As the first quarter of 2023 winds up, a former National Chairman, Association of Industrial Pharmacists of Nigeria (NAIP), Pharm. (Dr.) Lolu Ojo; and the General Secretary, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Pharm. Gbenga Falabi, have called on players in the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry to keep hope alive, saying though the year may have started with many challenges, better times are on the way
Ojo, who is the managing director and chief executive officer, Merit Healthcare Limited, spoke during a chat with Pharmanews, against the backdrop of the various challenges that had rattled the country since the beginning of the year.
He listed fuel scarcity, cash crunch arising from the naira redesign policy, as well as the tension generated by the nation’s general elections among the challenges.
The former NAIP chairman noted that despite widespread trepidations, there is hope that the year will end well.
According to him, “There was apprehension surrounding 2023. The way we entered the year in the first place was not in a fancy way and that was because of the elections, fuel scarcity and cash crunch. But irrespective of the way we might have entered into the year, the beautiful thing is that Nigerians are very resilient. We have a never-say-die spirit. We never die in the face of unfavourable circumstances. And in the face of what may come up this year, we will not die. We will survive.
Continuing, he said: “We have gone through this path before; we all still remember Abacha time, when five political parties adopted him as their candidate. Many things were happening in the country at that time which made it appear as if the whole world was going to collapse on us. Eventually, we got over it and everything fizzled out. God loves us in Nigeria and that is one thing we should all have in mind.
“As for year 2023, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. That is the attitude I want us to go with in this year. This is the last month of the first quarter, and many companies in the pharma industry have not really done anything significant, but we should all be hopeful. We must keep hope alive so that we can take part in the good things that will come tomorrow.”
Ojo noted that the worsening challenges in the pharmaceutical sector are a reflection of the state of the nation generally. He however expressed optimism that things will soon normalise.
“I know things will still open up. The cash crunch only complicated the challenges in the industry, but I believe things will turn around. We should be hopeful. We should not allow the pressure of the day to derail us. We should not allow the pressure of the day to make us to start digging into where we are not supposed to be digging.
“Stakeholders in the pharma industry should be optimistic. We must keep hope alive, because anybody that refuses to keep hope alive and be optimistic may die of depression. Yes, 2023 may be rough, but we are also tough people in Nigeria. So we should all be optimistic,” the Merit Healthcare CEO said.
He also charged business owners to reduce cost of operations, where necessary, and to seek more efficient ways of doing business.
He said, “We should be focused. We should make sure we sharpen our skill; we should open our eyes to more opportunities and change things that we are supposed to change. More importantly, we should try as much as possible to reduce the cost of operation and find a way to do our business better.”
According to Ojo, who was the chairman, Pharmacy Education Summit Committee, as well as chairman, Research, Documentation and Industry Liaison Committee of the PSN, one of the major challenges working against pharma businesses is the huge debts that government agencies owe them. He therefore appealed to the government to ensure that any agency owing pharmaceutical companies pays without further delay.
“Debt kills businesses because any business that doesn’t have cash will die. You will not be able to meet your obligations, such as payment of tax and operations, as well as payment of salaries. I must say that this is one of the things killing us in the industry. So we need to find a way out of it. We have been appealing to the government but I am still using this medium to appeal again to them on the issue of debt owed pharma companies, that they should pay,” Ojo said.
While citing the challenges of human resources in the pharma industry, Ojo called on the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the PSN to intervene. He said: “We have challenges with human resources in the pharma industry, but I hope the PSN, in conjunction with PCN, will help to ensure that we have quality human resources in the industry. I believe through cooperation we can achieve more”.
Also expressing optimism on year 2023, Pharm. Falabi told Pharmanews: “For year 2023, the pharma industry will continue with the baby steps because there are so many likely disruptions. Election has just taken place, then there will be change of government. Also there will likely be policy disruptions; give or take, 2023 will still be positive.
“So, stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry should be optimistic. Irrespective of what may happen, overall, I think 2023 will still be a positive year for the Nigerian pharma market.”