What’s the state of play as far as the availability of personal protection equipment in Nigeria now?
So we’ve had a couple of demands but distribution has also been a problem. We’ve had people asking us if we can produce for them. Before the lockdown, we did some production that was a social campaign which we distributed for free. But now that there is a lockdown, distribution is going to be a problem for us.
One would think as an essential service provider and manufacture of medical equipment , you’ll be exempt from it?
For garment manufacturers, we haven’t received and exemption letter. We actually wrote for it. The Association wrote a letter, but we haven’t received any response.
Tell us about your company and what sort of medical protective equipment you actually make.
We are a mid-capacity garment factory. We produce personal protective gear like cover-alls, Overalls, face masks and surgical masks. We do not produce the N-95 but we produce the cloth masks and surgical masks because we have supply for the fabrics that we use in doing that. The textile polypropylene is used to make the surgical mask, and then for the surgical mask, we have the fabric available.
So, equipment that was once easily available and disposable in Nigeria is now becoming a precious commodity, I imagine that’s the case?
Very much so.
So what sort of orders have you got,as you say you’ve got a couple of orders?
We have some Non-governmental (NGO’s) who have reached out to us,but like I said, the primary constraint is distribution, logistics, and to make sure that our staff are safe. We have to put safety measure in place. We have a a quarters that is within the factory premises. We have to put in safety measures to make sure that people don’t go out to for instance get food. Our staff need to be tested. We have to stay isolated if we are going to be producing these items and also distributing in a safe manner.
But one would have though you would be swamped with orders, because internationally that’s what’s happening. Beyond the hospitals and government orders, ordinary people are buying face masks and so it’s expected that the government medical facilities are also sticking up on these items as the numbers of infected people continues to grow everyday.
This is a very good question, and its very surprising. The Nigerian textile and garment manufacturers Association have been deliberating for the past week. We’ve been wondering why we haven’t been reached out to, considering the fact that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) earlier in the year, has signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between us and the para-military for our Association to produce personal protective gears for para-military and other organisations that need items as such. We are surprised that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) hasn’t reached out to us. We have reached out to them by way of a letter, and we are aware that importation is being done. And we don’t understand why. I have a mid-capacity factory can produce at least four thousand clothe and surgical masks a day. We also have textile companies that produce the polypropylene used in producing the surgical masks.
But the government is importing them?
Yes, the government is importing them.
But before the outbreak of Corona Virus, were you supplying the government and hospitals? Who were you main clients?
Most of them are imported really, we have very few people that were ordering from us.
The whole thrust of the Buhari government is always being to indiginise as much as possible, the manufacture of things. And they were particularly supportive of manufacturers. But what you are saying is that they haven’t been busying your equipment basically?
They haven’t been buying.
Do you know why?
Well. hat’s not in my place to answer.
One would think that you’ll want to know why ?
I’m not sure, but in terms of technical know-how, we do have that. We have the machines and professional expertise.