Nigeria has been an import dependant nation despite the abundant creative and highly talented youthful population, estimated population of 200 million, the median age of 18 years, literacy rate of about 60%, and with a good proportion of active youths making up more than 50% of the total population. For a country that has imported as little as a toothpick, looking inward as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic is a major positive that must be built on going forward.
With the success so far achieved with local labor being engaged to produce facemasks across the country, it is evident that if given the opportunity a lot can be done to improve the country’s economy by increasing our reliance and promotion of local production in the various sectors of the economy. Government just needs to engage these abundant talents across the country.
The recent directive by the Federal Government for local production of facemasks in the country is no doubt a welcome initiative. As a result of the total lockdown across the globe due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected major economies, Boss Mustapha, the Chairman Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, gave the go-ahead for the mass production of face masks using local fabrics, based on prescribed standard and size, to curtail the spread of the pandemic in Nigeria.
This was also encouraged by the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, who directed the management of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) to begin the production of face masks.
The immediate positives from these actions are that employment is being generated with the production of the face masks, and has the capacity to produce locally is being expanded it goes a long way in saving millions in importation.
This point was buttressed by the Minister, according to the statement signed by the ministry’s spokesperson, Abdulganiyu Aminu, Mr. Onu said the production of the facemasks will save Nigeria much needed foreign exchange being depleted through importation aside from curtailing Covid-19.
We must look at the ‘good’ positives from the Covid-19 as government consolidates on previous efforts and begin to depend more than ever before on our local abilities.
Some states and agencies that have taken up the challenge of engaging local production of facemasks across the country include; Lagos State, Bauchi, Oyo, the FRSC, Immigration, and the Nigeria Air Force among others.
The Lagos state government led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, as part of the #MaskUpLagos campaign commission local production in the state. According to him, “Face masks, combined with frequent hand washing, being conscious about NOT touching our face, as well as #SocialDistancing, are effective in slowing the spread. The state government is currently producing about 3 million facemasks for distribution to the vulnerable.”
In the same vain in Bauchi State, governor Senator Bala A. Mohammed state in his twitter handle that he “has initiated the production of 3 million face-masks for indigenes and residents after which we will make their use mandatory. This move is to nib in the bud, the spread of the coronavirus in Bauchi state” he said.
Also, the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) has commenced mass production of face masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to fight the coronavirus in the country. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, spoke on a tailoring workshop organized by the Nigeria Air Force to boost the production of facemasks to fight the pandemic.
He explained that “The tailoring workshop is an initiative that we started mainly for the production of service uniforms for our personnel. However, in response to the current emergency situation (Covid-19), the facility has commenced the production of face masks and PPE needed to protect Nigerians from the virus. I’ve directed that they (personnel) ensure that the PPE is certified by relevant agencies of government before they are deployed to our (NAF) hospitals and other hospitals,”.
In another development, Abubakar said that NAF had also commenced production of Liquid Oxygen from its plant in Yola, Adamawa, for use by hospitals. According to the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airforce Investments Limited (NAFIL), Uche Nwagwu, an Air Commodore, the efforts of the Air Force is to produce affordable face masks which are scarce commodities at the moment.
Similarly, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), has commenced the local production of ventilators and disinfectant spraying devices to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. These innovations could help Nigeria reduce the import of these materials and improve the country’s health sector.
With the right support, there is no doubt that Nigeria has competent scientists that could produce vaccines capable of fighting infectious diseases, and with the harsh economic condition facing the country, it cannot afford to depend on import, as this will continue to strain the nation’s foreign exchange reserve and harm the economy.