2 ministers, DG NAFDAC to answer Senate queries over importation of syringe, needles

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Two federal cabinet ministers, Chief Niyi Adebayo (Trade and Investment) and Dr. Osagie Ehanire (Health) have been invited to answer questions over the importation of about one billion syringes and needles from China and India into the country despite policy guideline against it.

Also invited is the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye.

The trio was invited by the Joint Senate Committee on Health, Industry Trade, and Investment during a two days public hearing which ended Tuesday.

The public hearing was in respect of a motion 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 Health Committee headed by Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, expressed displeasure over the failure of the Ministry of Trade and Investment to implement the Backward Integration Policy on local production of syringes five years after it was validated

The NAFDAC on its own part was found wanting licensing companies in India and China to import syringes and needles 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,” Oloriegbe said.

He said despite the capacity of the local firms to meet the market demands, an estimated one billion units of syringe and needles are being imported into the country per annum making the country lose the huge foreign exchange.

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The committee, therefore, asked Trade and Investment Minister to appear before it on April 15 to explain reasons the Backward Integration Policy, which was validated in 2017, has not been presented to Federal Executive Council for approval.

It also mandated NAFDAC to come forward with the list of “companies that have been importing syringes into the country in the last 15 years, the quantity imported, evidence of checks on licensed foreign companies and licensing fees”.

The committee directed the Health Minister to explain why public-own hospitals were not using locally-manufactured syringes.

Meanwhile, the President of the Medical Device Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Akin Oyediran, said all the seven licensed local manufacturers have the potential to produce 2.4bn units of syringes per annum if provided with a favorable business environment.

He said, “The syringes needed in Nigeria is between two billion to 2.5 billion annually.

“All the seven local manufacturers have the capacity to produce 1. 95 billion a year.

“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.

On the losses incurred as a result of the importation of syringes, he said: “The issue is not how much losses we have incurred, but how much we are exposing Nigerians to substandard syringes coming into the country”.

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