Doctors in Nigeria have rejected a proposal by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, for physicians trained in Nigeria to work in the country for at least nine years before being allowed to migrate.
This is just as reporters observed that the number of Nigerian doctors practising in the United Kingdom had hit 8, 983 as of Saturday and is likely to hit 9,000 this week.
Ngige had during the 2022 budget defence of his ministry at the House of Representatives earlier in the week lamented the effect of brain drain on the health sector in relation to the low cost of medical education in the country.
According to the minister, medical workers trained by the government should be made to sign a bond that would make them serve the country for at least nine years before they can consider relocating to another country.
“In London, it is £45,000 a session for medical education in universities. If you go to Edinburgh or Oxford, you pay $80,000. If you go to the USA you pay $45,000 but if you go to the Ivy leagues, you pay $90,000 for only tuition, excluding lodging. You do it for six years. So, people in America take loans.
“We can make provisions for loans and you pay back. If the government will train you for free, we should bond you. You serve the country for nine years before you go anywhere.”
The immediate past president of MDCAN and a member of the National Executive Council of the Association, Prof. Ken Ekilo, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH faulted Ngige’s proposal about the bond.
According to Ekilo, lots of factors contribute to the brain drain being reported in the country and creating bonds won’t solve them.
He stated, “The minister’s suggestion shows a poor appreciation of the forces at play concerning brain drain in Nigeria. The Nigerian work environment is hostile to the medical doctors and the Nigerian security situation is hostile to Nigerian citizens. Infrastructure is poor, equipment is obsolete, drugs and supplies are out of stock, and the personnel are few, overworked and underpaid.
“There is no sense of job satisfaction, professional growth or commensurate financial reward. These are the push factors, the salaries being offered by the destination countries are irresistible, in addition to perks such as paid holidays, free education for children, sponsorship for training, conferences, and workshops all within the context of a stable society with functional social amenities. These are the pull factors.
“The idea of bonding doctors alone is faulty on several fronts. First, it is not only doctors that are trained at public expense, so the bond will have to be required of anyone who has passed through the public education system in Nigeria.”
He argued that the policy would send the wrong signal to workers, as it will indicate a failure of ideas on the part of government and a resort to coercion reminiscent of countries lacking in social liberty.
“Lastly, the government cannot implement this without infringing on both the doctors’ fundamental human rights and the freedom guaranteed to citizens under the Nigerian constitution. I sympathise with the government, it is not an easy problem to solve and difficult decisions must be made,” Ekilo added.