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Why most pharmacists are yet to access CBN’s N100bn fund for health sector, by PSN

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*Seeks dedicated allocation of forex to healthcare, pharmaceutical industry to ensure self-sufficiency in local drug production

Pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have given reasons why most of their members are yet to access the N100 billion Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) intervention fund for the healthcare/pharmaceutical industry.

President, PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, yesterday, told journalists: “The PSN has noted with pleasure that some healthcare/pharmaceutical companies that applied for the special N100 billion CBN facility have been granted. Nevertheless, we are distressed that the majority of the applicants are yet to be successful.”

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The Guardian reliably gathered that only four out of 60 pharmaceutical firms (6.6%) that applied for the CBN’s intervention fund have been successful in accessing the money, which is meant to help them expand their capacities in local production of essential medicines, sanitisers, gloves, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other medical products.

To address the situation, Ohuabunwa, therefore, asked for the expedition of the review and approval of many of the outstanding applications so that the overall impact on industrial capacity, capability and output will be significantly enhanced in line with the noble objectives of the facility, especially as COVID-19 pandemic subsists and the need for self-sufficiency in local drug production persists.

Ohuabunwa called for dedicated allocation of foreign exchange (forex) to the healthcare industry especially pharmaceutical firms.

He explained: “Again, the feedback we receive is that many of the beneficiary companies are experiencing tremendous difficulties in accessing foreign exchange to pay for the machinery and equipment. Many are compelled to source forex from sundry sources at much higher rates than the official CBN rate.

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“The impact of this portends grave danger and may undermine the noble objectives. First, the longer it takes to get the machines and equipment in, the longer it will be for Nigeria to begin to see an enhanced local production. Second, the longer it takes, the more difficult it will be for the benefitting companies to begin production and generate cash flow to meet the interest and repayment obligation, as the moratorium is fast depleting.

“Third is that with forex at rates higher than the planned or forecasted rates in the business plan, the money received in Naira may no longer be sufficient to meet the stated needs. And fourth is that the longer the Naira is left in the Banks awaiting piecemeal allocation of forex, the faster the value depreciates by growing inflation and the fewer the number of machinery and equipment or even raw materials that can be bought. All these will put an additional burden on the beneficiary companies when it comes to servicing the loans in a timeous manner.”

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The pharmacist said it is because of the foregoing and to preempt any future problems with prompt servicing of the loans that the PSN makes this special appeal to the CBN to consider making the special and dedicated allocation of foreign exchange to the beneficiary companies so that they can procure their machinery/equipment and raw materials in a timely manner, in order, that the beneficial effect of this noble programme can be quickly realised and repayment made as and at when due so that the CBN will be encouraged to do more for the pharmaceutical Industry and also to other sectors of the economy.

“Ideally, one would have wished that the loans were granted in two currencies: Foreign currency for equipment purchase and local currency for local purchase (information available in the applications and business plans of beneficiaries). This would have obviated the current challenges being faced by the beneficiary companies,” he said.

Ohuabunwa said given the current and well-acclaimed responsiveness of the CBN’s leadership, it is the PSN’s hope that the apex bank will accede to the society’s request and help the industry to quickly optimise this earnestly prayed- for and long-awaited lifeline.

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