Home Health Occupational Therapy in Nigeria; The Choice We Must Make Now

Occupational Therapy in Nigeria; The Choice We Must Make Now

by Toluwalase Taiwo
1 comment
Toluwalase Taiwo for OTAN Vice President

Rehabilitation as a component of the continuum of Health Care Services in Nigeria has continued to face many challenges (MR TBN, 2019).

The attention given this essential service by the government and health policy-makers in Nigeria has not been adequate, compared to other components of the country’s Health Care Delivery System such as health promotion, prevention, curative and even the recently emerging one palliative.

This neglect and underdevelopment of rehabilitation has resulted in many problems ranging from inadequate facilities to shortage of manpower, with a resultant effect of poor quality of life of the citizens with impairment or any functional limitation

Web (2019) there are about 25 million Nigerians with a disability, which amounts to about 15% of the country’s population.


Sadly, with the increasing spate of civil violence, communal clashes, terrorism and natural disasters that render many disabled daily in Nigeria, the number is bound to increase in a few years.

These exasperating statistics portend huge responsibilities and opportunities for rehabilitation professionals in Nigeria. Unfortunately, there are only 6,000 registered Rehabilitation Therapists in Nigeria.

This figure comprises of Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Audiologists, Prosthetists and Orthotists, Osteopaths and Chiropractic practitioners (MRTBN, 2019). However, despite the huge shortfall, a significant proportion of the professionals are not employed and for those employed, majority of them concentrate at the Tertiary Health Institutions in the “Big Cities” (especially South West cities) with almost none at the communities and the Primary Health Centers levels (Eleyinde 2018, MR TBN, 2019).

Adapted from REHAB EGDE (S.T., DEC. 2019)

Using Occupational Therapy as a microcosm of general medical rehabilitation service in Nigeria. Occupational Therapy (OT) is the second-largest profession in Medical Rehabilitation in Nigeria, so extrapolating strategies that have worked in the profession to other professions with similar narratives will not be inappropriate.

Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession, concerned with promoting health and wellness through Occupation. Occupation refers to what people want/need to do either as individuals or communities (World Federation of Occupational Therapy, WFOT 2012).

Basically, “Occupational ” relates to all the activities that we engage in daily from waking up to bed time, from cradle to grave and they are categorized into self-care (e.g. eating, grooming, bathing dressing, toileting, etc.), work and productivity: volunteer service or paid employment and Leisure / Play.

It is these areas that are affected whenever there is any disease, injury or any disabling condition which Occupational Therapists seek to remediate for maximal functional independence.

Globally, occupational therapy (OT) has come a long way in promoting health and wellness; although the popularity of the profession seems to vary from one country to another. Meanwhile, OT has been well integrated into the mainstream of health service delivery of many developed countries like the USA and Canada.

OT development still remains with many challenges in many developing countries such as Nigeria. Presently in Nigeria, OT services are mostly practiced at the tertiary level, a few special schools and rehabilitation centres. The Occupational Therapy profession in Nigeria can best be described as developing when compared to other sister professions in the country’s health sector like physiotherapy (Eleyinde 2017).

Far back as the 1950s, occupational therapy was already integrated into the service of the University College Hospital Ibadan and some hospitals in the western part of the country (OTAN 2017). Occupational Therapists then were trained abroad; think the UK and the US. Presently, Nigeria has well over 150 registered Occupational Therapy Assistants and about 100 registered OTRs.

There is a large concentration of Occupational Therapists in the South West of Nigeria.


Generally education in Nigeria (including rehabilitation) has continued to grow rapidly especially since Independence in 1960. Only one University and two Diploma programmes which are all in the South and are not WFOT approved. There is now a huge application of Nigerian students abroad for OT education.

