Brain Drain in Nigeria: Causes, Effects & Solutions to Brain Drain

Brain drain, otherwise known as human capital flight, is the emigration of large numbers of individuals highly skilled in their respective fields to other countries, usually developed countries. In Nigeria, it is common amongst doctors, nurses and teachers. Brain drain in Nigeria is not a recent phenomenon. In the past, the poor masses were known for leaving the country to look for greener pastures and better opportunities. However, in recent times, even the rich are relocating. One of the reasons for this is the desire to be citizens of those developed countries and a better life.

The rate of emigration in Nigeria is now on the high side. Currently, after graduating from school, majority of Nigerian students already have plans to pursue doctorate degree in any of the developed countries of the world with no plans of coming back. The situation of the country is indeed frustrating to the skilled workers and everyone at any given opportunity wants to get out.

In this article, we will be examining the causes, effects and solutions to brain drain in Nigeria. Consequently, i enjoin you to read this work painstakingly because you are going to learn a lot. So first, what is brain drain?

Meaning of brain drain

According to Longman dictionary of contemporary English, brain drain is the movement of highly skilled or professional people from their own country to a country where they can make money 1Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, ‘Meaning of Brain Drain’ (Ldoceonline, – ) <> accessed June 2020. Brain drain is also known as human capital flight. It can be seen as the movement of people with highly technical skills or manpower, knowledge, experience, skill from various developing country to a more developed country with better conditions of service and good living. The reason for the movement is to obtain better opportunities of living and good jobs.

Brain drain in Nigeria
Brain drain in Nigeria

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Causes of brain drain in Nigeria

Below are the major causes of brain drain in Nigeria:

1. Unemployment/Low paying jobs:

Everyone wants to be employed and be paid well. However, in Nigeria jobs are very scarce. The ones that do find jobs, don’t get paid the way they would like to be paid and people end up being underemployed.  Graduates due to lack of job opportunities, become bus conductors, cleaners and taxi drivers; these are jobs formerly reserved for the less educated section of the populace. You wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting more.

2. Lack of financial security:

Due to the economy of the country, the way workers are being laid off, and salaries that are inadequate to cover daily expenses of workers, financial stability is now something very rare and untenable for  people in Nigeria. Thus, there is zeal to move out of the country.

3. Poor health sector:

The health sector of the country is a mess, low facilities and infrastructures are the order of the day. People have lost trust in the health sector and this is evident in the actions of people able to afford traveling out of the country for medical attention, our president, Mohammadu Buhari inclusive. This  is one of the reasons why people emigrate to developed countries.

4. Poor leadership:

Nigeria keeps having new leaders every four to eight years and they keep promising the same thing. Most of them get into power and their manifestoes are thrown into the gutter. People are tired  of waiting for a miracle. They are tired of dreaming that one day Nigeria would rise from being among the poorest countries to a developed country.  Dollar rate keeps increasing and the worth of the Naira is diminishing.

Control of brain drain in Nigeria
Control of brain drain in Nigeria

5. Unfavourable working conditions:

life would be easier where one works in a good working environment with good infrastructures like a clean and healthy environment, maintenance of working equipment, health of the workers and conducive working hours.

However, most companies in Nigeria don’t care for the health and comfort of their workers. Most people work in hazard areas which in turn affects their health and productivity. People want to be appreciated, people want to work in a safe and healthy environment where they won’t have to worry for their health and this informs their emigration to developed countries where there are better working conditions.

6. Corruption:

The level of crime and corruption in Nigeria is getting worse by the day. To get anything done, one needs connection. That is, you need to know someone that knows somebody else that knows another that has connection.

This also plays out in the job opportunities; people that are qualified for certain jobs don’t get the jobs because someone else had enough connections to get himself the job.

Furthermore, the rate of crime in the country is on the high side, there are reports of rape, kidnapping and armed robbery in various parts of the country thus, making the country unsafe for people to live in. Also, the chances of these victims getting justice is low.

People bribe themselves out of trouble as getting justice is a matter of who knows more people and who can spend more money. It is really a mess and people are hurrying to get out and live in countries where their lives and properties are not in danger.

Causes of brain drain in Nigeria
Causes of brain drain in Nigeria

7. Poverty:

A large number of people live below a dollar rate per day in this country, the standard of living is low and Like the popular saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side”.

Considering the opportunities  outside the country, people notwithstanding the challenges of starting a new life in a new place, take their chances hoping it would be a ticket out of poverty.

8. Low education standard:

The educational system in Nigeria is a mess. Most teachers are not qualified enough to teach students, universities are always going on strikes and the standard of education  in Nigeria is very low compared to developed nations.

Parents now prefer to have their kids school abroad where the quality of their education is guaranteed. The interesting part is that most of these kids don’t come back to live in Nigeria after their education.

9. Crises:

The incessant Boko Haram bombings, civil war and killing by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria also contributes to the causes of brain drain in the country. In effect, most Nigerians live in fear; fear of death, fear of losing properties etc. Not only does this pursue the dwellers of these communities but it also prevents investors.

You will agree with me that nobody would want to invest in a place that is not even internally secured like Nigeria because bombs could be thrown any moment. Conversely, people in search of better living conditions and safer environment, emigrate to developed countries.

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Effects of brain drain in Nigeria

Brain drain has been identified as one of the factors hampering the growth and development of a nation. It has been seen as a devastating blow to the economy of Nigeria. Some of the effects are discussed below: 

1) Reduction in quality of service:

Apparently, one of the major effects of brain drain or human capital flight in Nigeria is the reduction in quality of service due to the absence of skilled personnel in the health sector, tertiary institutions and research centres. This has resulted in shortage of qualified manpower in critical sectors like education, health care, technology etc.

