Health ministry lacks policy on procurement of medical tools
Nigerian hospitals have imported syringes and needles valued at N557billion ($1.2billion) in the last one year. It was gathered that most of the imports, which came from India,
China and other foreign countries, were cheap, substandard, used, rewashed and unsterile, thereby exposing the country to health hazards and loss of huge foreign exchange.
Finding from International Trade Statistics (ITS) on Nigerian trade revealed that imports from China in 2020 were valued at N340.5billion ($709.29million) or 61.13 per cent of the total imports as Federal Ministry of Health lacked policy on procurement of syringes and needles used by government hospitals and agencies.
Last year, Nigeria imported some 1.6billion of the medical tools when a pack was 0.75cent at the global market. It was gathered that the country required two billion syringes and needles per annum.
Worried by the huge importation, the Senate had urged the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to implement 75 per cent import duties to curb the imports. Meanwhile the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had said that 70 per cent of medicine and medical equipment consumed in Nigeria was imported from South- East Asia, mainly China and India.
The agency noted that the substandard medical products were imported into the country because of compromise by some Clean Report of Inspection and Analysis (CRIA) agents, who conduct pre-shipment inspection and analysis of all NAFDAC regulated products exported from China and India into Nigeria.
The Director-General of agency, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, had said earlier that removal of CRIA agents since 2011 at the seaports had contributed to the problem.
Presently, the country has eight syringe manufacturing factories with two each in Calabar and Ilorin, one in Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Kano aas well Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Limited (JSM), which has the capacity to produce over 700,000 syringes daily and over 350 million syringes annually.
It would be recalled that last week the Senate urged the Federal Government to accelerate the implementation of 75 per cent import duties on syringes and needles.
The Senate resolution was a follow-up to the consideration and adoption of a report of the Joint Committee on Health, Trade and Investment and Customs, Excise and Tariffs.
The committee stressed the need to regulate manufacturing, importation and use of syringes and needles to protect safety of Nigerians and the economy, thereby encouraging local manufacturers and ensuring employment opportunities.
According to the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Oloriegbe Ibrahim, oral statements and memorandum collated from stakeholders indicated that majority of imported syringes and needle were substandard, unsterile, used and rewashed syringes from Asian continent.
The chairman added that despite several policies of the Federal Government, especially the introduction of 75 per cent import duties on imported syringes and needles to deter importation, the Customs had not been able to enforce the policy effectively.
Ibrahim explained that the Federal Ministry of Health lacked policy on the procurement and utilisation of syringes and needles by government-owned hospitals and agencies
The chairman also noted that the compulsory requirement for manufacturers to register to pre-qualify for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) certification, costs about $1.5 billion, saying that this had been an impediment to local manufacturers attaining the status of being patronised by organisations using donor funds.
The Senate also urged the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to finalise the process of approval of the Backward Integration Policy (BIP) for the sector by the Federal Executive Council and commence implementation of the policy from August.
It also mandated the Federal Ministry of Health to develop a policy on procurement of syringes and needles used by government hospitals and offices from July, 2021, noting that within six weeks, all the government owned hospitals should begin to use locally manufactured syringes and needles to strengthen local manufacturing.
It, however, called on syringes and needles manufacturers to take advantage of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Special Intervention Fund for the health sector to improve and extend their capacities.