The idea to form a Nigerian Medical Association in Germany fell on a Sunday in autumn 1975, after friendly discussions at the residence of the initiator, Dr. med. Daniel Ubani with the co-founders, Dr. med. Oscar Umoh, Dr. med. Joe Okey and Dr. med. Douglas Acholonu.
This was against the backdrop of the fact that at the time (a few years after Nigeria-Biafra Civil War) there were many Nigerians who had qualified as medical doctors in Germany, some of these undergoing post-graduate training in various medical disciplines, some already finished and qualified and working at various Germany hospitals, whereas some were still doing their houseman ship, not to talk of many others who had gained admissions into medical schools to study.
In those years unfortunately the policy of the Germany government was that every foreign student, “especially those from African countries”, after their studies (first degree) must return to their countries of origin! Much as we understood and respected the government policy, the founding fathers of the NMA-Germany did not identify with this one-sided policy which did not allow individual democratic decision for the people concerned.
We saw in it a flagrant discrimination against the people from African countries. We noted that the passing of the Medical State Examinations alone was not the end of the endeavour, rather a post-graduate qualification was necessary to place a Nigerian doctor trained in Germany in a better position to work in Nigeria and also to equip him/her to compete with colleagues trained in the US or in the UK. This was the foremost idea behind the formation of the NMA to organize at the time the almost 200 Nigerian medical doctors in Germany.
So the NMA was then formed in Autumn 1975 at a General Meeting held in Bonn where its seat has remained till today, since at the time the Nigerian Embassy had its seat in Bonn which was then the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. The NMA was officially registered at the Amtsgericht Bonn in Summer 1976 as Nigerian Medical Association Germany e. V, a non-profit making Organisation. Initially the NMA maintained very good relations to the Nigerian Mission.
First and foremost the NMA German Branch:
1) serves as a Forum for the Nigerian medical doctors in Germany to discuss and exchange views on problems affecting all branches of medicine, especially on new scientific findings and experience in practice, clinic and as they concern the Health Care Delivery in Nigeria
2) engages itself with the Structure, Organisationand Execution of Health Care Delivery and Public Health Program in Nigeria.
3) organizes Scientific Seminars and Continuous Medical Education.
The first Executive Committee with Dr. med. Oscar Umoh as President, Dr. med. Daniel Ubani as General Secretary and Dr. med. Joe Okey as Treasurer, through selfless voluntary dynamic engagement inspired many Nigerian medical doctors training in German hospitals to join the organisation.
We tried to maintain good contact to the parent Organisation, the Nigerian Medical Association in Lagos, which was not always easy due to some logistic reasons. Notwithstanding we encouraged our members to register with the Nigerian Medical Association, as an essential pre-requisite to qualify them later to practise Medicine in Nigeria.
We embarked on good image creating public activities with a) the Regierungspräsident of Düsseldorf especially with the Office of Dr. Hannraths, Head of Department for Approbation und Zulassung für Weiterbildung, with the Ministry of Health NRW, Ärztekammer Nordrhein and with the Oberbürgermeisterin of the city of Duisburg, Frau Irmgard Karwatzki.
In the public relation area we had constant contact to the Friedrich Thieding Stiftung with whom we worked out a government approved program to orientate and prepare Nigerian doctors who after their studies and training wished to go home.
This program involved attendance of Weekend Seminars, with theoretical and practical coaching in practice of medicine in the Tropics, Nigeria, demonstrating the essential realities that obtain there.
It also provided consultancy preparation for doctors who had completed their training and wishing to return to Nigeria.
Finally the program provided some financial help for the re-location to Nigeria.
To underline our efforts in positive public relation we introduced the annual reception, (Jahresempfang) in January, at the beginning of every year to which we always invited the Ambassador Nigerian Embassy, representative the Regierungspräsident Düsseldorf, Ministry of Nordrhein-Westfalen, representatives of Ärztekammer Nordrhein, Friedrich Thieding Stiftung, the Oberbürgermeisterin of Duisburg, the Business community, Pharmaceutical Companies and of cause members of the Press.
To be commended here is the enormous support which the Company Rhein- Mass- Shipping (RMS) in Duisburg gave to NMA in way of generous donations every year and the offer to ship household properties by relocation to Nigeria at good reduced costs.
At these receptions we show cased the activities of the NMA, interacting with our guests and thanking them for continued support.
Sometime in 1978 the NMA sent a delegation of three (Dr. Oscar Umoh, the President, my humble person as the General Secretary and Dr. Joe Okey as the Treasurer at our own cost to meet the Supreme Federal Military Government in Lagos, after the then actual Charge’ de Affaires of the Nigerian Embassy, Mr. Anopuechi had officially cleared with Lagos.
