History of Physiotherapy in Nigeria

Physiotherapy was introduced into Nigeria in 1945 by two British Chartered Physiotherapists; Miss Manfield and Mr. Williams. They were employed by the government of Nigeria and attached to the Royal (now National) Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos. Their primary assignments were; first, to treat wounded and disabled Nigerians soldiers who returned home from Burma and other countries during the Second World War. Secondly, they were to start a training programme in physiotherapy. The three-year diploma course was attended by a number of Nigerians. On completion of the training and passing out of the school, they were designated as Assistant Physiotherapists. They were specifically asked to work strictly under the supervision of Chartered Physiotherapists who had trained in England.

With time, the training programme at Igbobi was discontinued. Just before then, plans were in progress to start a diploma course at University College Hospital, Ibadan. This was later changed to the Bachelor of Science Degree in Physiotherapy at the University of Ibadan. The course took off in October 1966. The graduation of the foundation students in Ibadan in 1969 was a landmark in the annals of physiotherapy in Nigeria. Thus, University of Ibadan was the first in Nigeria and West Africa, to award a degree in physiotherapy. Other Academic programs followed after (see the page on PT Training in Nigeria).

In 1971, University of Lagos commenced a three-year diploma course, which was upgraded to Bachelor of Science Degree program in 1977. University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) followed Ibadan and Lagos in 1977. The program at Ile-Ife was a four year Bachelor of Medical Rehabilitation. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka also commenced a degree programme in 1987. There is also a training programme at the Federal School of Physiotherapy, Kano affiliated with the Bayero University, Kano. Training programs have also been commenced at the University of Maiduguri and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi.

Physiotherapy practice has spread all over the nation in the last five decades. Many of the products of our Universities are practicing as Physiotherapists in many establishments in the country and abroad. Some are lecturers in Universities in Nigeria and overseas. A sizeable number are in United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada pursuing postgraduate courses and working to gain further experience and for pecuniary purpose. Several Nigerian Physiotherapists are known to be in employment in Saudi-Arabia. The vogue at home has gradually shifted from working in teaching, state and specialized hospitals to venturing into private practices by a handful of practitioners.

The Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy this year - 2009 celebrated 50 years of Physiotherapy practice in Nigeria at her 49th Annual Scientific Conference at the Shell Hall, Muson Center, Lagos, October 27-31, 2009. See the Conference website for details.