MLS HistoryIn Nigeria

MLS has evolved from Laboratory Technician through Technologist to the Medical Laboratory Scientist of today. This is in consonance with the humble beginning of all professional groups e.g. Medicine started as an apprenticeship course and gradually developed into a diploma programme before the current degree programme. In Nigeria, the Yaba College of Technology and Kano Royal School of Hygiene trained and awarded diploma to the initial sets of medical doctors. Similarly, Pharmacists were trained as diploma holders until the Obafemi Awolowo University; Ile Ife introduced the degree programme.
Rudimentary MLS education in Nigeria started in 1920. In those early days the responsibilities of Nigerians in the historical laboratories as they were then known were very minimal, meanly running errands for the colonial laboratory technician who was invariably a demobilized serviceman from the British Army Medical Corps of World War 1. These sets of Nigerians had little or no formal education and were known as laboratory boys.

By 1940 the situation had greatly improved and the then African staffers of the hospital laboratory (consisting of nationals of the then British and West Africa) were categorized into laboratory attendants (the lab boys and the laboratory technician assistants, who were the better educated ones). This later group could perform urine and stool analysis, bacteriological examination of urethra smears, sputum and pregnancy tests by the male-toad technique popularly known as MTT
By 1948 the first formal and full-time training school had come into existence, admitting trainees with a minimum entry qualification of Cambridge School Certificates or its equivalent for a three-year course. This led to increase in the number of towns in the country having hospital laboratories. It’s worthy of note to say that, the syllabus of this training course had since been elevated to the standard, which was obtained in the UK for laboratory technicians.


The brilliant performance of Nigerian students sufficiently impressed the colonial administration to occasion the experiment of seconding Nigerians to the UK to study for Associateship of the London Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology. In 1950 the first Associate emerged in the person of Mr. R.A.O Shonekan, MON. By the end of 1960 Nigerians Associates of the London Institute had exceeded 20. Thereafter, they came like a swarm of locust.
What appeared to be the logical consequence of this positive development was the London Institute’s decision to make Nigeria the first country outside Britain to conduct her intermediate exams. The final diploma of the Institute eventually followed this. The creation of the Nigeria Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology in 1968, independent of London was inevitable. Ever since, the limitless sky has been the limit for the Nigerian Medical Laboratory Scientists

The journey to becoming a profession to be reckoned with started during military regimes in 1968. First it was the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon who promulgated degree No 56 of 1968 that created the then Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology of Nigeria. Next, was the military administration of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo that made MLT a profession by degree No 5 of 1978. Then came degree No 54 of 1999 that gave the change of name from IMLTN to IMLSTN after series of agitations.
Respite then came our way in 2003 through the help of Hon. Kunle Jenrade (a member of the profession in the then NASS). Act 11 of 2003 assented by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo change the name to MLSCN and consequently conferred on us the name SCIENTIST.
In all of these, it’s pertinent to note that the profession has moved from being Lab boys through obtaining diploma (Associate) to degree (BMLS) and recently the clamour for MLSD.
The question now is WHO ARE YOU?
Finally, "A difficult time can be more readily endured if we retain the conviction that our existence holds a purpose, a cause to pursue, a person to love, a goal to achieve." - John Maxwell.
Appreciations: My sincere thanks to Mr. T.Y. Raheem and Mr. Oluwatuyi Obisesan for prove reading the manuscript and sending Pa Shonekan’s pix respectively.
Reference: Chief (Prof.) Anthony O. Emeribe, (2002), at the Inaugural Lecture/ Symposium