Take for instance, due to the high level of brain drain in the education sector, Nigerian universities suffer a huge loss as a result of mass exodus of seasoned lecturers in the country. Most times, unqualified individuals are employed to fill in the gap. 

2. Fall in the standard of Education:

The scourge of brain drain had led to the increasing fall in the standard of education. Universities, teaching hospitals are at the verge of collapsing as a result of decline in manpower and output. This has also results in production of inexperienced graduates and quack professionals.

3. Retardation in economic growth:

The continuous outflow of skilled labour, results in decline of economic growth of a country. Economic theory shows that growth can be realized in two ways namely; (1) increase in the amount of factors of production (2) increase in the efficiency with which those factors are used.

The downturn in economic growth in Nigeria can be linked to brain drain owing to several factors such as lack of investment, institutional failure, multidimensional corruption and inadequate infrastructures such as health care, education, roads, water supply, energy and other facilities that makes life worth living. 

4. Poor health services:

Due to brain drain in Nigeria, Health care professionals who should contribute to disease prevention and treatment have migrated to other countries. In light of this, there is an increase in death rate and martenal mortality. Aljazeera also noted that due to the high rate of brain drain in Nigeria, eight out of ten Nigerians are currently receiving substandard or no medical care at all. 2Mercy Abang, ‘Nigeria’s medical brain drain: Healthcare woes as doctors flee’ (Aljazeera, 08 Apr 2019) <> accessed June 2020.

This clearly explains the level poor health services that are rendered in Nigeria.

5. Reduction of technological development:

What do you expect from a country where there are not little or no skilled and highly innovative experts. Undoubtedly, there will be reduction in the level of technological development because only the less skilled workers are left in the country. This is why Nigeria, despite the fact that it got independence in 1960, is still struggling to meet up with other countries in terms of technology.

The truth is that, when skilled personnels leave Nigeria for better opportunities, they do their best to prove their worth in these developed countries. In so doing, they develop these countries, leaving their country at a loss. According to Devex, Every week, at least 12 Nigerian doctors are employed in the United Kingdom. 3Paul Adepoju, ‘Nigeria’s medical brain drain’ (Devex, 20 November 2018) <> accessed June 2020. This shows that more than 40% of students trained as medical doctors in Nigeria are not practicing in the country.

Solutions to Brain drain in Nigeria
Solutions to Brain drain in Nigeria

Proposed Solutions to brain drain in Nigeria

1. Creation of job opportunities with adequate remuneration:

One of the ways of curbing the menace brain drain is Creation of job opportunities with adequate remuneration. The government should also help in creating more jobs for the citizens. One of the reasons why individuals with high technical skills migrate to other countries is to seek for better jobs. If government should create job and career opportunities for graduates, there won’t be need to travel out of their country in search of greener pastures.

2. Quality educational opportunities should be provided:

Young individuals are mostly to migrate in pursuit of higher education. Expanding educational infrastructures and offering better educational qualifications to individuals will go along way in dissuading youths from leaving their country in pursuit of education elsewhere.

3. Provision of local incentives:

Just as I noted in my article on the importance of local government, providing incentives at the local level is very important, especially in a federation because it ensures development at the local level. Consequently, there will be quicker economic and technological development.

Most times, people loose hope in Nigeria because the government do not support the little they are contributing to the country. This makes them to start searching for countries where citizens are really appreciated.

In light of this, if only the government of Nigeria can provide incentives for Nigerians, there will be a drastic reduction in the rate of brain drain in Nigeria.

Statistics of brain drain in Nigeria
Statistics of brain drain in Nigeria

4. Provision of conducive environment for workers:

A good working environment attracts more workers. In fact, one of the things most graduates in Nigeria considers before accepting any employment is the environment of their offices. Is it a place where their health is protected? Are there equipments to keep them away from harm? All these questions are very important.

When there is no good working environment, people will leave their country to other places with a better working environment. Consequently, it is evident that a good working environment can help to solve the problem of brain drain in Nigeria.

5. Funding of tertiary institutions:

Adequate funding of the educational sector is also a tentative solution to brain drain in Nigeria. This includes increase and timely payment of the salaries of lecturers. Accordingly, adequate fund should be provided to tertiary institutions by the government.

A Lecturer at the University of Nigeria noted that corruption in university settings can only be stopped when the government starts paying them (Lecturers) handsomely. This is correct to a very large extent because not everybody actually wants to indulge in corrupt practices. Some do so because they have no choice.

6. Accountable government:

For brain drain to reduce, people should be able to hold their government accountable. In Nigeria, corruption is no longer an evil act. Even when the leader are caught in the act of corruption, most of them are allowed to go free without any punishment. This has undoubtedly made many Nigerian to leave the country, believing that there is no hope for Nigeria.

Trust me; If 60% of government officials in Nigeria can be truly accountable, it would go a long way in reducing the rate of brain drain in the country and in turn, revive the economy of the country.

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Wrapping up

From what we have discussed so far, it is apparent that brain drain is a monster that has come to stay in Nigeria. The number of People applying for permanent visa to leave the country is on the increase. Sooner or later, the country is going to wish they never left. It is up to the government to create better environment and make the people come back for the progress of our country.

Hope this article was helpful? Well I did like to hear from you if you have any question or contribution concerning the problem of brain drain in Nigeria and its solutions. Tell me what you think using the comment section below this article.

References   [ + ]

1. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, ‘Meaning of Brain Drain’ (Ldoceonline, – ) <> accessed June 2020
2. Mercy Abang, ‘Nigeria’s medical brain drain: Healthcare woes as doctors flee’ (Aljazeera, 08 Apr 2019) <> accessed June 2020
3. Paul Adepoju, ‘Nigeria’s medical brain drain’ (Devex, 20 November 2018) <> accessed June 2020

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