... Always Staying on Top of The News

Japa syndrome: When experts, stakeholders gather in Delta to chat strategic framework

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Chika Kwamba

As fitting for an auspicious day, the atmosphere at the Unity Hall of the Government House, Asaba, Delta State was enveloped in an ambience that exuded glamour and a stimulating aura.

Within its walls, a diverse blend of academia, human rights groups and topnotch civil servants had assembled, drawn together to confront the prevailing and troubling issue of brain drain in the country.

The issue of brain drain has plagued Nigeria for a long time but assumed a disturbing dimension at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the hunger to live in an environment surrounded by basic social amenities and opportunities became even more pressing.  Such should be provided by the government to create an enabling and conducive environment for its populace but that is not always the case, especially in Nigerian society.

Water, road networks, power supply, schools, hospitals, police stations, and others, are the basic responsibilities of every government in a democratic setting, but failure to meet these demands calls for deliberate migration for a better environment.  As expressed by Economists, “Man’s desire is insatiable”.

Today, the trend of brain drain, locally known as Japa appears relentless, fueled by a complex interplay of push and pull factors snowballing into brain drain also known as skilled migration.  As it is now a frequently debated worldwide issue of great importance and to have a well-defined and clear representation of what this phenomenon means for individuals, nations, and society it is pertinent we understand the rationale behind brain drain syndrome.

To achieve this, there is the need to figure out the individual justification behind brain drain syndrome. For some individuals; security value, search for greener pastures, value for their services, and a well-structured and conducive environment to function regardless of the job specification and unemployment.

While the triggering factors still linger, the mass exodus of professionals from the shores of Nigeria to enrich and develop other countries in the name of seeking greener pastures becomes worrisome and disturbing. Be that as it may, this syndrome has greatly affected Nigeria’s economy-financial sectors, health, business organisations and education standards.

Recognizing the emerging loss of talent leaving Nigeria and its impact on our nation, patriotic citizens are coming together to proffer solutions and strive for a healthier country not solely relying on the federal and state governments to deal with it.

The question posed at the just concluded 2024 edition of Maris Annual Public Service Lecture: Is the brain drain a blessing or a curse? This inquiry delved into the advantages and disadvantages as highlighted in the recent discourse held in Asaba.

The theme, ‘’Flight of Talents: Navigating Nigeria’s Brain Drain Predicament” sought to proffer a lasting solution to the plight primarily the negative impact on the economy and development of the country at large.

In her keynote address, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delta, Prof (Mrs) Stella Chiemeke said, “In an era characterized by globalization and mobility, the phenomenon of brain drain has emerged due to the emigration of highly skilled and educated individuals from their home country to seek better opportunities abroad.  This migration of talent not only deprives the country of valued human capital but also undermines its prospects for sustainable development and prosperity.

“The hemorrhaging of talents from Nigeria had reached alarming proportions threatening not only the nation’s present but its future.  Statistically, Nigeria loses over 50,000 skilled professionals annually to emigration according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates.”

In the 1970s, Nigeria enjoyed an oil boom that brought great wealth. However, mismanagement, corruption, and economic problems led to downturns. In the past decade, many talented individuals left the country due to various economic, social, and political reasons.

Economically, Nigeria struggles with high unemployment and limited job opportunities, especially in skilled sectors. This drives professionals to seek better prospects abroad for higher salaries and stability.

According to the Development Research and Project Centre, over 5000 Nigerian doctors moved to the UK between 2015 and 2022. The UK General Medical Council reports around 8,737 medical professionals with Nigerian degrees working in the UK.

Prof Chiemeke said that the Africa Polling Institute found a significant increase in Nigerians willing to relocate with their families, rising from 32 per cent in 2019 to 73 per cent in 2021. In 2022, about 34,133 Nigerians were granted work visas for the UK, a top destination.

She proposed proactive measures to address the factors driving Nigeria’s talent flight, urging the Delta State House of Assembly to take action by enacting laws that target the root causes of brain drain. These laws, she said, should include programs aimed at improving residents’ lives and initiatives to re¬tain and attract skilled professionals to the state.

‘’The Delta House of Assembly serves as a platform for advocacy and representation, amplifying the voices of constituents and stakeholders affected by the brain drain syndrome.

‘’By engaging with civil society organisations, professional associations and other stakeholders, the Assembly can gather input, solicit feedback and champion policies that reflect the needs and aspirations of the people of Delta State through public hearings, town hall meetings, legislative debates and also raising awareness about the challenges of brain drain, mobilising support for targeted interventions, and galvanising collective actions towards finding sustainable solutions.

