Abuja — Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), yesterday, called on the federal government to set up a special intervention fund for them to facilitate access to foreign exchange.
MAN stressed that 90 per cent of materials used for manufacturing in Nigeria were imported.
Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc, Matthew Azoji, made the call on the side-lines of the 19th National Productivity Day Celebration and Conferment of National Productivity Order of Merit Award (NPOM) on 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors.
Azoji said, "The challenges we would like government to pay attention, we (Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc) are a local manufacturer of pharmaceutical products. And the foreign exchange is a major issue for us. We want to ask the government to support the pharmaceutical manufacturers, a group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, to improve access to foreign exchange, because it has been a major problem. More than 90 per cent of input materials for manufacturing in Nigeria are imported.
"If there is a special intervention that the government can do for local manufacturers, particularly, pharmaceutical manufacturers that are improving access to medicines for the ordinary Nigerians.
"So, if you have better access to foreign exchange, it will improve the availability of medicines and in a cost effective manner, because foreign exchange has become a major cost of increasing cost of pharmaceuticals in Nigeria."
While appreciating President Muhammadu Buhari for the productivity award, Azoji said it would spur him to work harder and pursue excellence for the benefit of Nigerians.
On what he did to merit the ward, Azoji said, "In all the organisations I have worked, I have committed myself to excellence and improving the outcome that is achieved. Within the three years I have been a Managing Director/CEO, the company has gone from a period of loss to period of profitability. We have been able to achieve a situation where the company paid dividends, after 10 years of non-dividend payments.
"For the last two years, we have paid dividends. And for the past four years there has been consistent growth in profitability, consistent growth in turnover, and service delivery to Nigerians."
Speaking also, another awardee and President of Erisco Foods Limited, Eric Umeofia, regretted that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were not doing enough to encourage local production of goods and commodities.
Umeofia alleged that some agencies charged with the responsibility of enforcing ban on imported products were not doing the job effectively, saying their inefficiency is sabotaging government's efforts to encourage local manufacturers.
While calling on the people to patronise locally manufactured products, the Erisco boss said not doing so would only create jobs for foreigners with consequent use of scarce foreign exchange for importation of products that were being manufactured locally.
He raised fears that with the influx of imported goods, like tomato pastes banned several years ago, local manufacturers might be forced to close shop. This he said would lead to job losses.
He urged the people to encourage manufacturers by patronising locally made goods, which would in turn lead to enhanced job and wealth creation.
On the award, the Erisco boss said he was happy with the recognition given to him by the government. He said such would spur him to do more.
On his part, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the special Award for COVID-19 conferred on him was a moral burden to do more for the nation and government.
According to him, "It puts an additional moral burden of doing more for the nation and the government. It comes with a lot of feelings.
"You know, my award is within the category of the Special Award for COVID-19. And most of you were active participants in the response.
"And I believe that this award is dedicated to all the people that were involved."
Mustapha saluted members of the national response team on COVID-19, people who were on COVID-19 production, the media, saying they "worked assiduously in very difficult, hard times and dangerous in itself.
"Because we were dealing with a virus that was unknown to ensure that lives and livelihoods of Nigerians were protected. And the process, we were able to deal with the adverse effects of COVID-19, one that deals with the economy.
"The economic sustainability plan was able to cause us to exit the recession in a very, very, very quick time, addressing the changes in governance because COVID-19 came with his difficult ways of oppression, we had to really do a switch to virtual meetings, virtual way of running government activities, with very little face to face contact.
"So I believe that this award will spur us to greater achievements in the future."
Another awardee and Clerk of the Senate, Chinedu Francis Akubueze, said he felt greatly honoured "by my country for the conferment of this award on me, I am very grateful to God for this singular privilege; I'm grateful to my country, Nigeria for this honour".
He said as the award implied productivity; "I can only be spurred towards more of my work at the National Assembly."