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Costs of drugs, food: Nigerians face health troubles

By Biyi Akinnodi, Ibe Kingsley, Emmanuel Jonah, Ogundele Kehinde, Bamidele Precious and Peace Ijieh

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Nigerians have called on President Bola Tinubu to take drastic measures to alleviate the suffering of the masses by arresting biting inflation and the increasing cost of living in the country.

The Hope findings showed that the escalating costs of essential commodities is raising apprehensions among both the sellers and consumers.

Investigations by The Hope also showed substantial surge in prices of staple foods such as rice, beans, Garri, among others which remain staple foods in the country. For instance, a bag of foreign rice increased from N50,000 to between N70, 000 to N74, 000, depending on the quality and brand, just as price of local rice also skyrocketed from between N35,000 and N40,000 to between N65,000 to N70,000, depending on the quality and brand.

It was also gathered that a 25 liters of vegetable oil is now sold between N42,000 and N45,000, depending on the product, while 25 liters of of palm oil is sold for N24, 00.

The economic situation in the country has become unpalatable since the removal of the fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu on May 29, 2023.

Reacting, some traders at the popular Adedeji market (Oja Oba) in Akure who spoke with The Hope expressed concerns about the affordability and accessibility of basic necessities.

Mrs Funmilola Afolabi, Mrs Odole Elisabeth, Mrs Oluchi Grace and Babatunde Alabi, stressed that residents in rural communities across the country are worse affected as many now find it difficult to afford three square meals.

They pleaded with the Federal Government to quickly intervene and address the escalating food prices as they are becoming increasingly unbelievable for the citizens.

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This is even as drugs prices continue to soar, with essential medications becoming increasingly out of reach of Nigerians.

An investigation by The Hope revealed a troubling trend where paracetamol, danacid, and amoxicillin are now priced beyond the means of many Nigerians.

The repercussions are dire, with individuals resorting to black markets or herbal remedies, and healthcare providers warning of worsened health outcomes and economic strain.

This crisis, exacerbated by the fall of the Naira and global economic shifts, call for urgent intervention to safeguard public health and revitalize the pharmaceutical sector.

According to a pharmacist, Dr. Babatunde Olusegun, the increasing prices of drugs will have negative impact on people’s health and well being.

“The high cost of drugs is making it difficult for people to afford the medication they need and it is leading to more serious health problems as well as financial stress and anxiety, ” Babatunde stressed.

A Chemist, Mrs Folakemi Adedolapo said the serious health problems that people are having can be attributed to the high cost of drugs and inability to afford their medication.

Folakemi added that the inflation in drug prices is not only affecting the people but also affecting the health care system and the economy as people rarely patronise pharmacies.

A nurse, Mr Ochonogor Destiny Ify, also corroborated that drugs are becoming unaffordable for patients and it is having negative impact on the people.

The Chief Executive Officer of Tanbo Pills and Store, Pharm.Ofiyesinka Ebikeeyen Godspower mentioned that the fall of Naira value worsens Nigeria healthcare system and the depreciation affects pharmaceutical giants, leaving common medicines scarce and unaffordable.

“Pharmaceutical giants like GSK are leaving the country, essential medicines like Augmentin, Ventolin, Ampiclox are being hoarded by wholesalers and retailers alike”.

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“The depreciating value of Naira to Dollar,the post oil-subsidy era coupled with sky high inflation has led to a high increase in the cost of the importation of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and manufacturing of finished products at the consumer level”, Ofiyesinka stressed.

Ofiyesinka called for local manufacturing of essential drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) so as to combat this critical situation.

The Hope gathered from herbal remedy sellers that there have been upsurge in the requests for herbals for several ailments such as Malaria, Typhoid, infections and others.

Equally, the dreams of lower construction cost for prospective homeownership may become a nightmare, going by the fresh spike in the price of cement by producers last week, The Hope has learnt.

This is coming amidst rising inflation in the country.

Cement is an essential ingredient in building construction, and frequency in the increase of its price will continue to impact negatively on the nation’s housing sector. Experience has shown that high prices of cement tend to encourage reduction in the quality of building production.

The recent development has triggered abandonment of ongoing construction projects by either companies or private individuals, with adverse effects on the open market, as prices are going up by about 30 per cent within a few days.

The ugly scenario has already affected prices of sandcrete blocks. Block makers have jacked up their prices from N450 to N500 for a six inches block, while the price of a nine inches block rose from N550 to N600 each.

Stakeholders warned that such an astronomical increment will worsen the present economic situation as prices of new homes and rents will rise, including maintenance.

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The Nigerian cement industry has three major players with Dangote Cement Plc being the leader, wielding 60.6 per cent of the market share with a local installed capacity of 29.3 million MT. Lafarge Africa Plc has 21.8 per cent share with a production capacity of 10.5 million MT, while BUA Group accounts for 17.6 per cent share.

Members of the CMAN include Dangote Cement Plc, which is emerging as a market leader and has factories in Gboko, Benue State; Obajana, Kogi State; and Ibeshe, Ogun State. Others are Lafarge Africa Plc; Ashakacem Plc and Cross-River based United Cement Company, under the Lafarge Africa brand and BUA Cement Plc.

Stakeholders disclosed that the hike is not unconnected to the difficult operating environment, as the manufacturers have had to contend with dwindling capacity utilisation of their plants, due to disruptions in gas supply, while the high cost of Automotive Gasoline Oil (AGO), known as diesel, which used to sell between N800 to N1, 055 per litre (now N1, 400 per litre), has made alternative power supply unbearable.

A cement dealer, Abiodun Akinwale and property developer, Sunday Alabi attributed surge in price to high cost of raw materials and exchange rate.

According to them, some of the input cost pressures being encountered by many manufacturers border on foreign exchange losses on dollar loans, inability to access foreign exchange, high cost of production, as well as poor electricity supply and tariff hike.

Past President, Nigerian Institute of Building, Kunle Awobodu, said: “Frequent increase in building materials is bad to the economy. This is going to create a crisis in the construction sector and bad blood between clients and contractors, as developers will make claims for fluctuations.

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