The reasons for seeking audience with the Nigerian Supreme Federal Military Government were simply to communicate that at that moment there over 180 qualified medical doctors in Germany, many in different branches of medicine as General Practioners, General Surgeons, Gynaecologists & Obs. , Pathologists, Neuro-Surgeons, Cardiologists, Radiologists, Paediatricians, Neurologists and Psychiatrist, Physicians, Orthopaedic- Surgeons, etc. and also inform the Government of the necessity to take note of this fact in their planning and policy to improve the quality of medicine in the country.
We felt our services were needed and Government should play her part to employment as well as provide financial help for re-location to ease the problems of re-integration. Since it was not possible to meet the Head of the Supreme Military Government, Lieutenant Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo or the second man, late Brigadier-General Shehu Yar`Adua. Our delegation was received at the Dodan Barracks, Supreme Military Headquarters by the Federal Minister of Health, one Dr. Obong, who to our surprise received us with the fierce unfriendly terse greeting: “this Government does not owe any person anything. You should not expect any red carpet treatment.” End of the quotation.
Notwithstanding months later our efforts and engagement started to bear fruits. The Supreme Federal Military Government sent delegations and panels to Germany to interview and recruit qualified medical doctors and also qualified Nigerians from other professions to render their services and expertise to the country.
2) a) At beginning of 1980 to crown the successful cooperation between NMA and our German colleagues in University Teaching Hospitals in Duisburg and Leverkusen during my tenure of office as NMA President 1979-1983 we went ahead to form and change the name to Germany Nigerian Medical Association, (Deutsch – Nigerianische Ärztegesellschaft e. V), wish was duly registered. Prof. Dr. med. Hierholzer, CMD. BG Unfallklinik Duisburg was elected the President, I was then elected as the Vice-President of the Association. Others in the Executive were Dr. Rahmel, as General Secretary, CMD Städtische Krankenanstalten Leverkusen, Prof. Dr med. Freiherr von Andrean-Werburg, Chefarzt Gefäßchirurgie, St. Johannes Hospital Duisburg.
b) Before this time some complicated cases of Biafra-Nigeria Civil War casualties had been treated at the BG UnfallKlinik Duisburg-Bucholz, at the Städtische Krankenanstalten,Leverkusen and at St. Johannes Hospital Duisburg.
A documentation of the propensity for good results which the Association has already achieved was demonstrated on 06 March 1982 at an annual event in Duisburg which H.E Alhaji Rafindadi, the Ambassador Nigerian Embassy, the Oberbürgermeisterin of Duisburg, Fr. Karwatzki and our cooperation partners attended were we reported the excellent results of a motor accident patient from Lagos, treated at BG Unfallklinik Duisburg. This was also covered by the Press.
Unfortunately this good step in the right direction for apparent reasons could not be maintained after I had left and re-located to Nigeria in August 1983. The NMA failed to work for continuity to promote and strengthen the Deutsch-Nigerianische Ärztegesellschaft. This was indeed a failure and an opportunity missed.
NMA was the first ever and oldest professional Medical Association of immigrants formed in Germany. Today we have such Organisations like Deutsch-Syrjänische Ärztegesellschaft, Deutsch-Kamerunische Ärztegesellschaft, Deutsch-Ghanaische Ärztegesellschaft, etc. etc. Please let us imagine where NMA, the first pace-maker would have been?
c) The NMA had the honour to play major role, besides the Nigerian Community Germany, to welcome President Shehu Shagari during his State Visit to Germany in 1982.
For almost 20 years, 1986-2007 the regular NMA half Annual GMs were held in the Residence of members who volunteered to host the Meetings, a laudable idea introduced by Dr. Oti during, the tenue of his Presidency. It served two good purposes:
Intensifying the contact and fellowship between colleagues and their families, especially precisely that our children should get the opportunity getting to know one another.
At each GM a colleague presented a scientific lecture on his or her chosen topic. This was in line with the aims in our Constitution.
As time went on the was a remarkable decline in enthusiasm of members to attend meeting or to pay their annual dues, a very deplorable situation which after series of appeals and reprimands by Dr. Nduka-Agwu Onuora reminded the members of impending dissolution should there be no positive change.
a) aging foundation members declining interest and non- participation of the younger generation.
b) lack of adequate public relation, insufficient membership drive.
c) Ineffective Website.
d) Lack of well-kept records of documents.
