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FG: Economy shows signs of stability, but fragile

…boosts NAFDAC’s capacity to detect fake drugs

The Federal Government has disclosed that the nation’s economy has begun to exhibit some measures of stability with its recent exit from recession, but cautioned that some sectors were still showing signs of fragility.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, stated this yesterday, while briefing newsmen after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Ahmed said the recent exit from recession was an indication that the diversification policy of the government had begun yielding positive results. She also said that the implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) has equally begun to impact positively on the economy. “Nigeria’s GDP in the fourth quarter of 2020 grew by 0.11 per cent and in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2020.

This follows, if you recall, two consecutive negative growths in the third quarter and the second quarter of 2020, which saw us as a country going into recession. So, as a result of this fourth quarter positive growth, the total growth for the year 2020 is -1.92 per cent.

“Recall that we had reported that we will be going into a negative growth at the end of 2020 at -4 per cent and some of the international development institutions reported much higher negative growth for Nigeria. So at -1.92 per cent, it is a very good performance.

“But also, the good story for us is that, with this positive growth in the fourth quarter, it means Nigeria has exited recession. This is one of the shortest recessions we have witnessed in the country, despite the impact of the COVID-19. But, I must say that the result of this exit is as a result of the fiscal policies, the monetary policies and the Economic Sustainability Plan,” she said. Ahmed disclosed that out of the 46 sectors of the economy, 17 recorded positive growth and this is higher than the number of sectors that had recorded positive growth in the third quarter. According to her, the aspects of the economy showing signs of negativity include oil refining, air transport, coal mining, crude petroleum production, as well as accommodaion and food services.

“In real terms, the growth between the third quarter and the fourth quarter is a positive growth of 3.73 per cent, a movement within one quarter we have never witnessed in this country, so we’re growing from one quarter to another by 3.73 per cent. “That the movement from the second quarter to the third quarter also witnessed a growth of 2.48 per cent is an indication that the policies that are being implemented are the right ones and the trajectory is a positive one and that Nigeria is well on its way of restoring a consistent and stable growth, a growth that we hope to grow to be a strong growth from the fragile growth that we now have at 0.11 per cent.

“So this is a good performance, but on a broad sectoral basis, the Agricultural Sector posted a strong growth of 3.42 per cent during the last quarter and when you compare it to the previous quarter, it’s a much better performance. “Similarly, Services Sector grew. Other sectors that witnessed slowdown in growth include industry, crude, petroleum and natural gas sectors.

The decline in oil production and prices in 2020, of course, reflective of global drop in demand, and it is one of the major reasons why our country went into recession. “Another positive story for us is that the non-oil sector grew by 1.69 per cent.This is an indication that the diversification efforts that the economy has been pushing is actually also posting results; while the oil sector is declining, the non-oil sector is growing.

“We’ve seen overall economic activities reported strongly in the quarry and minerals sector, in the ICT and Telecommunications sector, in the cement industry, in broadcasting, in crop production as well as in agriculture. “On the other hand, there are some sectors that are still witnessing negative and that’s why I said the growth is still fragile. These sectors include oil refining, air transport, coal mining, crude petroleum production, as well as accommodation and food services.

“Just of note is that we had vigorously implemented the Economic Sustainability Plan and we continue to implement the ESP. Even as we are taking the principles and the tenets of the ESP into the new National Development Plan that will be completed, we hope in the Medium Term Plan that will be completed and launched in the month of April,” he said.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who also briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting, said Council approved the two memos, both of them in favour of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). He said both memos were with regards to procurement to upgrade and scale up the capacity of NAFDAC to be able to detect fake and substandard drugs and other materials. According to Ehanire, the first memo was for 40 mobile scan devices to be able to detect fake and substandard drugs brought in from across the border or found within the country. “These are like rapid diagnostic kits tests, which also relieve the laboratories because normally you have to take samples to the laboratories. It takes a long time, several days and lead to some delays. So having a through scan allows us to have faster access.

“The second memo is about laboratory strengthening, improving and upgrading all of our six laboratories for NAFDAC for testing materials that are brought into the country. “Both of these contribute strongly to what we call the benchmarks for NAFDAC to be able to allow the manufacture of vaccines in Nigeria.

It needs what we call the maturity level 3 of the World Health Organisation, to be able to start manufacturing. We have ambitions to start manufacturing vaccines and the Federal Government owns 49% of shares in the company called BioVaccines that hopes to use technology imported from outside to make vaccines and getting this benchmark maturity level 3 is a condition for it.

“So both of these memos, the upscaling of laboratory capacity and the ability to speed up and make diagnostics more accurate in respective of fake and substandard drugs, will help us to push to apply for maturity level 3 for the health sector,” he said. On Nigeria’s access to COVID-19 vaccines, the ministers said the vaccines would be supplied to the country through three sources, namely; the COVAX facility set up by the World Health Organisation and Global Alliance for vaccines and immunization (GAVI); African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) and through bilaterals. Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Mohammed Bello disclosed that FEC also approved the sum of N5.9 billion for three projects in the FCT.

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