The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said that medical doctors who want to leave Nigeria, are free to do so as the country has a lot of medical personnel.
But the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have described as "unfortunate" the minister's statement on brain drain in the medical sector.
Ngige said this when he appeared on Channels TV Sunrise Daily, saying he was not bothered about the large number of medical doctors leaving the country.
The minister was responding to questions about brain drain and deliberate recruitment of Nigerian doctors by foreign embassies in Nigeria.
He said, "I am not worried, we have surplus doctors, if we have a surplus, we export. I was taught Biology and Chemistry by Indian teachers in my secondary school days".
"They are surplus in their country. We have a surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It is my area, we have excess. We have enough, more than enough, quote me.
"There is nothing wrong, they go out to sharpen their skills, earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them, not from oil."
He also said the number of doctors leaving the country does not amount to brain drain when asked.
"Those guys go there, they are better trained because of the facilities they have there. Eventually, I know a couple of them who practice abroad but set up medical centres back home. They have CAT scan, MRI scan which even the government hospitals cannot maintain. So, I don't see any loss.
"Brain drain will only be inimical when for instance neurosurgeons travel and we don't have neurosurgeons here."
However, the NMA and NARD have described the minister's statement as "unfortunate".
NMA president, Dr. Adedayo Faduyile, said Nigeria had no enough doctors, stressing the need to ensure the country retains its medical personnel.
He said, "That is an unfortunate statement which shows that he has done nothing in medical practice.
"The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that, for optimal healthcare to be achieved, we need doctor/patient ratio of one to 600.
"In Nigeria, we have 40,000 doctors taking care of 200 million people.
"It's unfortunate; we do not have enough doctors. May be, he is looking at the monetary part, but there is opportunity cost.
"We have the maternal mortality that is about the highest in the world. To correct it, we need health professionals around."
NARD president, Dr. Olusegun Olaopa, said Ngige spoke as a politician.
"He spoke as a politician who does not know what is happening in the country.
"The doctors we are losing are not fresh doctors but specialists. That means that Nigeria will continue to battle with shortage of specialist doctors," he said.