Stakeholders in the health sector have given kudos to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) N100 billion Pharmaceutical Intervention for COVID-19, which they said, is impacting the sector. The Pharmaceutical Intervention for COVID-19 is part of measures to cushion effect of the pandemic on the economy.
They said most local pharmaceutical industries, with the help of the fund, have been able to boost their production capacities to manufacture facemasks, personal protective equipment (PPP), hand sanitisers, gloves, anti-viral drugs, ventilators, medical supplies and vaccines.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in response to COVID-19 pandemic, had in April 2020 taken measures to extend credit facilities of up to N100 billion to support intervention efforts geared towards the healthcare sector. The aim of the intervention is to stimulate economic activities locally within the healthcare sector, while making products and services readily available to service Nigerians, thereby building, diversifying and expanding the capacity of the Nigerian healthcare sector.
It was learnt from the CBN that N93 billion of the Fund has already been disbursed to beneficiaries and serious positive impact has also been felt in the private sector as envisioned by the apex bank. The intervention was with a view to strengthening the sector’s capacity to meet potential increase in demand for healthcare products and services.
Specifically, the scheme was to provide credit to indigenous pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare value chain players to build or expand capacity. The Scheme is expected to increase private and public investment in the healthcare sector, facilitate improvements in healthcare delivery and reduce medical tourism to enhance foreign exchange conservation.
Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, told The Guardian: “Every company that met the loan requirement got it. We are happy with the CBN for the initiative and the way it was implemented. Members that are yet to access it are working with the commercial banks with whom they have a relationship to close up documentation gaps before moving on to CBN. Overall it is success in intervention. Some of the impact can already be seen in the financial performance of the early recipients of the loans.”
President, Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told The Guardian: “Federal government through the CBN had offered pharmaceutical companies and medical practitioners low interest rate loans up to N100 billion from March 2020 as intervention to improve local manufacturing and increase their capacities to combat the ravaging COVID 19 pandemic and other related health challenges. It is commendable.”
A consultant pharmacist and medical director, Merit Healthcare, Dr. Lolu Ojo, told The Guardian: “I know some big companies that got the money. Many companies have offers but funds were released late. Although there were challenges, the intervention fund has made huge impact.” Meanwhile, pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), has confirmed that more than 90 per cent of the N100 billion COVID-19 intervention fund for the healthcare/pharmaceutical industry have been accessed by members.
President, PSN and Convener, the New Nigeria Group (NNG), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said: “I have said it over and over, the CBN and COVID-19 intervention funds, laudable ideas as it is, is yet to achieve its objectives. The impact of difficulty in forex access is that it 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 approaching.
“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.”
Acting Head, Corporate Affairs of the CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, said the Health Sector Intervention Facility (HSIF) was established to address health infrastructure decay in the country. Nwanisobi said: “Over N85 billion has been disbursed to date covering 82 projects. N22.5 billion was disbursed to States for revamping of primary health care centres across the country.
“On monitoring, we are evaluating the utilisation and thus far there has not been any diversion.” “We need to understand that this is a health intervention and the health sector is regulated. What you may refer to absence of evidence of investment in the sector is because the beneficiaries are doing the right thing by going through the regulatory hurdles for each stage of utilisation. Soon the impact will be obvious. Besides, the CBN also carry out impact assessment of the facility.”
He said the HSIF has been used to finance the following: acquisition and installation of 16 magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Machines across the country; and acquisition and installation of 22 medical scanning machines by hospital across the country. “These are verifiable and we confirm that they have been installed,” Nwanisobi said.
Nwanisobi said the Real Sector Support Facility-Differentiated Cash Reserves Requirement (RSSF-DCRR) of the CBN shall fund the Scheme, and disbursements are made by Participating Financial Institutions (PFI’s). The eligible financial institutions are Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs). He said the loan amount limit to be provided is based on whether the loan is to fund working capital or is a term loan.