What is common in Nigeria nowadays is the migration system or the way people are migrating out of the country, popularly known as the “Japa” syndrome.
The rate of migration in Nigeria in the past few years is becoming alarming, and it is because of the adverse economic and political situation of the country.
Many people who are leaving the country do so for greener pastures, better education system, better job or any other reason. Those who are migrating are mostly young people, and they do so immediately after their tertiary education or because of job loss.
Sadly, most of these migrants who leave the country are assets for the development of Nigeria. Many of them have skills that, if nurtured and groomed, can help Nigeria become a country that is developed and conducive for people to live in.
Nigerians are blessed intellectually and physically. And since Nigeria’s system is poor, they would take their skills to another country, utilise their skills and make their host country better.
So, Nigeria is losing many of its potential citizens due to the poor system. In first-world countries like US, UK and Europe, most of the best professionals in the medical, political, educational and economic sectors are Nigerians.
Although these talents/skills are originally ours, but due to our corrupt system of government, we cannot invest in these talents to develop our country.
Therefore, these people migrate to other countries where their talents will be of good use, which is also a loss for Nigeria.
The current net migration rate for Nigeria in 2023 is -0.273 per 1000 population, a 2.5% decline from 2022. The net migration rate for Nigeria in 2022 was -0.280 per 1000 population, a 2.78% decline from 2021.
The Concept of Brain Drain
The term “brain drain” is also known as human capital flight. It means largescale movement or migration of top flight manpower from various developing countries (predominantly African countries) to more developed countries notably United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Holland, New Zealand and Australia. As earlier stated, the chief reason for this movement is the quest for better opportunities.
Similarly, the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines brain drain as “a movement of highly skilled or professional people from their own country to a country where they can earn more money.”
With particular reference to the university system, Utile (2008) conceptualises brain drain as “the mass exodus of highly trained and well-experienced academics from countries with poor conditions of service to those with better work conditions in search of greener pasture.”
Brain drain is common among such skilled personnel as medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses, medical laboratory scientists, industrial chemists and pilots. Others are computer scientists, engineers, university lecturers, researchers and lawyers.
The term “brain drain” originally referred to technological workers leaving a nation. But nowadays its application or meaning has widened to include the migration of educated and professional people from one country, economic sector or field for another, usually for better remuneration and/or living conditions (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2010).
Brain drain is usually considered an economic cost on the part of their leasing countries. This is because migrants usually take with them a fraction of the value of their training sponsored by governments or other organisations. It could be likened to capital flight which refers to the same movement of financial capital.
The converse of brain drain is brain gain. Thus, while developing countries from which trained personnel are migrating are suffering from brain drain, developed nations are experiencing brain gain.
Basically, brain drain entails the transfer of knowledge, experience, skill and expertise from one region, country or geographic location to another. Brain drain has grown in scale due to recent developments in modern electronic information technology, the widening of the gap between the South and the North and the spread of corporate globalisation, an increasing political instability, civil wars and social and religious strife in many Southern and African countries, of which Nigeria is one.
Effects of Brain Drain on Nigeria
Brain drain has been identified as one of the principal factors hampering development in Nigeria, especially in the university system, teaching hospitals and research centres. This was especially during the 1990s (Adebayo, 2010). The phenomenon has caused and continues to cause incalculable damage to the country. Its effects on Nigeria are legion and multifarious.
Some of the consequences are discussed below:
- Drastic fall in the standard of education: The mass movement of highly skilled and seasoned academics from Nigeria’s tertiary institutions (particularly universities) to overseas countries for greener pastures has certainly adversely affected the quality of outputs from the institutions. As Yesufu (1996) aptly observes, “the quality of graduates is so poor that their impact on the national economy in terms of productivity is generally below the required standard for a developing economy.”
- Retardation of socio-economic and technological growth and development of Nigeria: There is no gainsaying the fact that like other developing nations, brain drain has seriously retarded the socio-economic and technological growth and development of Nigeria. This is by depleting her natural supply of intellectual and valuable manpower. Evidence abounds to show that there are many talented and well-educated Nigerians such as medical doctors, pharmacists, nurses, medical laboratory scientists, computer scientists, professors, lawyers, pilots, etc. working and living in overseas (especially in the West). The educational and health sectors of the Nigerian economy appear to be the most affected by brain drain. For instance, according to Jibril and Obaje (2008), a source estimates the population of Nigerians in the United States of America as follows: “as of 2004, up to 3.24 million Nigerians were in the United States alone… Some 374, 000 were information technology professionals, 202,000 were medical and allied professionals, about 50,000 were engineers and another 250,000 were professionals in other areas, including university lecturers.”
- Increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the receiving countries:
Undoubtedly, with the flight of seasoned intellectuals and professionals to other countries due mainly to better opportunities, the GDP of the receiving countries are boosted. Consequently, while the receiving countries are the winners, the releasing countries (Nigeria in particular) are automatically the losers (Utile, 2008).
Other negative consequences of brain drain include: it increases the level of dependence on foreign aid by Nigerian government; it costs Nigeria billions of naira (huge foreign exchange) to replace Nigerians with expatriates from the West; it brings about separation of family members and leads to less adequate family cohesion, thereby promoting delinquency (Osinowo, 2005).
Conversely, some scholars have expressed the view that brain drain is not an unmitigated phenomenon. They have argued that on a global level, free movement or interaction of highly skilled people is a positive thing which has its own merits and results in better development of the world and nations forming it.
They are of the opinion that Nigeria has benefitted (albeit marginally) from the process in certain respects (Onwuharaonye, 2011). First is the belief that brain drain is capable of transferring technology from the advanced industrialised nations of the West to developing countries like Nigeria.
Accordingly, as Onwuharaonye (2011) posits, the migrants would eventually return to Nigeria with the knowledge acquired over the years and impact same on the ready and willing Nigerians. However, their contribution in this regard will be minimal as most of them would have wasted their talents by the time they are back.
As already emphasised, from whatever angle it is considered, the cost of brain drain to Nigeria is incalculable in terms of both development opportunities and loss of investments. This is as result of loss of her highly skilled manpower.
1. Proper funding of the education system in Nigeria: Funds are very critical to the educational system in Nigeria. Without adequate finance, schools, be they primary, secondary or tertiary institutions, can hardly function properly. This is because students need to be in a conducive environment for learning with adequate facilities such as books, labs, etc. to aid in their learning.
Also, qualified teaching personnel need to be employed and paid because the lack of payment of these personnel leads to strikes. That’s why most parents take their children to either private schools where they pay a huge sum of money or fly outside the country for a better education.
Most parents hardly take their children to federal schools because most federal schools in Nigeria are not properly developed or even have good school facilities. Therefore, the government should channel a level of investment towards the development of federal schools so that those who are not able to afford private schools can still learn in a conducive environment in a federal school. In the process, their skills are nurtured so that it would be of good use to Nigeria’s development in the future.
2. Enthronement of good governance: Brain drain has been identified as a product of bad governance. It is also a product of structural inequality in the political economy of Nigeria where those who control political power aggregate economic power to themselves through corruption.
Hence, the enthronement of good governance anchored on the principles of the rule of law, high level of integrity, transparency, probity and accountability becomes imperative. In addition, there should be the establishment of necessary and positive socio-political and economic conditions to curb brain drain.
3. Creation of job and career opportunities with commensurate remuneration: Another way of stemming the tide of brain drain in Nigeria is the creation of adequate job and career opportunities with commensurate salaries. Evidence has indicated that there are scores of Nigerian professionals such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, engineers, lawyers, etc. currently abroad who are tired of second-class status in their countries of stay. They are willing to return to Nigeria provided they rest assured that appropriate employment and career opportunities would be available for them.
4. Provision of educational opportunities: Education plays a crucial role, particularly in the growing problems of international migration. Thus, offering the individuals the necessary educational qualification in their home countries and expanding better educational infrastructure are capable of preventing emigrants from seeking a higher education abroad.
Adebayo, A. (2010). Brain Drain- Brain Gain: Leveraging the Nigerian Diaspora for the Revitalization of Nigerian Higher Education: A Paper presented at the 25th Conference of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities held at Osun State University, Osogbo on April 19 -22.
Free Merriam Webster Dictionary 2010, web: Mwb.
Osinowo, O.H. (2005). Psychology of Criminal and Delinquent Behaviour. In Bola Udegbe, Shyngle Balogun, Helen Osinowo and Ubenga Sunmola (eds) psychology: Perspectives in Human, Behaviour. Revised and enlarged edition, A Publication of Department of Psychology, University of Ibadan. p.244
Utile, T. (2008). University Autonomy and Brain Drain Syndrome in Nigeria. Being a paper presented at the 3rd Conference of the ACU’s Human Resource Management Network. 23rd – 25th May, Trinidad and Tobago
Yesufu, T.M. (1996). The Nigerian Economy: Growth Without Development. Benin Social Science Series for Africa.