The exodus of Nigerian medical doctors and healthcare professionals to other African nations has raised concerns, as countries like Sierra Leone and Gambia offer significantly higher salaries, reaching up to $4000.
Emem Bassey, Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, noted this growing trend during his appearance before the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee investigating racketeering in Federal Government agencies.
Bassey stated that the health sector is grappling with a severe shortage of skilled personnel, resulting from the mass departure of healthcare professionals. This migration is attributed to the allure of better financial prospects abroad. According to the CMD, “The West Coast is looking for our specialists. So many people are now going to places like Sierra Leone and Gambia, and the wages they earn – $3000 to $4000 – are about three to four times what they earn back home. So we are beginning to see that people are leaving for other African countries too.”
The critical manpower shortage has led to increased strikes among doctors and other healthcare workers, largely due to unfulfilled promises made by the government, Punch reported.
Further, Bassey highlighted the dilemma of replacing these professionals, as bureaucratic processes make swift recruitment challenging. “Getting the waivers is a torturous process,” he noted.
He further explained that the urgency to fill these vacancies often hampers the adherence to federal character principles in recruitment – a policy that ensures equitable representation of all regions. Previous governments have made unrealistic agreements under pressure to halt strikes, agreements that later proved unattainable.
Yusuf Gagdi, Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee, urged the doctors to consider patriotism and contribute to the country’s development. He acknowledged the lack of advanced medical facilities in Nigeria but challenged medical professionals to serve their homeland. “You are produced by Nigerian institutions. We admit the brain drain and are trying to find solutions… Nigeria is our country. Nigeria produced us as medical doctors,” he implored.
The Committee aims to address the delicate balance between complying with federal character principles and urgently filling vacancies in the healthcare sector. Gagdi assured the medical professionals that their concerns and contributions would be thoroughly reviewed and considered.