NIGERIA’S labour minister Dr Chris Ngige has proposed that medical doctors be asked to sign a nine year bond committing them to remaining in the country for nearly a decade after they complete their training as a means of addressing the current brain drain crisis.
Over 200 Nigerian doctors registered with the British General Medical Council (GMC) during the months of April and May this year making Nigeria the country with the third highest number of foreign doctors working in the UK after India and Pakistan. Then, in August, Saudi Arabia stepped up an aggressive recruitment of Nigerian doctors using a government-licensed recruiting agency based in Abuja known as Meed Consultants.
In what is now turning into a deluge, doctors are leaving Nigeria in droves as poor working conditions, especially in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic has left them frustrated. Britain’s GMC alone licensed at least 353 Nigerian-trained doctors between June 10 and September 20, 2021.
Himself a medical doctor, Dr Ngige had dismissed the crisis as nothing, saying Nigeria can afford the losses. However, undress pressure to do something about the crisis, Dr Ngige has now proposed that government-trained medical personnel including doctors should not be allowed to leave the country at will after receiving training for free at public expense.
Dr Ngige said: “Medical education in Nigeria is almost free. Where else in the world is it free? The Presidential Committee on Health should come with a proposal for bonding doctors, nurses, medical laboratory scientists and other health workers so that they don’t just carry their bags and walk out of their country at will when they were trained at no cost.
“In London, it is £45,000 a session for medical education in cheap 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.
Addressing the National Assembly earlier on in the week while defending his 2022 budget, Dr Ngige did not say if any such plans are already being worked out. Nigeria currently has one doctor to the over 5,000 members of the population, which is way below the World Health Organisation recommendation of one doctor to 600 citizens.