The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has declared that he spoke from a position of authority when he said Nigerian doctors were free to go abroad to practise.
Ngige had, during an interview session on Sunrise Daily, Channels Television, said such a movement would not impact negatively on Nigeria.
The comment has however drawn controversy with some saying his comment was ill informed.
But reacting, Ngige, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Nwachukwu Obidiwe, in Abuja said he was speaking from a position of authority.
“I speak from the vantage position of being a medical doctor and member, Nigerian Medical Association since June, 1979 and enriched by my vast knowledge on health administration,” he said.
He said further: “Having retired as a Deputy Director, Medical Services and Training from the Federal Ministry of Health in 1998, member of Vision 2010 Committee on Health as well as senior member, Senate Committee on Health 2011-2015.
“Therefore, the truth no matter how it hurts, must be told and reality, boldly faced. Hence, apart from Nigeria’s non-compliance with the World Health Organisation’s ratio of one doctor to six hundred patients of which I was misquoted.
“Every other thing I said in that interview is an existential reality, useful and constructive facts which every Nigerian that watched the full interview will hardly dispute.
“I invite opinion moulders especially those who have spoken or written on this issue to watch the full clip of my interview with the channels.
“And it is for this reason that I admitted having a little cause to worry about brain drain among medical doctors.
“The fact is that while the Federal Government has recorded a remarkably steady improvement in our healthcare system, Nigeria is yet to get there.”
He explained that the facilities in Nigeria were not enough to accommodate the number of doctors produced in the country, hence only about 20 per cent of the yearly applicants were being absorbed while the remaining 80 per cent tried their luck elsewhere.
He said those not absorbed had the right to seek training abroad to sharpen their skills and become specialists.
“They later turn this problem to a national advantage when they repatriate their legitimate earnings and later return to the country.
“Even where some of these doctors are bonded to their overseas training institutions, examples abound on the large number of them who have successfully returned to settle and establish specialist centres across the country.
“It is, therefore, a question of turning your handicap to an advantage,” Ngige said.