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Brain drain: Why Nigerian doctors are migrating abroad-NMA

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By Victoria Onehi

The President Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Dr Uche Ojinmah, has identified poor funding of the health sector,lack of incentives, insecurity has major causes of health workers migration out of the country.

Ojinmah was speaking at a one day National Sympisium on Nigerias recent health sector brain drain and its implications for sustainable Child and family health Service delivery organised by National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC) held in Abuja yesterday.

“The WHO has continued to clamor for member countries to give at least 13 per cent of its minimum allocation to the health sector if they must adequately meet the healthcare needs of their citizens. The Nigerian government even went further to sign the African Union’s Abuja Declaration of 2001 where all member countries promised to allocate 15 per cent of its annual budget to the health sector.

“Sadly, since the mandate from the WHO and the Abuja Declaration, Nigeria’s budget allocation for health has remained consistently low between 2.0 and 6.0 per cent (5.75% for 2023 proposed budget).” Ojinmah said.

The NMA chair said the government must act fast as Nigeria is losing its best materials for residency training and are also losing their trainers to brain drain. “Today, we virtually train doctors for export.”he said.

Corroborating this, the DG NIPSS, Prof Ayo Omotayo.said currently, Nigeria has the third highest number of foreign medical doctors working in the United Kingdom after India and Pakistan. “This has made the doctors to patient ratio in our country to be 1:10,000 as against the WHO recommendation of 1:1,000.”

“A total of 727 medical doctors trained in Nigeria relocated to the United Kingdom alone in 6 months, between December 2021 and May 2022. 

“The data from the Register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of the UK shows that the number of Nigeria-trained nurses increased by 68.4 percent from 2,790 in March 2017 to 7,256 in March 2022.” he said.

Omotayo said what makes it worrisome is the fact that this trend of skill migration from the health sector is happening when Nigerias population is expanding geometrically.

“This therefore calls for an improve health workers’ supply to tackle the supply deficit in order to solve the disease burden and positively turn the tide of health indicators.”he said.

Based on these concerns which are frightening, Omotayo said the National Institute decided to collaborate with its longtime partner, the development Research and Projects Center in convening this national symposium to reflect  on the state of the country’s health sector  particularly the human capital loss to migration at the national and sub-national levels and its implications.


The Country Director,Pathfinder International in Nigeria,Dr Amina Aminu Dorayi said in Nigeria,the Primary Health Care is the cornerstone of our health system.But as it is presently,the migration of health care workers has brought dare need for health personnel at the Primary Health Care centers.” You can see that at many health Care facilities, you will notice that there is one or no doctor.Most of the doctors there are NYSC doctors who are not experienced enough to man the Health Care facility.”she said

 Dorayi said if government want to improve the health care situation at the primary health care level and for womens health, it must improve renumeration for health care workers to pull those migrating abroad back.


The Minister of Health,Osagie Ehanire, represented by  Sydney Ibeanusi, Director of Trauma, Emergency and Disaster Response, said government is looking at how to improve facilities, infrastructure and improve incentives for health workers to see how to attract some of the health personnel who have migrated back to the country.

“The other factor we are looking at as a government is to see how we repartriate the skilled persons and knowledge back to the country to partner with government to be able to provide quality service.” he said.


The Director Programmes at the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC),  Dr Stanley Ukpia said if Nigeria is to achieve Universal Health Coverage and extend healthcare services to reach the hard to reach areas,it needs the human capital.” We need the human resources for health.For us,this is something we are worried about.And we looking through this avenue to provide solutions,recommendations to government to stem the tide or solve the solution of brain train in Nigeria.” Ukpia said.

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