The Prospects of Occupational Therapy in Nigeria are outlined below:

  • Improved quality of rehabilitation service
  • Reduction in Medical Tourism
  • Realization of the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Realization of WHO Rehabilitation goal 2030
  • Reduction in unemployment among graduates.
  • Reduction the Nigeria health sector
  • Reduction in urban-rural migration
  • Improve the quality of life for the citizens
  • Experts reviews both locally and internationally in the field of rehabilitation identified the challenges of OT as follows:
  • Inadequate schools of OT and lack of WFOT approval for the existing ones.
  • Non-inclusion of OT into the National Health Insurance Scheme.
  • Inadequate training materials and facilities.
  • Inadequate OT educators with requisite skills and qualifications.
  • Poor funding /lack of priority of rehabilitation in the Nigeria health system
  • Poor awareness and integration of OT in mainstream health services in many zones

Following these outlined challenges, they equally identified urgent requirements needed for improvement in OT in Nigeria and made the following recommendation.

International support/ collaboration e.g volunteers, supports for training facilities

  • Mentorship
  • Scholarship
  • Knowledge Transfer
  • Continuous Development Programme for OT
  • Public Private Partnerships
  • Intersectoral collaboration
  • Political will and constant engagement with the government for employment and proper placement for occupational therapists
  • Advocacy to government for more OT and prioritize Rehabilitation
  • Partner with NUC for more OT programmes
  • Consistent concerted efforts and international collaboration are urgently required to foster the desired development.

Adapted from (ELEYINDE S.T. AMU V.O., 2018) (ELEYINDE S.T, 2018)


It is crystal clear that human capacity will be an essential tool in driving this change.

The professional body of Occupational Therapy professionals in Nigeria “OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSOCIATION of NIGERIA (OTAN)” in a bid to address the various challenges faced by practitioners and students. The Electoral Committee of OTAN began its activities in April 2020, to select new Executives to move the profession forward and make the efforts of our past heroes fruitful.

Toluwalase Taiwo for OTAN Vice President

Presenting to you is the manifesto of the vice president candidate for OTAN.


Toluwalase Taiwo for OTAN Vice President

Dear association men and women,

Occupational Therapy relies upon the blending of art and science; caring combined with skills to elicit change in client; as an extension, Occupational Therapy (Hence, OT) leadership entails intermingling of care and skill to elicit positive changes.

In line with OTAN Constitution, I hope to work with the President of the association to strategically plan and achieve its aim and objectives. Given my over 10 years of experience in the field of OT, I have assumed multiple leadership OT roles both at state and national level to establishing OT network

With my great creative thinking skills and knowledge of the profession; ability to network and work with organizations to achieve strategic objectives; analytic skills, strong communication skills and experience with personnel evaluation system and goal development; demonstrated ability to negotiate with individuals and groups to facilitate consensus building and commitment displayed in my involvement in reviving multidisciplinary team case management and as a stakeholder in my current place of practice.

One of such was demonstrated in during my NYSC as I strategically planned and lead through the increase in service manpower and reformation of the physically and mentally challenged inmates in the state vocational rehabilitation center and the state neuropsychiatry unit; understanding the complexity of health and societal system and trend by involving political figures that can effect desired change.

I am willing to devote considerable time to the association responsibilities, including travel, communication and leadership to all members of the association in discussions for a minimum of 3 hours per week to plan and strategize with members at all levels.

Deliver drives to address public awareness of OT, to tackle isolation by professional bodies and employment issues. Promote occupational therapy-led service and playing a greater role in ongoing transformational agenda of the association and the nation while understanding the political situations.


Effective leader think through issues, define goals, and establish clear action plan which is central to OT practice.

• Foster association aims and objectives

• Enforcing independent practice of OT

• Increase integration of OT in healthcare system and society.

• Recognize the difficult political situation in transformation of the association

• Promote OT education and employments

• Improving standards of practice and minimizing quackery and imposters.

• Effective communication

With all this change in place, it is certain that there will be an improvement in Nigeria Rehabilitation service generally.

Leaders who care about followers and foster competence through building awareness and skills in their followers are likely to effect change



Toluwalase Taiwo for OTAN Vice President

Together we can Build OTAN!
Thank you.
“Your DRIPT Visionaire”

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1 comment

Tosin May 14, 2020 - 8:54 pm

Great write up


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