By Idowu Bankole
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has told Nigerian doctors willing to go to foreign that there is no such thing as ‘hazard allowance’ aside from their salary in the UK.
Ehanire, in a speech at the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, said the government was working on ensuring better welfare for the doctors.
Speaking on the doctors that were denied boarding for the UK at Lagos airport last week, Ehanire said: “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 a visa.
“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, United States and 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’s 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. 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.
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“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.
“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.
“Now, this UK where they are going to, there’s no hazard allowance. They don’t give doctors a 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.