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Nigeria’s Huge Import-dependency Syndrome

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NAFDAC Director-General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye PHOTO:Twitter


Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye’s recent disclosure that 70 percent of medicines used in Nigeria are imported while only 30 per cent are produced locally is another disclosure that tells a gory tale about our systemic failure that keeps failing. 

That Nigeria is an import-dependent country, indeed a dumping ground for all manner of industrial consumables from different countries is well known. The country produces merely a fraction of what it uses, while the rest are imported. The industrial sector is comatose thereby forcing the country to virtually depend on importation. Sadly, our leaders only read from their own book of lamentation on this national disaster. They hardly address such challenges. This is unfortunate. 

NAFDAC’s assertion on medicines is applicable to practically every industrial product used in the country. The other day, for instance, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), revealed that about 1.5 billion dollars worth of dairy products are imported into the country every year.

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Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu, Permanent Secretary, FMARD, disclosed the dismal development at the Inception Workshop of Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations Technical Cooperation Project TCP/NIR/3701. The project is referred to as ‘Piloting the Implementation of the National Livestock Transformation plan in Niger and Kaduna States.’ This is part of the spectacles we read about every day, which the authorities hardly address. The permanent secretary, represented by Mrs. Winnie Lai-Solarin, the Acting Director of Animal Husbandry Services FMARD, revealed that the huge bill is due to the long neglect of the livestock sector that has put a lot of burden on the import bills of the country. Mu’azu said that about 5 billion US dollars worth of food is imported yearly into the country out of which milk and dairy products account for 1.2 billion dollars to 1.5 billion dollars. It is lamentation galore!

Doubtless, the challenges of growth in the livestock value chain are multifarious including low breed quality, herder and crop farmer conflicts, and banditry among other security challenges. Whereas, excessive importation of medicines is part of the problem, NAFDAC’s major challenge too is how to curtail the importation of illicit drugs. The NAFDAC boss has expressed the agency’s readiness to eliminate substandard and falsified medicines in the country through partnership with pre-shipment agents in China and India from where most medicines were imported, there is no guarantee that, that would curtail illicit drugs business in the country. In the next few months, there will still be concern raised on this same shameful act. 

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This newspaper believes that the drugs and food administration agency’s efforts to take the war against importation of illicit drugs to the source countries, should not be taken lightly by the authorities in the country. 

Safeguarding the health of Nigeria means making sure that all regulated products that NAFDAC is in charge of have the expected quality. That is a fundamental objective that should not be compromised. This means ensuring robust control of the manufacture, the distribution, the advertisement, the sale and use of these products using international standards in line with the mandate of NAFDAC. 

It is noteworthy that the NAFDAC chief executive who spoke in Abuja, against the backdrop of Nigeria’s 60thIndependence Anniversary, stressed that attention must be paid to both imported and locally made drugs by the agency. While NAFDAC is focusing on foods and drugs importation, there seems to be no respite for all the other industrial goods that are flooded into the country.

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All manner of foreign products are being pushed into the country without hindrance. Vehicles, tyres, textiles and clothing, footwear, machines and electrical materials, furniture, household wares, auto-spares, used and unused, just name it. There is practically nothing that is not imported into Nigeria. This is not how to develop the economy of the richest nation in Africa, which is not a member of the G-20 and BRICS, the world’s most influential emerging markets.  

Nigeria’s once bustling industrial productive sector took a dramatic plunge after the environment became harsh and un-conducive for productivity, which forced many industrial concerns to close shop and move to neighbouring countries.  

The most critical factor is the collapse of the power sector, which most investors need most. There is indeed collapse of critical infrastructure including road and ports, which have forced some multinational industrial concerns to fold up and relocate to other countries in the continent. 

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The critical factors that have led to the unfortunate turn of events are however not being addressed. As a matter of fact, the situation is worsening. There is no improvement in power supply while the road infrastructure remains appalling.

The issue really is not only about pharmaceutical challenge, it is about Nigeria’s lack of capacity for self reliance. Why can’t our local pharmaceutical firms grow? What happened to the stimulus package, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently advertised amid the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown? The challenge before the government is how to turn the situation around. The trouble is how to revamp the comatose industrial sector and boost the economy. It is only then that the country would be less dependent on importation of everything we need. 

In the main, fixing the power sector alone would be a major incentive to industrial rejuvenation. But sadly, the power sector revival remains a bridge still too far! Where then do we go from here as we celebrate just the number, Nigeria at 60: when do we celebrate achievements in concrete terms? 

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