May 20, 2023

Japa: Why more Nigerian nurses will relocate abroad 

Nigerian nurses

By Biodun Busari 

There are possibilities that thousands of Nigerian nurses and midwives will relocate abroad in search of greener pastures if the incoming government fails to address the low wages and salaries, poor working conditions, and shortage of staff confronting the nursing profession. 

Nigerian nurses revealed this, days after the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) raised an alarm that over 75,000 nurses and midwives have left the country in the last five years. 

NANNM President, Michael Nnachi made the revelation last week, during this year’s international nurses week with the theme: ‘Our Nurses, Our Future’. 

“As a result of poor wages, and lack of decent work environments, over 75,000 nurses and midwives have migrated from Nigeria within a period of five years,” Nnachi said.

Prior to the 2023 elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate who has emerged as President-elect, Bola Tinubu, said he will introduce innovative policies that will overhaul the Nigerian health sector. 

Vanguard spoke with nurses from across the country after the event, and the majority insisted that comparing the nursing profession in the United Kingdom, Canada and other developed countries to Nigeria is like comparing honey to a bitter leaf. 

They said they would grab the opportunity to travel and practise their nursing and midwifery profession abroad if the incoming administration to be inaugurated in a few days, does not plan to address all deficiencies bedevilling the medical profession as a whole. 

A senior nursing officer at a federal hospital in Ogun State, Ms Irene Oreoluwa, said Nigerian nurses are suffering because “Nursing is no more hyped in Africa. Things are not favourable from salary to the proper working environment. We accept it because we don’t have much to say about it, as nurses are the lowest paid in government settings. 

Talking about her experience, “Nursing has been a wonderful profession from time immemorial, and I still find it to be an exceptional profession that deals with professionalism.” 

In her own disposition of how ‘japa syndrome’ (exodus of teachers, nurses, and students overseas) has affected Nigeria, a staff nurse in Epe, Lagos State, Bukola Akinmolayemi said, “The workload on nurses is too high due to shortage of staff and the governments are not ready to recruit enough staff nurses. This poses an issue on the mental health of the nurses.” 

She further said nurses embark on massive relocation to the UK and other countries because there is “more equipment abroad to practise with in order to ensure quality care rendered to patients. Also, the value of our currency is not encouraging here in Nigeria.” 

Oreoluwa added, “Relocation is now a trend. We call it Japa! This trend is more favourable to health workers, especially nurses because the pay is three times better than what we earn in Nigeria and other African countries. There are good working conditions and other benefits that follow. Who would see honey and settle for a bitter leaf?” 

Akinmolayemi said, “I will be willing to travel abroad if I see the opportunity. The reason is that working abroad will help my nursing profession with a broader perspective and knowledge because each country has a unique healthcare system.” 

Speaking about the incoming administration, Oreoluwa said, “Government should build good working environments, increase hazard allowances, motivate workers with bonuses, and increase nurses’ salaries, and I believe with this at least some people would reconsider relocating abroad.” 

“My advice to the incoming government is to recruit nurses, increase their salaries and provide more equipment for practice,” Akinmolayemi added.