University Graduates of Nursing Science Association, UGONSA, was founded as Graduate Nurses Association of Nigeria, GNAN, in the year 1985. During this era of nursing history in Nigeria, Nurse Leaders were neck-deep in trade unionism and highly averse to professionalism. The then very few University Graduates of Nursing were maligned and disenfranchised. The innovations they tried to enshrine in the profession were viewed with suspicion and disdain by other nurses who believed that university education for nurses was worthless and a waste of time. The University Graduates of nursing were labeled as Speakers of big “grammar” who did not know the technical aspect of nursing and nobody seemed to care about the professional innovations they brought or the professionalism they preached.
There was no clear career structure for the university graduates of Nursing Science in the schemes of service in use in the civil service of the federation unlike that of university graduates of other health disciplines such as Medicine, Pharmacy and so on. The National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the existing trade union for Nurses and Midwives, which was supposed to champion the cause for creating a career structure for the university graduates of Nursing that is at par with those of other healthcare professions, was rather antagonistic to the course. Nurses who had only RN/RM or other post-basic qualifications and those who had their first degrees in other disciplines, other than Nursing, held sway in NANNM. Their disdain for and unhidden aversion to the Nursing university certificate and its holders spelled doom for the university graduates of Nursing. They relentlessly used their position in NANNM to ostracize the university graduates of Nursing from all the benefits accruable to their counterparts in other health disciplines. They made sure that the Nursing University Certificate was reduced to a mere piece of paper in the Civil Service of the federation and that the plight of the University Graduates of Nursing was never brought to the National discourse.
Because those with Nursing degree certificates were treated like bastards, the morale of other nurses to pursue higher education in Nursing was at its lowest ebb. The population of Nurses with nursing degree continued to dwindle while that of those with only RN/RM swelled. When Nurses realized that there was a limit to level of promotion they could attain, without a university degree in the Civil Service, the majority preferred to further their education in other fields such as Law, Accountancy, Health Education, Psychology, Nutrition, Guidance and Counseling and so on having realized that those with nursing degrees are treated as outcasts in the profession. The campaign of calumny against the Nursing degree by NANNM, which ordinarily should have been its promoter, made them see studying their first degree in Nursing as a waste of time. Most would eventually come back to tag their non-nursing courses and degrees as “courses allied to Nursing and degrees Nursing degree”.
Unfortunately, such people held sway in NANNM and would rather sacrifice any meaningful progress that would accrue to the profession vis-à-vis the Nursing University education and its attendant professionalism for their own selfish gains. The height of their atrocities against the university graduates of Nursing was when they opposed a memo that sought to make the entry point of all graduates in the health sector uniform. Their argument was that “a Nurse is a Nurse” with or without a degree and since the RN/RM certificate is the basic requirement that qualifies one as a Nurse/Midwife and not the Nursing university degree, it amounts to double standards and undue favouritism by the Government to contemplate placing, the entry point into the civil service, of a Nurse above another because of a Nursing degree, which according to them does not count in Nursing. The threat of industrial disharmony by NANNM, should such happen, forced the government to exclude the university graduates of Nursing from the circular that granted the placement of university graduates of other health disciplines on Grade Level 10 entry point post-NYSC. This ignoble action of NANNM made Nursing to perennially appear to be subordinate to other health disciplines as the outcome of such has seen the university graduates of Nursing being aberrantly placed on CONHESS 07 (Grade Level 08) post NYSC while their counterparts in other health disciplines such as Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Optometry and so on, are placed on CONHESS 09 (Grade Level 10) Post NYSC. This continued till September 08, 2016, when graduate nurses get a partial reprieve to be placed on CONHESS 08 post-NYSC following the victory of UGONSA in getting the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to release internship circular for graduate nurses which happened following the National Council of Establishment (NCE) meeting held July 2016 in Minna, Niger State.
