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April 21, 2021

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Senate summons health minister, others over needles, syringes importation

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The Senate joint committees on Health and Industry Trade and Investment, have summoned the Ministers of Health and Trade and Investment – Osagie Ehanire and Niyi Adebayo, respectively.

The committees have also summoned the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC), Mojisola Adeyeye.

The trio are being invited over importation of syringes and needles from China and India despite policy guidelines against it in Nigeria.

The invitation came shortly after the Senate President, expressed his displeasure at the absence of Mr Ehanire and the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, at a public hearing on some health bills – despite invitations sent to them.

Tuesday’s summon was sequel to a motion that the Senate had considered titled, ‘The need to regulate the manufacturing, importation and use of syringes and needles to protect the lives and safety of Nigerians as well as the economy of the country.”

The Senate had in February, complained that the majority of the imported syringes and needles are substandard, unsterile that are used and rewashed syringes from the Asian continent and thereafter imported into the country.

The committees were thereafter mandated to carry out a holistic probe into the state of manufacturing, importation and policy guidelines for syringe and needles in Nigeria.

Members of the committees queried the Ministry of Trade and Investment for its failure to implement the Backward Integration Policy (BIP) of 2017 on local production of syringes five years after validation and why it has not been presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval.

NAFDAC was also queried for licensing companies in India and China to import syringes and needles into the country.

Chairman of the health committee, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who issued the invitation, said the health minister needs to explain why a policy of 2017 by the federal government has not been implemented and also the manufacturing, importation, and policy guideline for syringes in Nigeria.

He berated NAFDAC for licensing companies in India and China to import syringes into the country.

“You can’t keep licensing agents outside Nigeria to import syringes, while local firms are dying. There is no complexity in the production of syringes. There is no complexity in the production of syringes,” he said as he threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on the ministers and the NAFDAC DG should they fail to appear on April 15.

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Members of the committees who were disappointed that the ministry of trade and investment has failed to implement BIP on local production of syringes five years later, said because tariff on imported syringes and needles is not implemented, imported ones have become cheaper than the locally produced ones.

Despite the capacity of the local firms to meet the market demands, an estimated over one billion units per annum of syringes and needles were being imported into the country, thereby making the country lose what he described as huge foreign exchange, they noted.

While Mr Ehanire is to appear and explain why public-owned hospitals do not use locally-manufactured syringes, the NAFDAC boss is to provide the list of companies that have been importing syringes into the country in the last 15 years, the quantity imported as well as evidence of checks on licensed foreign companies and licensing fees.

Earlier, the President of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MEDMAN), Akin Oyediran, explained that all the seven licensed local manufacturers have the potential to produce 2.4 billion units of syringes per annum if provided with a favourable business environment.

“The syringes needed in Nigeria is between 2 billion to 2.5 billion annually. All seven local manufacturers have the capacity to produce 1. 95 billion a year.

“But if we have the support of the government, especially the implementation of Backward Integration Policy, they will scale up and would be able to produce all the demands in a matter of months. The quality is world-class. The quality is not questionable,” he said.

Speaking on the losses incurred from importing syringes, Mr Oyediran said the main issue was how much Nigerians were being exposed to substandard syringes coming into the country.

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