BusinessDay

COVID-19: Nigeria’s target to build local capacity crawls as govt prioritises foreign solutions

In April 2020, when Nigeria’s Covid-19 cases witnessed a steady increase, the government pledged to look inwards for local solutions and develop the capacity of local pharmaceutical firms for drugs and vaccine production, but that may be far from reality as the government has again chosen to prioritise solutions from other countries, while local search crawls.

Experts say Nigeria may have lost the opportunity to leverage on the Covid-19 pandemic to not only develop local solutions to fighting the pandemic but build local capacity for research and drug production, due to its lack of patriotism and belief in Nigerian-made.

In May, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said the pandemic would lead to the emergence of indigenous pharmaceutical companies in the country.

Mojisola Adeyeye, director-general of the agency, said Nigeria was endowed with abundant resources to turn the crisis into an opportunity by manufacturing raw materials for production of drugs instead of importing everything.

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Consequently, the government began screening local firms for the production of herbal drugs that can possibly treat or cure Covid-19 and received several applications from local practitioners.

However, months after, the government became silent on the progress made at developing local solutions, and all attention was shifted to what other countries were developing. Early this week, the director-general of Nigeria Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Obi Peter Adigwe said the institute managed to develop Niprimune capsule with Andrographis Paniculata ingredient already approved in Thailand for the treatment of Covid-19 amid its limited capacity but decried so much delay at NAFDAC for evaluation and approval.

Adigwe said several letters and reminders were written to NAFDAC but have not gotten a favourable response.

When Businessday visited the ministry of health to inquire on progress made to find local solutions and build local capacity, a top official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the government was no longer interested in the process of finding home-grown solutions.

The official lamented that the government’s decision to rely on other countries has caused the process to crawl.

The official regretted that 10 months into the pandemic, Nigeria has nothing to show like other countries- China, India and Madagascar have done.

“Government has decided to be silent on it. It is no longer interested in it. That is why the process is extremely slow. It’s sad though,” lamented the official.

Speaking further, the official said, “Several of those applications are still in NAFDAC awaiting approval. Some have not even reached NAFDAC because they have not even received the financial support government promised them”.

“Even in immune-boosting drugs to build resistance, such as zinc and vitamin C, Nigeria still relies on other countries when we have the capacity to produce local immune boosters.

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