By Henry Uche
As Nigeria and the rest of the world still grapple with the new variant of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital equipment, facilities and other resources are indispensable for the health sector to survive, but, in Nigeria, a major challenge confronting operators in this sector has been inadequate or dilapidated equipment, facilities and machines. This was the view the Hospital Equipment and Medical Devices Dealers Association of Nigeria (HEMDDAN).
At its 2021 annual general meeting in Lagos recently, the national president of the association, Dr. Ifeanyi Nwankwo, lamented over the setbacks the group has been suffering owing to the activities of Chinese businessmen in the hospital equipment and medical devices sub-sector, who are making double profits in Nigeria by selling the same products in here, which they (Chinese) had already sold to Nigerian importers in China.
The group called on the Federal Government to urgently rescue the health sub-sector by checking the exploitation they are suffering, particularly in this critical time Nigeria when needs help as the pandemic still rages.
“We go to China and buy hospital equipment, but how can they sell to us in their country and come back here and sell to Nigerians? And you know what, Nigerians would always patronize the white man. So, we are competing with our manufacturers here, and it’s telling on us,
“What they are doing to us here cannot happen in their country, the kind of liberty they enjoy here is becoming unbecoming. So, we need the National Assembly to come up with a policy to check Chinese manufacturing companies operating here, with the aim of protecting indigenous firms to create jobs. Foreigners who want to do business here should follow the due process.”
Nwankwo urged the Federal Government to address the issue of Good Manufacturing Practise Certificate (GMP), the cost of which was increased in March by NAFDAC, from N250,000 to $11,800 (or its equivalent in naira), saying, “this increase is suffocating business.”
“Nigeria’s economic and political leaders should strive to ameliorate the plight of Nigerians and not aggravate it. The economy is very bad. What is essential now is not to jerk up cost of doing business; it would tell on Nigerians,” he said.
Similarly, the vice-president of the association, Romanus Okafor, lamented over what he called “unwarranted treatment” meted out on them by NAFDAC and SON. According to him, the cost of registration of chemical products and license, as well as cost of registration of medical devices and pharmaceutical products, has always been on the increase, from one administration of NAFDAC to another.
“NAFDAC said it’s the manufacturing companies that would pay the new GMP cost, but these companies don’t pay and, even when they do, they would build it in the total cost and, at the end, the final consumers and users bear the brunt.”
He condemned the incursion by SON to regulate some medical devices, which are already being regulated by NAFDAC, saying, “They compelled us to do SON Cap, SON PC, and products certification and others. The functions of SON and NAFDAC are colliding, and it doesn’t augur well. We urge the Federal Government to streamline these functions.”
“For Nigeria Customs Service, unnecessary delays have become the order of the day. It was stated in Customs Regulations that containers should be cleared from the ports within 72 hours, unless unacceptable products. But what we see today is undue delays just to see how to extort money from us, even when one has met all necessary requirements and formalities. They still look for an offense to nail one.
“Today, a 72-hour specified duration can take you 10 days of more to clear goods from the ports, by doing so, we pay demurrage and holding charges. At the end, we run at a loss, and Nigeria will suffer for it, because hospital equipment and medical devices are not luxury products but for saving life.
“NAFDAC should remove the obnoxious GMP fee, and concentrate on safeguarding the health of Nigerians as spelt in the act establishing it. They are not a revenue-generating agency. The onus rest on the shoulders of the government to live up to expectations,” he said.