*As Ifeanyi Ubah raises Alarm
By Ignatius Okorocha
The Senate on Thursday at plenary directed the Nigeria Customs Service ( NCS) to enforce stringent measures to curb the ongoing exportation of surgical facemasks from Nigeria to China to save the country from imminent danger of scarcity.
The upper chamber further imposed strict penalties and heavy fines on anybody trying to export surgical facemasks within the period of the Coronavirus outbreak.
It also mandated the Federal Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies to launch a sensitization and awareness campaign to enhance efforts in preventing an outbreak of the virus in Nigeria.
Senate consequently mandated the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigerian Immigration Service and other relevant Government authorities to strengthen port health regulatory services in all entry ports across the country to checkmate the outbreak of the virus in Nigeria.
These resolutions of the Upper chamber, followed a point of Order raised by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah ( YPP Anambra South) on the need to forestall illegal exportation of face-masks to Asia and other Corona virus affected countries.
In his motion anchored on Order 43 of Senate rules, Senator Ubah alerted the Senate on the urgent need to quickly forestall imminent scarcity of surgical facemasks in the country following the current outbreak of corona virus in Nigeria.
He noted that in the last three weeks, facemasks have become the most sought after commodity in Nigeria with over 100 million facemasks being unpatriotically exported to Asia using Murtala Mohammed Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport.
The lawmaker also observed that the exportation of these facemasks have led to a surge in the market prices. “As at 5th of November, 2019, stores that usually sell 1 piece of facemask for N10 now sell it for N80, while a pack consisting of 50 pieces has now inflated from N500 to N3, 000 with a carton consisting of 40 packs also inflating from N20,000 to N120, 000.”
He expressed Concern that major retailers and suppliers of the commodity in Asia have been preserving their facemasks and reporting surgical mask shortages as a result of the outbreak and while Nigeria has continued to export imported face masks available in shop/stores to Asia and other affected countries.
“Consequently, it has now become a booming trade for illicit traders aided by airport officials in Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and Port Harcourt International Airport to unpatriotically export face masks to China, India and other affected countries.
“Nigeria may soon be facing a shortage of protective surgical facemasks if nothing is done to checkmate this unpatriotic exportation or promote indigenous production of the facemasks.
“Nigeria is on the brink of an imminent outbreak, given our massive population and frequency of travel; and with the looming shortage of protective surgical facemasks, we might be on our way to creating a devastating global situation. It is therefore disturbing that Nigerians are not adequately abreast and informed of the disastrous modalities and health consequences this deadly virus portends which could be further magnified by the impending shortage of protective facemasks,” Ubah noted.
He also drew the attention of his colleagues to a distress call he received from a Chinese friend who confidentially and reliably informed him of the fact that Chinese companies have sent their agents to scout for medical facemasks in Nigeria and other African countries.
The lawmaker lamented how India and other countries are mass producing the facemasks in order to curb this deadly trend, while we are doing nothing to forestall the outbreak of this deadly Coronavirus which originated from China and has currently spread to at least 28 countries globally with suspected cases of the deadly virus in African countries.
“Currently, the World Health Organization has recorded 565 deaths with 28,276 cases of infected persons,” he noted.
Ubah cautioned that if proactive measures are not taken to checkmate our borders, an imminent outbreak might occur in the same manner which an infected carrier immigrant from Liberia transferred the Ebola disease to Nigeria in 2014.