Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, has warned Nigerian doctors planning to relocate to the United Kingdom that they will not enjoy benefits such as hazard allowance should they relocate.
Ehanire stated this at the press briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Thursday in response to a question regarding the attempt of 58 Nigerians doctors to travel to the UK last week.
The 58 doctors, who had received provisional employment in the UK, were stopped by the Nigeria Immigration Service at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, last week because they did not have visas.
Ehanire said he had enquired and has it on good authority that doctors working in the UK only receive their regular salary, noting that incentives such as hazard allowance is not being paid there.
He said: “I think we are one of the few countries giving hazard allowance. This UK where they are going, there is no hazard allowance, they don’t give doctors hazard allowance but you just get you salary, that is all because I have spoken to the doctors there.
“They say it is part of your job and that is what you are trained for. They don’t pay you anything but here apart from your salary we try to add something to it with the hope that you will stay. We also appeal to state governments to prioritise the employment of doctors some of whom have not been employed.”
Ehanire said he was not aware if the doctors had eventually left the country, noting that Nigeria does not have a policy of stopping doctors who wanted to emigrate.
He, however, insisted that the doctors must have visas before they can leave the country.
“With regards to the 58 doctors, we were all surprised to hear that they were at the airport and it was irregular in that many of them did not have visas. I don’t know what evidence you have whether they have left the country but no one should leave the country without a visa,” he said.
The minister added that Nigerian doctors who are seeking to leave the country, especially those trained in either through scholarships or subsidised education, have a moral obligation to give back and serve their communities rather than seeking for greener pastures.
“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 said.