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The frenzy to ‘japa’ and efforts to end Nigeria’s economic brain drain

The frenzy to ‘japa’ and efforts to end Nigeria’s economic brain drain
October 17
10:04 2021

BY MOMOH EMMANUEL OMEIZA

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If we were to ask the average Nigerian today about their plans in the next five years, it is almost certain that many, if not all of them, would reply about their decision to travel out. Do we blame them though? Considering the various crisis and societal challenges which continually threaten their existence as well as make their chances of survival bleak.

Furthermore, the prolonged refusal of the government to cater for the needs of its citizens, who have been adjudged to take a lion’s share of the population of the African continent, is among the reasons which inform the decision of many to move out of the country in the search for greener pastures.

Based on reliable statistics, countries within the European and American axis have been fertile ground and a safe haven for many of these emigrants. While it is unarguably true that these emigrants have made their home country proud in the areas of business sustainability and scientific inventions, nonetheless, the colossal damages of this emigration on Nigeria’s economy cannot be quantified effectively.

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Critical areas of Nigeria’s economy such as health are almost on the verge of collapse due to the incessant industrial actions which are the byproducts of the lack of respect for labour agreements, among other things.

Barely a month ago, Chris Ngige who serves as the minister of labour and productivity had noted that the Nigerian health industry had a surplus of doctors and other medical practitioners. Hence, the issue of migrating to other countries wasn’t a cause of concern since there were many hands working in the sector.

Almost a few days after, the Nigerian medical environment suffered a setback due to strikes embarked by the National Association of Medical Doctors (NARD). The United Arab Emirates, apparently perceiving this, embarked on recruitment of doctors into its country.

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Can we then assume that Ngige’s statement was factual, especially with the report by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organisation revealing that Nigeria has a low doctor-patient ratio? The report further noted that unless something is done in the nation’s health sector, a doctor might be forced to attend to more than 5,000 patients as against the recommended 500.

The health sector isn’t the only one suffering from the brain drain phenomena as other critical areas such as the manufacturing and construction industries are almost on the verge of collapse due to the loss of precious professionals to foreign establishments.

A walk through the offices of many establishments reveals the presence of expatriates. The famous Julius Berger Ltd, which is a civil engineering construction company, has the presence of many foreigners among its payroll. Does this mean we don’t have indigenous professionals who are skilled and have the necessary expertise to conduct its operations?

Not minding the cost implications which most times outweigh the benefits, many Nigerian youths have constantly sought a way to exit the shores of the country. Some even go as far as incurring loans and debts just to ensure they become citizens of other countries.

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The causative factors for Nigeria’s brain drain, according to experts, are not farfetched. The Stears magazine had reported that issues bordering around a moribund economy, high level of insecurity, unjustifiable rates of unemployment are some of the reasons for Nigeria’s brain drain. Other causes include the indifference of the government and its adjunct institutions to respect human rights, the lack of patronage for locally made goods by leaders, etc.

The resultant effect of this has been the constant budgeting of trillions for personnel training and development which eventually yields no meaningful result. A Vanguard newspaper editorial said Nigeria spends over $1bn training professionals who eventually migrate abroad. The editorial also observed that each “professional lost to other countries represents a loss of $184, 000”.

Even in the educational environment, many professors have to fight their way through into becoming citizens of other countries due to the above-listed factors and more — such as poor infrastructure, meagre take-home salaries and allowances as well as an increase in workload, which in extreme cases is 200 students to a single lecturer.

Putting an end to Nigeria’s brain drain requires the collective approach of all and sundry towards ensuring that the juicy offers which warrant many Nigerian professionals moving abroad are also made available here. Our inability to achieve this will continue to be the clog in the wheel of our national progress.

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