• Saturday, July 13, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Customs to ease flow of critical supplies as health group pushes

Nigeria-Customs-Service-

In a significant move to improve healthcare delivery in Nigeria, the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have announced a partnership to expedite the clearance process for medical supplies.

This collaboration includes the creation of a special corridor designed to facilitate the swift importation of life-saving medical equipment and supplies, addressing the delays that have long hindered patient care and access to essential medical resources.

Pamela Ajayi, president, of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), revealed this during a dialogue with Bashir Adeniyi, the Comptroller-General of Customs in Lagos.

The dialogue brought together various healthcare stakeholders, including doctors, pharmacists, equipment manufacturers, therapists, radiologists, and nurses, all committed to enhancing Nigeria’s healthcare system through this collaborative effort.

In her address, Ajayi said the Comptroller-General (CG) promised to set up a special corridor initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are many challenges in the healthcare system one of which is the high cost of medical care in Nigeria,” she said. “This is as a result of delays in cargo coming through, which costs money, extra damage costs, risk classification, additional duties being paid, where they should not be paid.”

Speaking further, Ajayi said a technical working committee has been set up to tackle ongoing issues by streamlining the clearance process, reviewing the classification codes used for medical equipment (HS codes) and addressing any other challenges that may arise.

She also said the CG has instituted a healthcare desk to address acute problems as they arise.

Bashir Adeniyi, who was represented by CK Niagwan, Deputy Comptroller-General (DCG), Tariff & Trade, highlighted the importance of the partnership, stating that the Nigerian Customs Service will expedite the importation of essential medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and healthcare equipment, vital for efficient operation of the Nigerian healthcare system.

“Our shared goals will safeguard Nigerians by ensuring that only safe, high-quality medical products are brought into our country,” Bashir said. This can only be achieved through robust collaboration, transparent communication, and mutual understanding of roles and challenges. By working together, we can combat issues such as counterfeit drugs and enhance the efficiency of our healthcare delivery.”

Similarly, Basheer Abdulkadir, director of technical services at the Federal Ministry of Finance, emphasised the government’s commitment to supporting the healthcare sector.

“Import duty waivers and concessions for medical equipment have long been a government policy to promote good economic management,” he noted. “We will work with the HFN to ensure the healthcare system is improved by importing necessary medical products swiftly and protecting locally produced items.”

Abdulkadir further explained the policy framework, stating, “In line with certain protocols, such as the Kyoto Convention, drugs and medical equipment are duty-free. Nigeria has implemented this using the ECOWAS common external tariff, where life-saving appliances and pharmaceutical items are exempted from import duty.”