Because NANNM is the architect of the aberrant under placement of the university graduates of Nursing Science in the Schemes of Service, no NANNM regime has ever condemned such a situation let alone moved to correct it. UGONSA has taken up the challenge and will never rest until parity is restored between the university graduates of nursing and their counterparts in other healthcare disciplines.
Being dissatisfied with the plight of the university graduates of Nursing and the slow embracement of and pursuit of professionalism by Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Registered Nurses who had furthered their education to the University Level to acquire at least the Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (B.Sc Nursing) convoked a National meeting in Benin City, in the year 1885, to discuss how to give themselves a voice, fight for their rights and deepen the root of the fledgling professionalism in Nursing.
The meeting gave birth to GNAN and Arch Bishop A.O. Obarisagbon, the then principal of the School of Nursing Benin City served as its first President. Obarisagbon and his colleagues in the old Bendel State were the prime moving spirits for the formation of the association. They had invited all Nigerian Nurses, with at least first degree in Nursing, who could be located at the exposition to meet in Benin City and GNAN was born to serve as a professional Association for Nigerian nurses with minimum qualification of first degree in nursing.
In spite of the campaign of calumny of NANNM against the Nursing degree, it was however resolved that the association would work closely with NANNM, the existing trade union for Nigerian nurses and midwives, to lunch Nursing into its supposed place in the comity of Professions. This notwithstanding, UGONSA has had a number of disagreements with NANNM over some issues such as NANNM’s muteness on and encouragement of aberrant under-placement of Graduate Nurses against what their counterparts in other health professions are placed on; NANNM’s opposition to the internship struggle by graduate nurses; NANNM’s proposal and championing of a unified schemes of service in Nursing, a multi-cadre profession; NANNM’s opposition to Unified schemes of education obtainable by affiliating existing basic schools of Nursing and Midwifery to degree-awarding institutions and upgrading post-basic schools to post-graduate schools, which UGONSA champions; NANNM advocate that some professions are allied to Nursing even when the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) has categorically said that nursing is autonomous and neither allied to any profession nor is any profession allied to it and NANNM insistence that those it inferred have degrees “allied” to nursing must be promoted to run the directorate cadre when the NNCN has made it abundantly clear that eligibility for running the nursing directorate cadre is a sine qua non of possession of at least a first degree in Nursing. UGONSA has virtually disagreed with NANNM in situations where it attacks the statutory powers of the NMCN especially on these policies that the council made to promote continuous professional development of Nurses within the field of nursing to add meaningful value to nursing services, enhance qualitative client care, promote cost-effective and care-effective services and boost the image, professional status, and respectability of the profession. Despite these disagreements on some issues, UGONSA believes that working with NANNM officials with progressive agenda in the future is crucial for professional growth and development.
Born out of the exigency of the Nigerian environment where the university education of Nursing and its graduates are viewed with suspicion by their Non-Graduate colleagues and others that left Nursing after Registration by the Nursing Council to pursue their first and advanced degrees in other fields outside Nursing, GNAN spent its earlier years preaching the need for continuous professional development of Nurses within the field of Nursing to add value to nursing service, enhance qualitative client care and promote the image of the profession. This campaign ultimately materialized into the establishment of nursing degree programs in more Nigerian Universities and the subsequent birth of the Bachelor of Nursing Science (B.N.Sc) direct degree programme. Today’s Nigerian Nurses have come to accept the Nursing degree programme as theirs rather than an alien programme, as it was erroneously propagated and perceived as, by the nurses of yesterday.
In the year 1988, GNAN published its first scientific journal and elected Lady Uhiara U.L, its National President in a convention held at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. Lady Uhiara led the Association from 1988 to 1991 and handed over to Nurse Segun Bankole at a Conference held in Abeokuta in Ogun State. Paucity of fund, lack of interest by members, persecution and intimidation of members by other Nurses that are not in GNAN’s fold knocked the Association into a slumber. Between the years1991 and 2002, no meaningful progress was recorded by the association. In the year 2002, a revitalization conference was convoked at University College Hospital Ibadan where Nurse Bashir Akande became the National President. He worked assiduously to keep the association alive. He fought strongly for inclusion of Graduates of the B.N.Sc programme in the internship schemes of the healthcare delivery system of Nigeria. Under him, GNAN ,as UGONSA was then called, also fought strongly for abolition of the clause “professions Allied to Nursing” that was erroneously included in the schemes of service of Nursing Officers, which resulted in Registered Nurses with first degree in fields other than Nursing being promoted to the directorate level of Nursing in the civil service.
