are to obtain authorisation from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace.”
Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Niger Republic became sour following the July 26, 2023 coup d’etat ousting President Mohammed Bazoum by the Nigerien Junta.
Lawmakers will be tasked with evaluating the implications of the ban on the cost of flight tickets, diplomatic relations, trade, and regional stability.
Finding a diplomatic resolution to the issues leading to the airspace ban will be paramount, as the National Assembly seeks to safeguard Nigeria’s interests while maintaining amicable relationships with neighbouring countries.
As the National Assembly takes on these pressing issues, it faces the crucial responsibility of enacting legislation that addresses the concerns of the people and promotes the overall well-being of the nation.
The verification of nurses, tackling insecurity, and resolving the Niger airspace ban among other issues are challenges that require collaborative efforts and thoughtful deliberations within the legislative chambers. The nation awaits the outcomes of these discussions, hoping for effective and sustainable solutions to these critical issues.
Oputah David M is a Bloomberg-trained Journalist with a diversified experience in online journalism and newsroom management. He is a 2023 MTN Media Innovation fellow!