Friday, 27 May 2016

Can Nigerian vets compete with global trends?

Markus Avong (Facebook)

The registrar of the Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN), Dr Markus Avong, in this exclusive interview with Leadership Newspaper speaks on the many challenges facing the nation's veterinary profession and efforts to redress them.


What are the functions of the Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN)?

Our core mandate is to ensure standards; we are responsible for the quality teaching and practice of veterinary medicine which involves us ensuring quality in the universities where veterinary medicine is taught and that veterinarians practice professionally when they graduate

How many veterinary surgeons does Nigeria have?

Currently in the veterinary register, we have 6,926 registered veterinary surgeons, but what I cannot tell is the exact number engaged in livestock and its related activities. We have been working to capture that data to no avail because the profession is very versatile and equip them to practice in other fields.

Would you say our professionals can complete with global standards?

Yes, they can. In fact, our core mandate is to ensure that their competencies are profound in the World Organisation of Animal Health and intergovernmental organisations.

Just recently, a Nigerian citizen in Canada applied to be registered in Canada to practice. Of course, he won't be allowed to practice until he gets a letter from us that he is a registered surgeon. There are many of them like that who go to other countries and want to practice. These countries have to write to us to acknowledge that they are members and to qualify as the veterinarians write the exams and pass from all parts of the world.

So indeed, they meet global standards and our main target is ensuring the competency of our practitioners and ensuring that their competencies meet the standards of world.

What would you say are some of your challenges overseeing these professionals?

The main challenge has to do with the law establishing the VCN because there is nothing you can do outside the law establishing us. Looking at the expectations of the World Organisation for Animal Science and what it expects from us, you will discover that it is not up to date. As I speak to you we have a copy of the amendment to both chambers of the National Assembly.

What are your specific requests in the new bill?

In 2007/2009, members of the World Organisation for the Performance of Veterinary Service in Nigeria was asked to carry out a GAP analysis on the performance of veterinary service in Nigeria and all the stakeholders in the veterinary circle were scored independently. One of the deficiencies the council had was its inability to regulate the practice of animal health delivery and veterinary para-professions.

The World Organisation for Animal Health states that each country should have one professional regulatory body that regulates both the veterinary surgeons and the para-professionals, but we do not have that. Another challenge is that with the need to capture information with regard to the profession of the veterinary agency, you cannot regulate the practice of veterinary surgeons without having a guideline or rule gazetted for the registration of their practices and premises. If you do not know where the practice is taking place, you cannot effectively regulate them.

So all these have been reflected in the amendment bill. We are trying to approach the issues from two sides: the Veterinary Surgeons Act allows us to have rules for carrying out activities and is expected to be submitted to the minister to forward to the president who would sign it so that they can be gazetted. While we are pursuing the amendment, we are equally trying to put together some of the guidelines approved by the council some years back and send to them to the president and see how they can be amended to help effectively in registering of the veterinary premises .