By Chioma Obinna
Commendations have trailed the progress made so far by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s, CBN, N100 billion Pharmaceutical Intervention Fund for COVID-19 as N93 billion of the Fund has already been disbursed to beneficiaries.
The fund was part of proactive measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
According to stakeholders in the health sector, most local pharmaceutical industries, with the help of the fund, have boosted their production capacities to manufacture facemasks, personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers, gloves, antiviral drugs, ventilators, medical supplies and vaccines.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, had in April 2020 taken measures to extend credit facilities of up to N100 billion to support intervention efforts geared towards the healthcare sector as well as stimulate economic activities locally within the healthcare sector.
Information from the CBN showed that N93 billion of the Fund has already been disbursed to beneficiaries and a positive impact has also been felt in the private sector as envisioned by the apex bank.
In the views of the Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Dr Fidelis Ayabae every company that met the loan requirement got it.
“We are happy with the CBN for the initiative and the way it was implemented. Members that are yet to access it are working with the commercial banks with whom they have a relationship to close up documentation gaps before moving on to CBN. Overall it is a successful intervention. Some of the impacts can already be seen in the financial performance of the early recipients of the loans.”
On his part, the President of, Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi who said the fund was commendable, noted that the CBN offered pharmaceutical companies and medical practitioners low-interest-rate loans up to N100 billion from March 2020 as an intervention to improve local manufacturing and increase their capacities to combat COVID 19 pandemic and other related health challenges.
Also, a Consultant Pharmacist and Medical Director, Merit Healthcare, Dr Olu Ojo, stated: “I know some big companies that got the money. Many companies have offers but funds were released late. Although there were challenges, the intervention fund has made a huge impact.”
On his part, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Sam Ohuabunwa confirmed that more than 90 per cent of the N100 billion COVID-19 intervention fund for the healthcare/pharmaceutical industry have been accessed by their members.
Ohuabunwa, who is also the Convener, the New Nigeria Group, NNG, said the Fund was a laudable idea but yet to achieve its objectives. “ The impact of difficulty in forex access is that it portends grave danger and may undermine the noble objectives.”
Commenting, the Acting Head, Corporate Affairs of the CBN, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, said the Health Sector Intervention Facility (HSIF) was established to address health infrastructure decay in the country.
“Over N85 billion has been disbursed to date covering 82 projects. N22.5 billion was disbursed to States for revamping of primary health care centres across the country.
“On monitoring, we are evaluating the utilisation and thus far there has not been any diversion. We need to understand that this is a health intervention and the health sector is regulated. What you may refer to absence of evidence of investment in the sector is because the beneficiaries are doing the right thing by going through the regulatory hurdles for each stage of utilisation. Soon the impact will be obvious. Besides, the CBN also carry out an impact assessment of the facility.”
He said the HSIF has been used to finance the following: acquisition and installation of 16 magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Machines across the country; and acquisition and installation of 22 medical scanning machines by hospitals across the country. “These are verifiable and we confirm that they have been installed.”
Nwanisobi said the Real Sector Support Facility-Differentiated Cash Reserves Requirement (RSSF-DCRR) of the CBN shall fund the Scheme, and disbursements are made by Participating Financial Institutions (PFI’s). The eligible financial institutions are Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs).
“Where the loan is for working capital and the eligible participant has been in operation for at least three years, the loan limit shall be calculated at 20 per cent of the Company’s three year average of its turnover, up to N500 million.
He said where it is a term loan, the limit shall be N2 billion for the eligible participant and the interest rate is no more than five per cent per annum all-inclusive for loans taken until February 28, 2021, and nine per cent per annum for loans taken from March 1, 2021.
Nwanisobi said the loan tenure depends on whether the loan was taken for funding working capital or if it is a term loan. For working capital, the tenor shall be for a period of up to one year, with an option for rollover for no more than three years.
He said for a term loan, the tenure should be up to 10 years with a maximum of a one-year moratorium on repayment, adding that repayment shall be broken down into interest and principal repayments, which shall be paid in installments as provided by the PFIs.
“Eligible participants shall submit an application to a PFI of its choice with supporting documentation including a business plan.
“When CBN approves, the funds will be disbursed to the PFI for release to the eligible participant. Delays and/or non-release of funds to eligible participants within the timeline stipulated in the offer letter shall attract a penalty at the PFI’s maximum lending rate. The intervention shall end by December 31, 2030.”