Amongst other things I have observed that in the last years many a time when a new Executive has been elected or amendments to the Constitution been made their Registration has always become a thorny affair because the simple legal requirements as led down by the Regulatory Body (Amtsgericht) have not been fulfilled, with the result that a new elected Executive cannot take off with their work. This is an unnecessary jumbled situation. Where there is doubt it suffices to consult the AMTSGERICHT to give a list of these requirements, where the Notary “does not know” this.
Lastly the above issue makes it impossible for the Executive have control over our Bank Account by the Deutsche Bank.
We are happy that since May 2015 a generation change has taken place in NMA, with election of a new Executive with Dr. Al—Amin A. Dahiru as President. I must praise their dynamism in approach and uncomplicated reach-out to members. A positive act of the young Executive is the I hope we give them all the support they need.
In its 40 years existence the NMA can only boost of three organised Symposia. This amazing and poor but may not be unconnected with certain attitude and opinion.
The first NMA Symposium took place in the Sommer 1980 in the Mercator Hall Duisburg. It was a two days Conference, featuring the invited Professor of Paediatrics, from the University of Ife, President of NMA Nigeria, the late Prof. Mohr, Head of Bernhard Nocnt Tropen Institute Hamburg, many colleagues as well as Nigerian and African medical doctors who presented papers. The pharmaceutical companies financed this two days Symposium to about 90 per cent of the costs.
2) The second NMA Symposium took place some 33 years later in Münster in the Katholisch-Soziale Akademie Franz-Hitze-Haus 30 May-01. June 2013, featuring a good number and participation of our colleagues and German colleagues. In contrast to the first Symposium this took place with the exclusion of any doctors from Nigeria and also in the absence of the pharmaceutical companies
3) Our third Symposium is taking place today, 08 October 2016 at the same venue in Münster, in cooperation with and under the Umbrella of the Westfälische Universitätsklinikum Münster, with invitation extended to dignitaries from Nigeria and paper presentations of our members as well as our German colleagues. Very conspicuous again is the absence of the Pharmaceutical Companies in cooperation.
Since May 2015 the NMA has at last identified itself with a concrete Project for Nigeria: PILOT PROJECT, HYGIENE IN NIGERIAN HOSPITALS; MEDICAL CLINICS and HEALTH CENTERS. This a topic in the afternoon session which is the subject of my presentation.
On the other hand in years before during the tenue of Office of past NMA Presidents, e.g Dr. med. Emeka Iyizoba 1988-1993 during the mass Meningitis Infectious Epidemics in Northern Nigeria the NMA appealed for donation of vaccines and other drugs worth over 50.000 DM, (25.000 Euro) at the time, which was deposited at the Nigerian embassy in Bonn for further hand over to the Federal Government.
The Nigerian government and the Embassy in Bonn failed till today to acknowledge or to gratitude to NMA for this help to our people.
It is also understood that drugs and other materials collected during Dr. med. Oti`s Presidency, 1993-2004 and sent to the Embassy for delivery to Nigeria disappeared and could not be accounted for.
Dr. med. Oscar Umoh 1976-1979 (+) since June 2015
Dr. med. Daniel Ubani 1979-1983
Dr. med.Idris Dag-Ellams 1983
Dr. med. Sam. Fatogun 1983-1988
Dr. med. Emeka Iyizoba 1988-1993
Dr. Rev. Sr. Leoni 1993
Dr. med. Timikeyi Oti 1993-2004
Dr. med. Agbe-Davies Funchi 2004-2007
Dr. med. Onuora Nduka-Agwu 2007-2015
Dr. med. Al-Amin Dahiru, since May 2015
At the moment we more than 25 colleagues who are either practising in their Clinics or working German hospitals, specialised in different branches of medicine.
Many indeed are practising in Nigeria in private Clinics, (Hospitals), as Professors at University Teaching Hospitals, etc. Sorry to note that until the present Buhari Administration came into Office no Germany trained Nigerian doctor or others with other specialisations have ever been recognized at the Federal level for appointment to serve this country.
The appointment of Dr. Osagie Ehanire as Hon. Minister of State for Health is a welcome development.
Last but not the least I shall not end without paying honour to our NMA colleagues have passed away. Many of them where the founding fathers of this NMA who contributed emensely in the early years of its existence:
Dr. Oscar Umoh, first President. Dr. Obioma James Ananaba, Dr. Atuanya, Dr. Sample Ananaba, Dr. Robert Ekwuazi, Dr. Bob Anyeji, Dr. Mrs Mbonu, Dr. Joshua Onoh, Dr. Anima Nzeribe and some others. MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PERFECT PEACE.