‘’However, through a well-defined, action-oriented approach, Nigeria can stem the tide of brain drain and unlock its true potential.  This requires a multi-pronged strategy tackling both the internal “push” factors and external “pull” factors of developed nations driving individuals abroad.

‘’To address internal challenges, we need to invest heavily in critical infrastructures and services like power, transport, and healthcare. This will improve business competition and attract skilled professionals.

She suggested that to counter external pull factors, dialogue with major destination countries was key. ‘’Exploring solutions such as skill exchange programs or collaborative research initiatives can reduce outward migration while fostering knowledge exchange.

‘’To sustain progress, facilitating knowledge transfer through brain gain initiatives is crucial. Collaboration between Nigerians abroad and local talent benefits both parties and strengthens the nation’s knowledge base’’ she said.

Other speakers in a panel session highlighted the factors fueling the brain drain syndrome including economic hardship, unemployment, and unavailability of power for production, inflations, and galloping exchange rates.

The moderator of the discourse, a renowned university Don, Dr Kemi Emina, and the Chief Economic Adviser to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State, Dr Pere Gbe, reasoned that brain drain might have also benefited Nigeria through diaspora remittances.

Some of the panelists argued that brain drain has contributed to the development of Nigeria while others emphatically frowned against it. Opinions such as this were raised; should there be a law regulating the movement of skilled professionals under private and government firms who desire to relocate abroad for a better life?

To that effect, the panelists suggested the termination of the appointments of any civil servant who exceeds his study leave abroad and refuses to return to the country. They stressed that thousands of Nigerian workers who relocated abroad are still on the government payroll.

According to them, ‘’the Federal Government should decisively ban political officeholders, and other government executives seeking better healthcare services and treatment abroad whilst channeling more funds into our healthcare system.

Particularly, one of the panelists and Commissioner for Technical Education, Hon Joan Onyemaechi opined that a renewed value system would go a long way in discouraging the flight of talents from the country.  According to her ‘’Applaud every employee or staff under your organization for the service rendered, value their input and make them feel relevant for their service regardless of their class.’’

Other discussants identified poor governance/leadership, and systemic failures among the causes of talents fleeing the country, even as they suggested attitudinal changes among the government and the governed.

Recall that President Bola Tinubu had on January 15, 2024, assured Nigerians not to be bothered about the mass exodus of skilled workers from the country, assuring the citizens that the Federal Government in collaboration with sub-nationals would train more persons to fill the gap now conspicuous in health, technology and other sectors.

This echoes as an assurance that Nigeria is an outsourcing hub where talents are bred and exported to other countries.   Are we not depriving ourselves of reaping from our investments after so many years of imparting and training skilful and knowledgeable men and women?

For a better working system, the Nigerian government should incorporate the working and pay system of the United Kingdom (UK) or the United States of America( USA) and infuse such into our system to retain our good, talented, and productive hands.

The crux of the matter is encapsulated in the words of Desmond Tutu, a renowned South African Bishop and theologian: “We need to stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.”

Our leaders and those in positions of power are called upon to enact bold, innovative solutions that not only create opportunities but also foster innovation and inspire hope among our talented professionals.

The year 2024 edition of Maris Annual Public Service Lecture had  Prof. Stella Chinye Chiemeke, Vice Chancellor, University of Delta, UNIDEL, Agbor as Guest Speaker, Hon. Pastor Jonathan Ukodhiko, member, House of Representatives, Isoko Constituency as Chairman of occasion, Lady Rosaline Amioku, JP, acting Chairman, Delta State Civil Service Commission as Mother of the Day, and Rev. Fr. John Konyeke as Father of the Day.

The panel of discussants comprised Rt. Hon. Joan Onyemaechi, Commissioner, Ministry of Technical Education, Delta State, Dr Barry Gbe, Chief Economic Adviser to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State, Chief Philomena Ededey Ughemihaye, former member, Delta State Universal Basic Education Board, Chief Dr. Tony Amechi, Special Adviser to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori on Investments, and Freddie T. Eruli-Ede, Esq, former Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Asaba branch while Chief Kemi Emina, was the Moderator.

In his speech at the occasion, the Chairman of Maris Trust Council, Chief Sir Kenneth Olise, said, “Maris Annual Public Service Lecture series holds every Wednesday before Easter Sunday, that is, the Wednesday of the Holy Week to discuss topical issues with the sole aim of proffering solutions to the challenges of the society.”

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.