By Christiana Ekpa
A Bill seeking for the establishment of the Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo, Benue, on Wednesday scaled second reading at the Senate.
This followed the presentation of the lead debate by Sen. David Mark (PDP-Benue) who is sponsor of the Bill.
Mark, who is the immediate past President of the Senate said the Bill sought to establish the health university to expand access to medical education.
This, he said was with a view to addressing the deficit in the admission of students desirous to study medicine and its allied sciences in Nigeria.
Mark noted that the university was necessitated by the ever- increasing call and growing needs to revamp institutions of medical education in Nigeria.
“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 per cent of the candidates who desire and are qualified to study medicine in Nigerian universities”.
The former President of the Senate further explained that the university when established would bridge the gap of the challenges of inadequate health professionals in the county.
“Nigeria has only about 35,000 practicing medical doctors serving a population approximated to be about 180 million people.”
The university he added would curb and indeed reverse the menace of overseas medical tourism with the attendant capital flight.
While supporting the Bill, Sen. Barnabas Gemade (APC-Benue North), said it was a development that was looked into by the past administration and to formalise it into law was only a formality.
“Benue is one of the foremost educational state in the northern part of the country been the first to establish a private university in the north.
“The federal presence is somewhat lacking in the state, because we do not have all the major investments of Federal Government.
“It is quite appropriate that the Senatorial District represented by former President of the Senate receives the university which was already approved by the past president of Nigeria,” he said.
Similarly, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan said “the APC administration believes in national development and growth.
“This Bill is therefore one way, one channel through which the Buhari administration will provide the opportunities for training health personnel and therefore, I support the passage of the Bill.”
In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Mr Ike Ekweremadu thanked Mark for expanding the opportunity for prospective candidates.
“This is a specialised kind of university which we need to focus on in order to ensure that we are able to optimize the professional conduct especially in that area of study,” Ekweremadu said.