The situation with traditional medicine in Nigeria has not changed much from the account of Oyebola (1986). There is no official government policy on traditional medicine in Nigeria. The call by traditional health practitioners for the recognition of their profession has persisted.
Officials of the traditional medicine associations were scheduled to meet with the Minister of Health in Lagos in 1988. Unfortunately, on the day of the meeting, one of the more prominent members of the traditional health practitioners collapsed in the Federal Ministry of Health and died; this resulted in a panic situation and the meeting could not be held. Since then, another meeting with the Minister of Health has not been scheduled. The minister, who is a professor of paediatrics, has consistently maintained, however, that unless the traditional health practitioners are prepared to make their remedies available for scientific evaluation, it will be difficult for the government to grant a blanket recognition to a practice about which the government has limited information.
In 1988, however, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, following a ministerial directive, set up a National Committee on Traditional and Alternative Medicine. The membership of this committee included university lecturers/professors, scientific doctors, traditional health practitioners, practitioners of alternative medicine, and senior officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health. This committee was to examine traditional and alternative medicine in all its ramifications and make appropriate recommendations to the government on how best to incorporate this group of practitioners into the national health care delivery team. This committee produced a document containing far-reaching recommendations on how to harness the potentials of traditional and alternative medicine for the improvement of national health care delivery. The document was to be presented by the Minister of Science and Technology to the Council of Ministries for debate and approval. Unfortunately, before this was done, there was a cabinet reshuffle and the minister was dropped from the cabinet.
Traditional healers have been used by the government mainly as traditional birth attendants, whose training and utilization many state governments and the federal government have encouraged. The village concept of care of psychiatric patients, fashioned along the approach of community care used by traditional health practitioners, initiated by Professor Adeoye Lambo almost three decades ago, is still very much applied.
The specialities that exist in traditional medicine in a part of Nigeria and the professional associations of the healers were the subjects of two publications (Oyebola, 1980 (a), and (b).
The traditional health practitioners have not been involved in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. The government has not made any pronouncement as to whether traditional health practitioners can participate or not in AIDS prevention and control.
1. Oyebola DDO. (1986) Medical politics in Nigeria. In: Last M, Chavunduka G. The professionalization of African medicine. Manchester, UK. Manchester University Press, pp. 221-236 (International African Seminars).
2. Oyebola DDO. Traditional medicine and its practitioners among the Yoruba of Nigeria: classification. Social Science and Medicine 1980; 14A: 23-29.
3. Oyebola DDO. Professional associations, ethics and discipline among Yoruba traditional healers of Nigeria. Social Science and Medicine 1980; 15B: 87-105.