The World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30, 2020 declared the outbreak of Coronavirus otherwise known as COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Since then, it becomes imperative for stringent actions to be taken by the World and indeed, Nigeria to help its citizens adjust and cope with the pandemic.
As the voice of manufacturers interest in Nigeria, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria recognizes the effort of Government from the point Nigeria recorded its first case on February 25,2020 which was further confirmed on the 27th. It is also comforting to note that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are not resting on their oars occasioned by the different guidelines for safety disseminated to the general public all in a bid to ensure the safety of citizens.
On our part, in a bid to address the potential impact of the virus on the Nigerian economy, MAN has advised members to ensure they sensitize and educate their workers on compliance with National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines; and provide requisite facilities and supplies for the prevention of COVID-19 in line with extant guidelines of the NCDC.
Given the intrinsic role manufacturers will be playing at a time like this, they have been encouraged to sustain ongoing operations to avoid reduction or shut down of production activities; and scale up their production especially of essential commodities such pharmaceuticals, consumables, sanitary and hygiene products needed to curtail the spread of the virus (COVID 19).
As manufacturers adhere to safety rules and keeping the economy running, it is expedient that the Government provide safety net for these group of its public to ensure seamless operations. MAN, therefore, suggests the following:
- Government must ensure reasonable access to industrial supplies and inputs. i.e. gas, electricity supply, fuel and other essential infrastructure needs.
- The financial support offered by CBN be extended to the supply of Forex to the manufacturing sector at pre-COVID-19 rates.
- The CBN should consider directing commercial banks to freeze interest charges in the event of a lock down.
- In the case of an eventual lockdown, Government should consider the introduction of fiscal measures such waivers on import duties on Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), and other essential products; Extend tax holiday to companies on corporate tax, and waive the Value Added Tax (VAT); and reduce the burden of personal income tax as a way of increasing the disposable income of average Nigerian workers.
- Government should ensure that all regulatory agencies such as Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Standards Organizations of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration & Control (NAFDAC) should treat all requests from Manufacturers expeditiously and with the required sensitivity to the prevailing situation.
- Government should prevail on all relevant Agencies to strictly comply with the provisions of Executive Orders 001, 003 and 005.
- Government must ensure its agencies doesn’t act contrary to its directive of permitting essential manufacturing sectors operate.
- It must also take into consideration the inclusion of the logistics and distribution arm of manufacturing to make possible delivery of manufactured items to the final consumers.
Ultimately, the Association advises safety in all lines of operation. Therefore, manufacturers have been urged to make it a point of duty to assure their employees, vendors, customers and all relevant stakeholders of best health practices.
For emphasis, we would enjoin the general public to take seriously the protective measure of regular hand washing with soap and water or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, practice of good personal hygiene; maintenance of social distancing and sufficiently stay abreast of additional directives from the National Centre for Disease Control and World Health Organization.
Engr Mansur Ahmed