Massive brain drain hits Nigerian varsity education
Obafemi Awolowo University

Adebayo Obajemu

The continuing relocation of university lecturers abroad for greener pastures is not only threatening university education but also depleting the large pool of brains necessary to drive development in the country.

This new challenge is one of the problems that confront the economy as necessary skilled manpower to manage different sectors in the future may end up poorly educated for the task given that lecturers are leaving the Ivory tower in droves. This trend had started in the 1980s, when the country began it’s precipitous economic descent.

In advanced countries, the convergence between the gown and town had found a meeting place to advance development, as industries tend to depend on outcomes of research from universities for growth.

Recently, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Kayode Adebowale cried out, complaining against the great vacuum left behind due to the massive exodus of professionals in Nigeria.

He cited the case of university of Ibadan, and the challenge it has posed for the institution. He stated this at the induction ceremony into the medical profession for the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) of the graduating class of 2022, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan.

“It is one of the headaches of the Nigerian university system today.

“As I was coming here, I got a report of a department, where we have 13 lecturers and nine of them resigned because they are going out of the country.
“They were not going abroad to come back, they are going abroad to stay,” Adebowale said.

The VC lamented that there were many such cases, which he cannot go on to talk about at the event.
He said there had been an incursion of politics into the Nigerian education system, which has not been helpful at all.

Adebowale said in time past the VC could employ lecturers, citing his appointment as lecturer happened within 24 hours, noting that the situation has changed for the worse.

“To employ a single lecturer and put the lecturer on the payroll you have to go through seven MDAs, you have to move from one place to another.

“And I cannot be saying some of the things they ask for. I have gone there personally and it is the CEO that has to go before they can be attended to. If anybody goes, he or she will not make any progress,” the VC said.

Prof. Adebowale said there were many universities that were sending other people and they have remained on the same point.

“It is very unfortunate and what we can do, I do not know but I know that is one of the headaches of the vice-chancellors,” he said.

Prof. Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, said the Nigerian government seems not to know the danger and challenge ahead, noting that there is need to increase funding. “Instead of servicing the luxury lifestyle of politicians, who contribute nothing to the economic growth, look at members of National Assembly buying cars at such disgraceful amount, when university education is in tatters, look at the issue of presidential yacht, over N1.5 billion to buy vehicles for the constitutionally unrecognized office of the First Lady, that money ought to have been used to fund IT research in public university. Our government is not serious.”

Continuing, Moritiwon stated that “if this challenge is not checked, I can tell you in the next two years, the percentage of lecturers, who may have left the country will rise to 65 percent and this will be a tragedy.”

According to Dr. Abdullah Yakubu of the faculty of education, Kogi State University, “if Japa syndrome is not checked by the government through appropriate measures that will provide incentives for lecturers to stay, it would lead to an acute shortage of teaching staff and affect the quality of teaching in the institutions.”

Business Hallmark learnt that about 50 per cent of lecturers have left the various universities, while others, who are yet to leave are said to be on the advance stage of preparation to leave the country.
Yakubu cited many reasons as a spur for the mass exodus of young and more experienced lecturers to range from the desire for better working conditions, career fulfilment, insecurity, poor salaries, inadequate funding, to non-payment of outstanding salaries of university teachers, which accumulated during the period of strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), as well as the harsh economy, among others.

Though the President Bola Tinubu administration had ordered the payment of four months of the eight months the federal government is owing them during the long strike last year, that has not assuaged the lecturers, who are said to be worried about the deplorable state of tertiary education funding.
Recent data showed that as much as 80 per cent of the remaining workers are preparing to leave if the current situation persists.

In spite of the fact that the current administration recently approved the implementation of 35 per cent and 23 per cent salary increments for all federal tertiary institutions staff, Business Hallmark learnt that many lecturers are still considering leaving.
This medium spoke to about 20 lecturers across five Public Universities, about 14 of them are considering leaving the country next year.

One of them at the University of Ilorin, who craved anonymity said: “By the grace of God, I will leave this country next year. I can no longer continue to operate in a system that is rotten, and I’m not the only one planning to leave in my department”, he said.

University of Ibadan (UI), University of Lagos (UNILAG), University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), University of Benin (UNIBEN), Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba- Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State; University of Uyo, Federal University, Otuoke; Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria; Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE); Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma; and Kaduna State University (KASU), among others, whose lecturers have left the country, while those left behind a sizable number of gearing up to leave.

A senior academic, who craved anonymity at the University of Lagos, told Business Hallmark that about 70 per cent of the institution’s best hands have ‘ japa-ed ‘ following the government’s failure to solve the numerous challenges confronting tertiary education.

“As I speak, more than 70 per cent of bright and promising young academics retained by the university through mentorship have all left the country for greener pastures due to the poor conditions of service in Nigeria. Those remaining are on the verge of leaving. This is unfortunate and a shame,” he said.

In September this year, according to the University of Lagos Vice Chancellor, Prof. Folashade Ogunsola, five lecturers just resigned from the university, adding that the situation may worsen if issues affecting university education are not addressed.
Japa syndrome has also hit the University of Ibadan, according to Business Hallmark’s findings up to 65 per cent of teaching staff have resigned and gone abroad.

At AAUA, it was learnt that about 45 per cent of lecturers, drawn from the various departments, had already left for overseas, while many others are planning to go.

An official at the University of Ilorin who craved anonymity told this medium that about 40 per cent of lecturers and some non-teaching staff have left the country for better working conditions abroad.
Business Hallmark’s investigations revealed that about 50 per cent of lecturers at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), and the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, had travelled abroad for greener pastures.

At the University of Uyo, a lecturer, who does not want to be named said that many of his colleagues had ‘japa-ed but he could not give exact number that have left. He said that “professors and other lecturers in UniUyo, who had opportunities outside have left, and more are leaving the country for greener pastures.”

At the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, and Kaduna State University (KASU) the scenario is the same. A staff at KASU told Business Hallmark on the phone that mass exodus of lecturers seeking greener pastures outside the country or elsewhere has become the new normal threatening university education.

A lecturer at the Federal University, Otuoke, Dr Socrates Ebo, admitted that some of his colleagues had left the university for overseas, “where things work.”

Also a lecturer in the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at Benue State University, Makurdi, Dr. Garshagu Atovigba, said that about 35 per cent of lecturers had relocated from the institution.

Dr. Atovigba, said” “If you look at the trends of salary increment from 2009 till date, it showed civil servants have been paid up to 250 per cent of their salaries, while lecturers’ have been the same since 2009. The government has deliberately impoverished the Nigerian lecturers, hence, there is no option left for many of us than to pursue greener pastures in other climes.”

He recalled how a professor of Language Education left the university five years ago, and the school has not been able to get another lecturer with PhD in English/Education to replace him.

Director, Centre for Open, Distance and e-Learning, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Musa Aibinu, described intellectual flight as “one of the greatest challenges” of the Nigerian education sector and Africa. He said about 23,000 lecturers emigrate from Africa to other climes yearly.
Dr. Olufemi Omoyele of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies, Osun State University, told this medium that “the challenge is far deeper than what the federal government is ready to admit. The Tinubu administration as a matter of urgency must come out with measures to save the university system.”


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