On April 6, 2023, the Nigerian House of Representatives announced a Bill for all Nigerian-trained medical and dental practitioners to complete five years of mandatory service before receiving full practising licences. 

The Bill has passed for second reading and was targeted at stopping the massive “brain drain” of doctors who seek greener pastures in other countries.

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This was received with massive criticism from Nigerians. Government officials were especially criticised for not using Nigerian hospitals. Human rights organisations such as IPC Justice called the bill “a violation of the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights standards.

But now that we’ve heard from the citizens, what are these doctors saying?

“I’ll not practice medicine if the Bill is passed”

For Amos*, a 400-level student at Obafemi Awolowo University, it is unthinkable for him to spend six years studying medicine (it’s more if you add strike periods) and still wait five extra years before getting a licence.

According to Amos, “I was supposed to have graduated from medical school this year, but due to the public nature of my university, I am still in 400 level. If you consider strikes, I may finish medical school in three to four years, and after horsemanship and youth service, I’d still have to practice for five years before I get a full license. That’s way too much.

“The low remuneration and endless work hours are already a turn-off for anyone entering Nigeria’s medical system. If the House of Representatives passes this Bill, best believe I’d not practice medicine after graduation. I would’ve quit medical school, but I’m in 400 level already and can’t drop the ball now.”

Sighs in tiredness

“I intend to leave the country as soon as possible.”

Jane, a radiographer who recently finished her internship at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), sees the Bill as a ‘foolish idea’. She also feels that the monetary rewards given for the risks taken in her work are unsatisfactory.

“I think it’s a foolish idea. Instead of proposing such a Bill to the legislation, the government needs to provide and promote measures that would increase the desire of medical practitioners to remain in the country. 

They say they are trying to curb the brain drain, but the country wouldn’t be experiencing this if the working and living conditions were great. So many of my colleagues in the UK and Canada keep telling me about the working and living conditions they’re experiencing there. Way better than here. 

Imagine being paid ₦5,000 as a monthly hazard allowance for a doctor? Do they know about the hazards we’re exposed to at work? From minor infections to major diseases? 

Then, they said they’d increase it from ₦5k to ₦27k and pay the months we’ve been owed. It has been months since they said that, and we are yet to receive the money. They paid for two months, and that’s it. 

These and many other reasons are the conditions pushing many of us out of this country. If the working conditions of the UK are not favourable, this brain drain will not happen.

Interestingly, in March 2021, the United Kingdom announced that it would stop recruiting doctors and nurses in 47 countries, including Nigeria, in alignment “with World Health Organisation’s (WHO) advice on ethical recruitment to promote effective, fair, and fair sustainable international recruitment practices”.

“The health sector needs attention, but they’re doing it the wrong way”

Dr Obi*, a LUTH physiotherapist, understands the government’s need to do something about the brain drain, but she disagrees with the methods.

She said, “I have mixed feelings about the Bill because I understand their motives. The brain drain of doctors in Nigeria has become a nightmare. Finding doctors for shifts is extremely hard, and one can work five nights in a row. It is also hard to see doctors that would work in a hospital for over a year before they “japa.” So I get it.

However, there is a need for the government to do things the right way. The House of Representatives failed to address the main reason these doctors are leaving — a growing lack of discontentment with their welfare from the government.

The right thing to do should be to address the doctor’s pay issues (which is why they are fleeing the country in their numbers), equip the hospitals and give a tangible hazard allowance.

Also, we have cases of patients maltreating doctors, which doesn’t happen in a sane society. All these put together drive the doctors, both young and old, to seek greener pastures.

What can you do about it?

This is a Bill that is of high risk to the human rights of all Nigeria medical and dental practitioners.

If you’re a doctor or even a concerned citizen passionate about not seeing this bill become a reality, you can call or email your representatives in the House. Click on the names in this list for their contact information.

Hopefully, they pick up



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