Nigeria’s minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said, Nigerians in foreign countries have applied to return to the country to offer their medical services.
Speaking at the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, he said there is no need for doctors to exit the country as the government was working on ensuring better welfare for them.
On the 58 doctors who were prevented from leaving the country recently over visa issues, Ehanire said the news came as a surprise, but noted that the movement was irregular as many of them were without visas.
He added that he was not aware if the doctors had eventually left the country.
“We were all surprised to hear that they were at the airport. I think somehow or the other, it was irregular in that many of them did not have visas. I don’t know what evidence you have, maybe it’s a rumour that they have now left the country, I don’t know, but nobody should be leaving the country without visa,” he said.
“Those who have been trained by scholarship and they’re on a job have a moral responsibility to give back. Even now, we have large numbers of Nigerian doctors in the UK, in the United States, in Europe who apply to come every year to come and serve, even though they were not even trained here or they were not even trained at state expense.
“They have the obligation to come and give back to the community. It’s just a moral obligation. So, every year, it is called the diaspora health professionals initiative. Some of them spend their own money and they come here, bring equipment, materials, commodities. Every year, they come and help us.
“They really owe the country nothing, but out of a sense of obligation, which is really commendable and we are in fact trying to improve on that initiative now and to see that we get the best out of the experience and the cutting-edge knowledge and skills that they bring from abroad.
“So, even more so, those who are here, and you have been trained and you have a job, it is better to also give back to your community. And others who want to leave, Nigeria does not have a policy on restricting movement. But some countries do; some countries have that policy but we don’t.”
He added that Nigeria is one of a few countries worldwide that pay hazard allowance, and the government is trying to improve salaries for medical personnel in the country.
“We are trying to make sure that the remuneration is good. I think we are one of the few countries that are actually giving this hazard allowance,” he said.
“Now, this UK where they are going to, there’s no hazard allowance. They don’t give doctors hazard allowance. You just get your salary, that’s all. I’ve spoken to doctors there and they said it’s part of their job, part of what they’re trained for.
“But here, apart from your salary, we still try to add something to it in the hope that we’re going to attract our people to stay.”
He also urged state governments to prioritise the employment of doctors as part of efforts to encourage doctors to stay.