The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has refused to allow 58 Nigerian doctors from heading to the UK.
According to Sunday James, spokesman of NIS, the doctors had concluded plans to leave the country via a special flight at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
James, who said two of the doctors had visas while 56 didn’t, added that NIS reserves the right to deny or allow people from coming into or leaving the country.
“The Nigeria Immigration Service has refused departure of fifty-eight (58) Nigerian Doctors who attempted traveling aboard a UK bound aircraft flight number ENT 550, registration number SP-ES that flew in from London,” he said in a statement.
“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.
“The chartered flight approved for landing in Nigeria was to carry forty-two (42) medical doctors for a training programme but they were fifty-eight (58) with only two (2) having Visa for entry into UK, a situation that calls for refusal of departure.”
James said if the doctors had been allowed to leave Nigeria, they could have been repatriated back to the country.
“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,” he said.
“This is 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 restriction of international flights unless for essential reason as approved by 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. The Aircraft has departed for London without the Medical Doctors.”
It is unclear if the doctors who were stopped from leaving the country planned to relocate finally. Year in, year out, a large number of Nigerian trained doctors, who are perhaps frustrated, move abroad.
With over 30,000 COVID-19 cases, the government has at different times highlighted the role of health workers to its effort to flattening the curve.