By Khadijah Tijani
I have read many reactions to the recent trend of young and vibrant Nigerian doctors leaving the country for greener pastures. I also saw the interview with the minister who said the doctors are free to go because “we already have too many of them”. Some people even blamed these “selfish” doctors for refusing to stay after benefitting from “ridiculously cheap” medical education, blah, blah.
Oh well… Maybe I missed it, but I don’t know if anyone has talked about what these doctors are paying in exchange for their right to leave. Where these funds are going is another question begging for clear answers.
For you to get a new passport or renew an old one, you need to pay something between 35k and 70k depending on the number of pages and the validity period. But you also need to tip some officers so that your passport can be issued on time.
Some universities do not issue your final certificate until years after graduation. Transcripts are not available online. You need to travel down from wherever you are and go to your university to make a request. If you are lucky, you will get it after several weeks. And yes, they will also charge you a not-so-little administrative fee for that.
Suppose you are asked to send a source-verified copy of your credentials to a regulatory body, for example, Saudi Council for Health Specialties. In that case, you need to pay up to 30k for each document to be verified and additional fees for courier services. Moreover, since many universities still don’t have functional emails or reachable phone numbers, you still have to travel down to get it done or pay someone to do it for you.
Talking of regulatory bodies, they also want to be sure that you are a good doctor and have never been in trouble while practising in Nigeria. So, they will ask you to submit a certificate of good standing, which goes for 66k. Some will also ask for detailed medical checks and police clearance certificates – more expenses. You have to pay for the medicals even if it’s where you currently work.
When you are done with all that, and you finally move out of the country, you will still get yearly reminders to pay your dues to remain a licenced doctor in Nigeria. Of course, some people stop paying, but I know many doctors who still send their 10 to 20k annually. They even mandated us to pay 40k contributions towards the new NMA building last year.
Every university and medical college have their respective association of alumni in the diaspora. They contribute millions of naira to their alma mater each year. In addition, they send expensive machines to help in-patient care and loads of materials to aid in medical teaching. Unfortunately, some of these supplies might become sabotaged by the killjoys within the institutions if there is no direct supervision and maintenance.
I have not even mentioned the off-record funds you have to send to family and friends back home every month. Or the huge amount of money that doctors have invested in small to large businesses in the country. Or the free medical and surgical services many have provided to the people whenever they come home on vacations. Or the big hospitals many have established to create employment for the people, among other things.
I am worried about the brain drain, but I am also concerned about the people who do not understand the pain of an average doctor who wants to leave. They think it is easy to wake up one morning and jump on the next flight. And oh! Flight ticket and all the hurdles you need to pass through before you cross the border… Phew!
Since they think we are too many and can be exported like cash crops, we also need to ask them where the money from the foreign exchange is going. Are they building more hospitals or renovating the old ones? Are they providing enough medical supplies to work with? Are they paying the salaries of the few or “just enough” doctors left behind?
We need answers, please.
Khadijah Tijani is a medical doctor, she writes from Ibadan, and she can be reached be through Askodoctorkt@gmail.com or @AskDoctorKT.