Expanded National Stakeholders (ENS) meeting was held in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in 2004, Ondo in 2006, Enugu in 2008, Agbor in 2009, Kaduna in 2010, and Abuja in 2010 before a scientific conference and General Meeting in University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, in September 2011. At the meeting Hon. Solomon E.O. Egwuenu became National President and Nurse Chibuzor J. Anyanwu the National Secretary. They were mandated to register the Association in line with Nigerian law. Under Hon. Egwuenu, ENS was convoked in Enugu in 2012, Agbor 2012, Kaduna 2014, and Enugu 2014. The internship scheme being pursued for the graduates of B.N.Sc programme got a boost in the year 2012, when the National University Commission, NUC, released a memo for its approval following agitation by the association. A memo for its implementation was immediately forwarded to the National Council on Establishment, NCE, by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). Unfortunately, NANNM, in order to stall the approval of the memo, sponsored another memo for unified schemes of service, a move UGONSA strongly criticized and labeled a satanic agenda. The internship dream was realized in the year 2016 through organized maneuvering led by Nurse Nshi Goodluck Ikechukwu, the astute and visionary National Secretary of UGONSA that took over from Nurse Anyanwu Chibuzor in the year 2014.
The associations name changed following its incorporation with the corporate affairs commission, CAC, under the companies and Allied Matters Act.No.1, 1990 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 16th May 2014. A name search by CAC rejected GNAN but approved UGONSA.
UGONSA was adopted as the official name of the association on 11th October, 2014 at an ENS held at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu. GNAN was retained as a colloquial name that the association is strongly associated with. Nurse Goodluck I. Nshi who had served as Acting National Secretary from February, 2014 following the relocation of the Secretary, Nurse Anyanwu J.Chibuzor, to United Kingdom to further his Nursing Education, was ratified the National Secretary in the meeting and Hon. S.E.O Egwuenu that has served as the Acting National President since 2011 was ratified the National President.
UGONSA organized a National Professional Conference and Scientific Update code-named “INTERNSHIP SUMMIT” in October, 2015 at Ebonyi State University Abakaliki that among other things aimed at ensuring that actualization of internship for B.N.Sc graduates does not extend beyond the year 2016, a goal that was eventually realized as set.
On 14th November, 2014, UGONSA dissociated itself from the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), which NANNM is a member of. This was a reaction to JOHESU’s support for Unified Schemes of Service for Nurses and Midwives and its opposition to the internship and proper placement of University Graduates of Nursing. JOHESU’s arrogation of Unified Schemes of Services to only the members of the Nursing profession without doing same for other multi-cadre professions under its fold was seen by UGONSA as a sinister plan to further rape its members that have been severely traumatized.
UGONSA, however, showed solidarity to JOHESU in its agitation for review of CONHESS salary structure for other health workers by the Federal Government as was done to the Medical Doctors’ COMESS salary starting from the year 2017.
UGONSA worked assiduously to enforce the implementation of the nursing internship round the nation within two years of the release of the internship circular.
National Professional Conference & Scientific Update dubbed “Nursing Restoration Summit was held at Primary Healthcare Tutors Centre, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, between 25th and 29th September, 2017. Having realized internship and making the realization of Proper Placement of the University Graduates of Nursing its key policy piece, the association tagged its 19th National Professional Conference & Scientific Update held at Comrade Cecilia Musa Nurses House, Kaduna, Kaduna State, Between 7th & 13th July, 2019, the “Proper Placement Summit”. Efforts are on the way to realize the goal of actualization of the proper placement as set at the summit.