FEC Expresses Concern Over Rising Cost of Goods, Services in Nigeria

FEC Expresses Concern Over Rising Cost of Goods, Services in Nigeria

•Brainstorms on improving business environment 

•Moves to crash cost of pharmaceuticals, halt brain drain

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday expressed concern over the rising cost of goods and services across the country.

This is just as President Bola Tinubu mandated the Presidential Council on Industrial Revitalisation, as well as the Presidential Council on Fiscal Reform and Tax Policy Review to fast-track their reports and come up quickly with recommendations to grow the real sector.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite, disclosed these while briefing newsmen after the maiden 2024 FEC meeting presided over by Tinubu at the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja.

 “Today (Wednesday), council noted the rising cost of goods and services in the country, as well as the rising cost of doing business in Nigeria and also noted the excitement and optimism of the real sector that the Renewed Hope Agenda will bring a prosperous 2024.

“We deliberated on how we can actually improve the business environment for manufacturers and industrialist. As you’ll recall, the priority of this government is to promote and protect local industries and manufacturers and this will mean that we must do all that is necessary to remove all the roadblocks and bottlenecks impeding or impacting businesses,” she said.

According to her,  the president has always reiterated that Nigeria is open for business and that there are no more roadblocks, including multiple taxation, multiple levies, customs duties and various levies that are imposed on businesses, infrastructure decay, including power.

She explained that Tinubu had earlier set up several committees for the purpose of revamping the economy, stressing that the government will be implementing policies that will jumpstart the economy again.

“For this to happen, we have been mandated and charged to come up with the resolution from those committees as quickly as possible and when this is implemented, we expect to see more creation of jobs, drop in prices of goods and services, and a total revival of the economy.

“We assured the FEC that we will do all that is necessary to come up with the resolution as quickly as possible so that Nigerians can begin to enjoy the shared prosperity and the Renewed Hope Agenda in 2024,” the minister added.

Also commenting on ratification of the Investment Promotion and Protection agreements between Nigeria and the UAE,  Uzoka- Anite said with the approval, the document can be sent to the lawmakers for ratification.

“The council also approved that the Minister for Industrial Trade or Investment should also immediately invoke Article 26 of that agreement, which mandates that we can review and amend some sections of the IPPA to conform with the current IPPA model that we’re using, which is a 2016 model.

“So that has been approved for ratification and we will immediately proceed to invoke the section that will enable us to review and amend the sections that were not originally viewed to be favourable,” he explained.

On his part, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, told reporters that so many issues discussed at the council meeting were geared towards improving the welfare of Nigeria and Nigerians.

“One of the major issues discussed was the issue of double taxation and encouraging foreign direct investment.  This time around, it’s about the relationship between the Nigeria the United Arab Emirates.

“You’ll recall that a while ago, the president was in the United Arab Emirates and one of the matters that came up for discussion and negotiation is the agreement for the elimination of double taxation with respect to taxes on income, and prevention of tax evasion and avoid avoidance.

“The council noted that the agreement between both countries, that is, between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates include personal income tax, company income tax, petroleum profit tax, information technology levy, tertiary education tax and capital gain tax.

“Because of the effect of this cooperation or the benefits that will accrue to Nigeria, the council agreed and directed that the agreement that had been signed already should be taken further by mandating or authorising the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to prepare a bill along this line to take to the National Assembly for ratification,”  he stated.

Fagbemi added that effect of this is that it does cease to be an ordinary agreement, but an agreement between two countries which other nations can emulate.

“Apart from this, one has also decided that going forward, we should also have a very solid national policy on taxation that will drive or attract foreign investment,” he added.

Also at Wednesday’s FEC meeting,  Tinubu approved three resolutions aimed at strengthening the health and social welfare sector to better deliver to Nigerians.

Minister of Health and Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, who disclosed this to reporters said the steps are targeted at relieving the escalating cost of pharmaceuticals, funding of health sector regulatory bodies and mitigating the human resource flight in the sector.

To him, the decisions, one of which would be codified into an executive order for effective implementation, puts to the human capital, health and social welfare of Nigerians at the centre.

According to him, the executive order aims to enable local drug manufacturers to thrive, while ensuring fair pricing of essential medicines explaining that this became necessary following the exit of major multinational pharmaceutical companies from Nigeria, reducing competition.

He said: “Today, at the FEC, Mr. President took three far-reaching decisions relating to the health sector.

“The first is on the rising cost of pharmaceuticals, the hike in prices that we have in the pharmaceutical, which is going beyond the reach of many Nigerians, life-saving commodities, devices like syringes and needles and the exit of major companies from our market.

“Those decisions also include the regulation of the sector to protect the health and well being of humans and the third decision is regarding how we deal with the crisis of human resources in the health sector.

“The first on the syringes, drugs, pharmaceuticals and other devices, as you’ll recall, Mr President, in his wisdom, at the end of last year, in October, approved an initiative to unlock the healthcare value-chain and appointed coordinator for that.

“But we know that the price of pharmaceuticals have escalated and many entities have decided to withdraw and some of the local manufacturers in Nigeria are struggling.

“The president’s intent is that we begin to take steps to enable the local manufacturers to survive, to thrive and to deliver the basic commodities that are key to saving their lives.

“And  he directed that the Attorney General of the Federation work with us to come up with an executive order, which is the mechanism through which he will act, given the concern that he has that many Nigerians are suffering from the costs of pharmaceuticals, as well as other devices.”

Pate also said to strengthen healthcare regulation and protect citizens, key regulatory bodies including the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) will continue to receive funding exception from cuts impacting other professional associations.

Also, to address the shortage of healthcare workers, Pate said  council has delegated approval of recruitment waivers to the Health Ministry directly, explaining that this will accelerate hiring and reduce delays.

“The third is regarding the acute human resource shortage that we have. We know and having gone around many of our hospitals, particularly federal tertiary hospitals, the replacement of health workers that leave oftentimes takes a very long time because waiver process takes several stages.

“Mr President directed in council that the approvals of those waivers be delegated to the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare so that it doesn’t have to go through the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

“That will hasten the recruitment of health workers in terms of those who are out there unemployed, within limits of their fiscal resources,” he further said.

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