The global concern occasioned by the rapid spread of the dreadful Coronavirus (COVID-19) – which Nigeria is not exempted – has given rise to high patronage of medical facilities in the country.
According to latest report from the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), as at the time of filing this report, revealed that Nigeria recorded one hundred and seventy four (174) confirmed cases of COVID-19, out of which two died of the pandemic, while seven persons recovered and were discharged, with more States battling to combat the scourge.
Since the first recorded case in Nigeria, many Nigerians have seen this as an opportunity to exploit their fellow Nigerians, who want to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the hike in price of medical facilities such as hand sanitizer, nose or face mask, surgical gloves among others makes life difficult for ordinary Nigerians who do not have the resources to afford those commodities, thereby exposing them to the danger of the COVID-19.
The high patronage of the products at the pharmacy stores alone is an obvious fact that the people are committed to adhering to the preventive measures by health experts and government to curtail the spread of the pandemic.
There is no doubt stating the fact that the high demands have caused the scarcity of the commodities in the markets.
Should Nigeria have had some of the manufacturing companies that are into producing surgical gloves, hand sanitizer and nose mask, some Nigerians argue, the products wouldn’t have skyrocketed in such an outrageous manner.
Record has it that over 60% of medical facilities/equipment/commodities, including drugs which we use in Nigeria are being imported, and with the closure of borders and the increasing cases of Coronavirus led the country to be where she is now.
With this development, controlling price of these products will not be enough, but making it available should be the priority of the government if the hardship on the masses must be reduced, because many people desire to have access to these facilities, but due to the skyrocketing price, they could not afford to buy it.
However, government should create an enabling environment that will encourage other companies into the production of such products to Nigeria. The government can also begin plans to build new, and/or to put the country’s infrastructure in a right order to ensure availability is such commodities in times as this.
Many experts, in this regard have attributed the hike in prices of the products to not only the scarcity, but the closure of land borders and government insensitivity to establishing manufacturing companies that will produce medical facilities in the country.
It is surprising to note that Nasarawa State in which compliance level to the protective measures is very low in spite government proclamation, and simply because it has no record of confirmed case of COVID-19 is also badly hit by the hike of prices of health commodities.
Checks in some of the pharmacy stores and markets where those products are sold in the State show that the commodities are not even available in the markets.
One of those who spoke to our correspondent in Lafia, Obinna Okeke of ROCCIN Pharmacy said the situation at the moment is not okay because this is the time Nigerians are being exploited.
“People are rather exploiting people; Nigerians are not telling Nigerians the truth. We are the ones killing ourselves, not the government.
“How can you buy a product N30, N50 and you will end up selling it for N2000? It is very bad and we are not helping ourselves in this country.
“For instance, surgical gloves that were sold for N7000 as at last week in the open market are now sold at N45,000, just because of the high demand. This is wrong and we are not helping ourselves.
“Our leaders are not helping us either, and there should be price control unit that will control prices of products in times as this, because everybody is selling as he/she wishes and this is very bad for our country.
“As a country, we should have price commodities unit or agency that will control price of goods in this country. Just because the need of a particular product is very high does not guarantee to hike the price.
“What about the poor and the less privileged Nigerian masses who don’t have the means to buy the product at that price?
A sanitizer that goes for N200 and N300 now goes for N1000, while the big one that is sold at N500 now is sold as high as N3000.
Also commenting, a pharmacist, Pharmacist Lawrence Oko of Lonachy Pharmacy and Stores said “Nigeria is an open market that is not being controlled by government, and things like this happen because some of these products we sell are not being produced in Nigeria.
“We rely only on individuals who import them from foreign countries and the individual who is the sole distributor decides how much his product will be sold.
“As at last week, for example, the nose mask was sold at N150, and within one week it jumped to N200 and as we speak now a piece is sold at N400.
“Why, because, when you finish selling the ones you have and you need the next supply, our supplier will raise the price of the product, and because you are in business, you need to get back your money and make profit out of it, you have to make another adjustment in order to stay in the business.”
Oko further said, “if we begin to produce some of these products in the country, in six or seven places, and a particular person decides to raise his price, we simply go for the one we can afford. But we don’t have options, that is the problem.
“As it stands now, I don’t think government can do anything to control the prices because it is an individual that brings the product and he decides how much he wants to sell them.
“By the time he explains to you the procedure of bringing it and why he decides to increase the price, you will also reason with him”, he said.
A staff of La Med Pharmacy and Stores in Lafia who doesn’t want name in print expressed shock over the sudden rise of the commodities, saying that gloves sold at N1150 is about N4000 and above for a pack.
“Nose mask that used to go for N500, N600 is now N3000 for a pack, while hand sanitizer that used to go for N500 is now sold at N1500 or N3000 depending on the size.”
He called on government to support local manufacturers to produce such products in the country to avoid unnecessary hike.
Because those commodities are out of stock, some people have improvised the production of hand sanitizer, nose masks by some tailors, taking opportunities of the demands to exploit Nigerian masses.
Some observers are of the opinion that the risk associated with the use of these locally made products is that the required materials are not used/applied and that those doing it are not professionals.
Whether those products are effective and good for public use is one thing government and health experts need to check in order not to cause more harm on the public.
The public, out of fear and desperation not to contract COVID-19 go for what is available, which lead to the hike in price of the medical facilities.
It is suggested that this is the time government, organizations and spirited individuals need to come to the aid of Nigeria masses in effort to ameliorate their plight.