• Life - Health & Wellness
  • Updated: December 11, 2022

Nigerian Health Workers And The Brain Drain Epidemic

The rate at which Nigerian health workers are subscribing to application processes to relocate to other high-income countries on a daily basis can best be described as an epidemic.

Recently, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) disclosed that in Lagos alone, about 507 doctors have moved to the UK in 24 months.

As of November 2022,  the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) also revealed that the country is now left with just 10,000 doctors.

Unravelling the reasons for brain drain in the Nigerian health sector, and measures that could be put in place to curb the rate at which health doctors are leaving the country, AllNews Nigeria reached out to some workers to hear what they have to say on the issue.

Olubunmi Alao, a mental health nurse at Orile-Agege General Hospital, identified poor health indices, poor healthcare infrastructure, and poor remuneration packages as some of the reasons why doctors are leaving the country.

“Doctors are leaving the country because we are poorly paid, we are not appreciated, and also the healthcare infrastructure in Nigeria is really bad.

 “If the salaries of doctors can be reviewed, I am sure there will be no one who wants to become a second-class citizen in another man’s country.”

Speaking on how this can be reduced, Alao said there should be the provision of a retention allowance, a work hazard allowance should be increased, and there should be a conducive working environment.

“The rate at which doctors are leaving the country can still be controlled by the government if salaries are reviewed, if there is a conducive working environment, if work hazard allowance can be increased and if there is a substantial amount of retention allowance”, she stated.

Olaolu Adebayo, a Urologist at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State, also shared how tedious his work experience has been since the persistent brain drain in the health sector.

“It's pretty tough now, to be honest. The job of four or five doctors is left for just one doctor now. 

“In my unit alone, I know of four Senior Urologists who have left the country for greener pastures. Imagine if they were still on the ground, the job would be lighter for us.

"It is a sad fact that our best brains are leaving the country and the government is not perturbed about it,” Adebayo lamented.

On some of the measures that can be put in place to curb the rate at which health workers are leaving the country, he said; “Government should improve the pay packages and welfare for doctors so that the drive to earn more money in foreign countries will be at a low ebb.

“Government should adequately invest in the health sector by providing good working conditions for doctors.

"The government should value the doctors and treat them with dignity because society needs them and they have given a large chunk of their youthful years to the study of medicine than for them not to be valued.

On his part, Muhammed Abdulrasaq, a doctor in training at the College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, who spoke on why doctors leave the country, said most health workers obviously want a better life.

“Diverse set of professionals leaves Nigeria for diverse reasons, popular amongst which is the search for greener pastures.

"For a doctor, it is not so much different. I would like to start with work conditions rather than remunerations. 

“Many have been said about practising in Nigeria not being rewarding financially, emotionally, and satisfactorily due to lack of necessary equipment and drugs as at when needed. 

“The average Nigerian doctor is not able to perform at the best of his ability.

"Patients are lost to flimsy reasons that could have been salvaged with better work conditions which have placed a huge burden on young doctors (who make a huge junk of the ‘japa’ population). 

“The junior doctors are the first line of service delivery and they are hugely overworked and mentally drained, and at the end of the day, their pay is not rewarding.

“In contrast, Nigerian doctors get all these on a platter of gold when they ‘japa.’ From the permanent residency offer to better pay, improved work condition, security, and work satisfaction.

However, Abdulrasaq identified some measures that could be put in place to reduce the rate at which health workers leave the country.

“Just like every other sector, if there is provision for better living conditions, better working conditions, better pay and remunerations, reduced workload, equipment availability, and better governance, I believe this would reduce the rate at which doctors ‘japa’.

"Even with all these in place, the people who will leave will still leave but those who will remain will be satisfied and not regret their decision of staying.

“Personally, I would have preferred a job with satisfactory work conditions and pay here in Nigeria, but then I wouldn't want to be caught in limbo.

"I would work in Nigeria till I feel I can't take it anymore. And if I do leave, I would love to return to give back to my country.”

Speaking from the perspective of one of those who have left the shores of Nigeria, Doctor Elliot (not real name) who is currently based in Saudi Arabia decried the poor remuneration of medical personnel in his home country.

According to him, the masses who benefit from their services don’t value what they do.

“The truth is that doctors are underpaid in Nigeria. Their services are not valued. The government underpays them while the masses don’t value their services.

“People would rather go to a pharmacy to get drugs instead of opting for treatment in the hospital.”

Elliot also revealed that the insecurity bedevilling the nation contributed to him joining the ‘japa’ train.

“Another thing is the security. Doctors are the target of kidnappers cos of the general misconception that they are rich.”

Speaking further, he highlighted the contrasting working environments in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

“It’s incomparable. In Nigeria, it’s like you’re working in a trash. The environment [in Saudi Arabia] is so enabling and the aesthetic value is very high.

“And you’re not stressed; everything is computerized. Nigeria’s healthcare system is so dirty and untidy.”

On whether or not he regrets leaving Nigeria, Doctor Elliot said: “My only regret is that I did not leave sooner.

“There is no doctor [in Nigeria] that has the mindset of ‘I will not leave Nigeria.’ If that exists, it will not be up to one per cent of the doctors.”

Related Topics

Join our Telegram platform to get news update Join Now
Felicia Abisola  Olamiji
Felicia Abisola Olamiji

  A graduate of English Language from Olabisi Onabanjo University, passionate about learning new...

More From this Author


fidson healthcare plc Health Care

Fidson Healthcare Plc started operations on March 1, 1995 as a local distributor...

glaxo smithkline consumer nig. plc Health Care

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc was incorporated in Nigeria on 23rd June 19...

pharma-deko plc Health Care

Pharma- Deko Plc formerly known as Parke- Davis Company started in Nigeria in 19...

ekocorp plc Health Care

Ekocorp PLC began operations in 1977 as Mercy Specialist Clinic. Within a few ye...

may & baker nigeria plc Health Care

May & Baker Nigeria Plc was founded on September 4, 1944 as Nigeria’s ...


0 Comment(s)


See this post in...