BusinessDay

New law creates opportunities for facemask sellers, producers

Chioma Okeke, 26, who works in one of the investment banks in Lekki, Lagos, was seen cleaning her sewing machine parked in her house for nearly three months.

She had watched in the local news that the government had signed a bill enforcing the compulsory wearing of facemask for its over 200 million citizens, and, exhibiting her fashion skills in making some of the items, would enable her make extra income.

“I used to make some then, making good cash. However, the demand started falling with the declining number of COVID-19 cases, so, I had to stop,” she said happily to one of our correspondents, as she attended to her chores.

The same is with Ekiti-born Gbemi Simisola, who had rushed to the bank, Thursday morning, to get some cash.

She sells some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like facemasks and hand sanitizers around Cele Express area of Lagos, and the new development means she would need to stock her shop to meet up with demands.

“I fear prices may go up soon. Rather than having my money sit idle in the bank, I better buy to have enough to sell,” she said, noting she was on our way to a distributor.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday assented to the COVID-19 Disease Health Protection 2021 Bill, making it mandatory for people to wear facemasks in public.

The law also criminalises non-wearing of facemask in public, with defaulters, risking six months jail term.

The decision by the president to enact the law follows increasing cases of infections in what could be described as a second wave of the virus, hence, enforcing the use of facemasks will help check the spread of the virus and save Nigeria’s already overwhelmed health sector.

A total infection case of 126,160 has been recorded, with average daily cases reaching 1,500, forcing the government to reopen already closed isolation centres.

Demand for oxygen has soared to an average of 350 daily from about 75, with Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, directing medical practitioners to treat all malaria patients as Covid-19, pointing to how serious the situation might have been with the government using all its arsenals in ensuring that Nigerians obliged with the new law.

But aside from the broader picture of keeping the spread of the virus at bay, development analysts who spoke with BusinessDay note the move to open further opportunities for investors of the item to meet the growing demand.

That would also create employment for some Nigerians who are jobless at present, as facemasks producing firms would need more hands to meet increased demand. It would also rub off on the employed and underemployed who fall in the same league as Okeke, as they are opened to extra source of income.

“With full compliance of the law, we should expect more money in the form of increased sales from producers and sellers of the facemask,” according to an analyst.

The first wave of the pandemic saw tailors in Aba, Nigeria’s South Eastern commercial hub, swing into action, using local fabrics, cotton and polypropylene to sew PPEs for people looking to protect themselves.

Many Nigerians with sewing skills also joined the train, designing colourful facemasks that match their clothes to meet growing trends of fashion.

That saved the country from impending dangers from the crash in the supply of PPEs caused by the lockdown of factories in advanced countries, particularly China.

At the time, there was not too much compulsion from the government as opposed to it being law with the president’s signature.

“The demand for facemasks is expected to rise across the nation, particularly in states that have not taken the mask culture to heart,” said Ayorinde Akinloye, an investment research analyst at United Capital Group.

“Meanwhile, at what rate the increase in demand would be depends on the level of government enforcement. I don’t expect a similar price spike as we saw at the start of the pandemic,” Akinloye said.

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