The Nigerian government on Friday prevented 58 medical doctors from travelling out of the country to the United Kingdom. They were stopped at the Murtala Mohammed International Air Port, Lagos, by the Nigeria Immigration Service.
Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller-General of NIS, said that 56 of the 58 doctors billed to travel to the UK on a chartered flight for a progamme in London had no valid visas for entry into the United Kingdom.
“The fifty-eight (58) medical doctors were refused departure in line with Section 31 subsection 2a and b, on powers conferred on the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service by the Immigration Act 2015, to prohibit departure of any person under the conditions stated in the Act, Sunday James, NIS Public Relations Officer, said in a statement.
“The chartered flight approved for landing in Nigeria was to carry forty-two (42) medical doctors for a training program but they were fifty-eight (58) with only two (2) having Visa for entry into UK, a situation that calls for refusal of departure.
“The Nigeria Immigration Service as the agency saddled with control of entry and departure from Nigeria of persons will not allow individuals or groups of well-educated Nigerians who should know the procedures for travelling out of their country and the requirements, which include having a valid visa for entry into a destination country to leave,” Sunday added.
The Nigerian health sector suffers from “brain drain” as the doctors and nurses leave the country in droves in search of better conditions of service. This has contributed to poor health service delivery to a population of about 200 million, with at least 100 million living in extreme poverty.
James explained that the NIS prevented the doctors from travelling “to avoid refusal of entry and repatriation back to Nigeria amidst Covid-19 pandemic and spreading of same as well as flouting the Federal Government’s directive on the restriction of international flights unless for an essential reason as approved by the government”.
“There is no official communication to the Service from the Ministry of Health in Nigeria or any known medical body notifying the NIS of the travel of this number of medical doctors,” he said.
The aircraft with flight number ENT 550 and registration number SP-ES departed for London where it came from without the medical doctors.
“The Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, is taking this opportunity to advise Nigerians to always adhere to travel protocols and ensure they have valid passports with valid visa to the country they intended travelling to before going to any airport, seaport or land border control to avoid refusal to depart.”