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Within the last decade or more, the japa syndrome has spread rapidly across Nigeria, especially among young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40. Nigerians have been migrating abroad for study since colonial times, so it is not a new phenomenon. The only difference between then and now is that most people would return home to establish reputable businesses or become somebody here. It is safe to say there was a positive pipeline between japa’-ing and national development back in the day. If you look at our industry leaders today, most are products of international education. However, the recent japa syndrome has no positive pipeline to national development. It is a lack of national development which also affects national development. Did I confuse you? This article, A LOOK INTO BRAIN DRAIN IN NIGERIA CAUSED BY JAPA, will explain.

Causes of Brain Drain in Nigeria

One of the root causes of the japa syndrome lies in Nigeria’s struggle to achieve sustainable development and provide opportunities for its citizens. Economic instability, political unrest, inadequate infrastructure, insecurity and limited access to quality education and healthcare contribute to the disillusionment among the youth. There is some level of uncertainty about what the future holds, especially for young Nigerians. Faced with these challenges, many feel compelled to seek better prospects elsewhere. This perpetuates a cycle of brain drain and hinders national progress. Rather than being driven by a desire to contribute to progress, many young Nigerians are leaving due to these systemic challenges. This current reality may exacerbate Nigeria’s existing challenges by draining the nation of its brightest talents and future leaders.

Is the Healthcare Sector affected more?

In a recent survey by Philips Consulting, 90% of employees have faced the increased cost of living and weakened purchasing power within the last year, and have had to adjust to the current economic situation in the country by cutting costs, picking between essential and non-essential items. As inflation rises, remunerations remain the same, leading to an increment in lack of job satisfaction. Of the 90% of employees facing an increased cost of living, 52% had plans to leave the country. 

What is the doctor-patient ratio in Nigeria?

The healthcare sector is one sector that is strongly affected by this brain drain issue in Nigeria. As of February 2024, the doctor-patient ratio in Nigeria stood at 1-9083, as against the WHO recommended 1-6000. Over 5000 Nigerian doctors have left for the UK alone in the last nine years. And the number of doctors leaving the country continues to increase annually. It has brought about a shortage of healthcare practitioners, in the already dwindling health sector in the country.

Even today, healthcare practitioners in the country continue to protest the overwhelming effect that this brain-drain situation in Nigeria has on them, with hospitals and clinics filled with patients and understaffed. For patients, on the other hand, there already is a lack of sufficient specialists in the country. So, they are now faced with prolonged wait times, limited access to specialized care, and compromised quality of treatment. This situation jeopardizes individual health outcomes and undermines efforts to combat prevalent diseases and improve general public health.

The effects on the Financial sector

For other sectors like finance, you find organizations like banks filling in positions with not-so-qualified individuals to fill in the gaps left by brain drain. Organizations are now spending more training individuals in record time so they can fit into and fill certain positions. Due to this, some employees are now being underpaid because they are being “managed” by their employers. This approach to managing the brain-drain situation has proved inadequate as there is a decline in productivity and quality of services, hence, low customer satisfaction.  

Moreover, underpayment becomes prevalent as organizations seek to offset the training cost and manage underqualified staff. Employees work long hours under stressful conditions to meet expectations, with little compensation or recognition for their efforts. This exploitation aggravates dissatisfaction among workers and contributes to the cycle of discontent within the workforce, which is one of the major causes of the japa syndrome.

Government plan to stop the Brain drain

So, what is the government doing about the current situation? Well, nothing! One of Nigeria’s strengths is in its human capital. The people are there, but where are the jobs? There seem to be no programs or schemes to motivate young people to stay in the country. The recent attempts to curb the brain drain situation have felt more like hostage situations than interventions. For example, from the 1st of March 2024, Nigerian-trained nurses will not be granted a license to practice abroad unless they have practised in the country for at least two years. And sometime in 2023, a bill was proposed that for doctors to get a license to practice abroad only after practising in the country for five years. 

According to the government, the goal is to restrict the outflow of medical professionals and encourage them to contribute to the growth of the Nigerian healthcare system. However, these measures caused mixed reactions, with many criticizing them as punitive rather than constructive. While the intention may be to encourage professionals to remain in Nigeria and address critical gaps in healthcare delivery, the delivery of such policies has raised concerns about individual freedom and career mobility.

How to stop the brain drain

These restrictive measures overlook the underlying issues driving the brain-drain phenomenon. Without addressing the systemic challenges facing various sectors, efforts to retain skilled professionals will fall short. The lack of job opportunities, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to quality education and healthcare all contribute to the disappointment driving young Nigerians abroad. Nigeria needs a comprehensive approach to deal with the brain drain and harness the potential of its human capital. This includes investing in job creation, improving working conditions and incentives for professionals, enhancing education and training programs, and strengthening the overall business environment to attract investment and foster economic growth. Nigeria can position itself as a hub for talent retention and sustainable development by nurturing talent and providing avenues for personal and professional growth.


Today, we do not see the realities of these interventions happening to stop the brain drain in Nigeria. This begs the question, do you want to be part of those staying, grinding and hoping for a better Nigeria? Or do you want to go outside in search of greener pastures? We will leave you to decide that.


Author Isaac

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