DISPOSITIONS CHANGED IN NIGERIA, Wednesday, as reflected in public commentaries that rented media waves, focused on the most disappointing television interview comments by Christ Ngige, Nigeria’s Minister of Labour And Productivity. Ngige told his interviewers that he was not disturbed by medical doctors migrating out of the country in search of better employment abroad.
Ngige may not be speaking for himself, but for the government he represents as Labour And Productivity Minister. Government ministers, their ministries and departments are policy initiators, drivers and engine-rooms to executive government’s plans, projections and policies. Ngige must be representing a government in limbo, if his present comments on medical brain drain in Nigeria is President Buhari’s government position.
“I’m not worried, we have surplus doctors, if we have a surplus, we export. I was taught biology and chemistry by Indian teachers in my secondary school days. They are surplus in their country. We have a surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It is my area, we have excess. We have enough, more than enough, quote me”, Ngige said.
“Those guys go there, they are better trained because of the facilities they have there. Eventually, I know a couple of them who practise abroad but set up medical centres back home. They have CAT scan, MRI scan which even the government hospitals cannot maintain. So, I don’t see any loss”, he added.
Asked if nothing was wrong with the position he was expressing, Ngige said there was nothing wrong in Nigerian doctors’ choice to practise abroad, even at the detriment of health sector in Nigeria. “There is nothing wrong, they go out to sharpen their skills, earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them, not from oil”, Ngige responded.
Ngige insisted that “Brain drain will only be inimical when for instance neurosurgeons travel and we don’t have neurosurgeons here.” Reactions, especially, Nigerian Medical Association, said Ngige grossly misrepresented the situation of medical brain drain in the country.
Nigeria’s public health delivery sector, from available statistics, has been hit by waves of brain drain over the years, and deteriorating each passing year. This has put huge strain on public health deliver for citizens, including the highly placed in the country.
Using data for the year 2012—2016, for 26 countries, available at the time of collection in 2018, Mo Brain Foundation, stated that it is 0.45 physicians per 1,000 people. Only three African countries have at least one physician per 1,000 people—Libya, Mauritius and Tunisia—with physician-to-population of 2.09, 2.00 and 1.29, respectively.
Number of African-trained International Medical Graduates, IMGs, practising in the US alone, in 2015, reached 13,584 – a 27 per cent increase from 2005. This is equivalent to about one African-educated physician migrating to the US per day over the last decade — 86.0 per cent of all African-educated physicians working in the US were trained in Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.
Mo Brain Foundation stated, it cost each African country, an average between $21,000 and $59,000 to train a medical doctor Nine country—Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe—lost more than $2.0 billion since 2010 in training doctors who migrated. And annually, Africa loses $2.0 billion through brain drain in medical health sector.
Destination countries, according to Mo Foundation, do not pay back cost of training African doctors they recruit. It says, one in ten doctors working in UK comes from Africa—enabling the UK save average $2.7 billion on training costs. United State, Australia and Canada, respectively, save about $846 million, $621 million and $384 million in training cost from African physicians they recruit. Africa, it is estimated, lost $4.6 billion training cost for home-trained doctors, recruited by these four-top destination countries.
Ministers for Labour or Health for these countries would not admit as Nigeria’s Minister of Labour And Productivity, Chris Ngige did, that their countries were better-off, when highly trained medical personnel leave their shores to seek better employment abroad.
Migration of Nigeria’s skilled nationals to foreign countries in search of better employments—medical or in other fields—results in depletion of skilled manpower in the country. It results, also, in loses of billions of dollars in cost of training the country’s skilled personnel. It, therefore, calls for pragmatic action to stem the tide by government. It requires creating greater economic opportunities in Nigeria.
Chris Ngige, Nigeria’s Minister of Labour And Productivity, issuing quit notice to Nigerian medical doctors to leave the country if they wished—has professionally and politically smeared his career, medical profession, Nigerians and the government he represents. It would serve him better to quit government—giving his limited understanding of governance at the national level and how government works.