Nigerian Doctors, Nurses Heading to Sierra Leone, Gambia for Better Pay, Varsity CMD Tells Lawmakers 

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors/Medical Directors of Federal Tertiary Hospitals, Prof. Emem Bassey, has said that Nigerian doctors and nurses and other health professionals are now leaving the country for Sierra Leone, The Gambia and other African countries to earn better pay.

Bassey, who is the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, revealed that Nigerian health professionals are being paid between $3,000 and $4,000 monthly in places like Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

He made this known on Wednesday when he appeared before the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee probing employment racketeering in Federal Government agencies alongside the heads of other health institutions in the country.

Bassey stated categorically that the country’s health sector is currently undergoing a major crisis in terms of manpower as health professionals are leaving in droves.

His words: “Some African countries are also beginning to poach from Nigeria. The west coast is looking for our specialists. So many people are now going to places like Sierra Leone and The Gambia and the wages, they earn $3,000, 4000. It is about three to four times what they earn back home. So we are beginning to see that people are leaving to other African countries too.

“The health sector is currently undergoing a major crisis in terms of manpower.  What we are seeing is that medical specialists, not just doctors, even nurses, in fact even more nurses are even leaving. Doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, physiotherapists, radiographers and all manner of health professionals are leaving the country in droves. 

“That is part of the problem we are facing. Replacement of these health workers is a very major problem. This is because even though we are usually granted approvals to recruit, getting the waivers is a tortuous process.”

Bassey stressed that due to the urgency of the need to replace various health professionals who left, it was difficult to comply with federal character in recruitments.

Bearing his mind on the incessant strike embarked upon by doctors, Bassey explained that strike should be the very last option.

According to him, “One of the things we have seen has been the fact that we see threats and threats and threats. And instead of, I would say, governments in the past sitting down to negotiate resolutions that are feasible, just because you want to end a strike, you have agreements that you cannot implement. And then after a certain period, six months or one year and you have not implemented it, people now go on strike. So we need to sit down together.”

The Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi, urged the doctors to be patriotic by staying back to contribute to the development of the country, even if they have better options abroad.

He stated: “I admit there is a lack of advanced medical facilities in our health sector. This is a fact and we must, as a government, pay attention to that. 

“Where we are confused is the aspect of lack of patriotism. You are produced by Nigerian institutions. We admit the brain drain and are trying to find solutions. We are happy to see you here. A lot of you have the connections maybe based on the value of your intellect to be in the developed countries and provide services to them. But most of you find fashion in adding value to your own motherland and fatherland. 

“What are you telling your co-professionals about patriotism, about giving back to the society that gave you the knowledge? We challenge you to throw to your own profession the issue of morality. You cannot disown your father no matter how poor he is for taking you this far to go and adopt somebody’s father. Nigeria is our country. Nigeria produced us as medical doctors, no matter the rot within our public sector in terms of remuneration. Let us work together and see how we can find solutions to that. But let us remain in Nigeria to serve our own country.

“We would review your submissions entirely. These institutions that have pending recruitment cases, we would interface with them uniquely. Those of you that don’t have, we would look into your issue. You have a very good defence for now having a balanced sheet in terms of federal character. Nigerians have listened to you. So whatever this committee at the end of the day recommends to the government it is going to be done and it is for our own good entirely.”

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