CBN: Hope Brightens For The Nation’s Weak Health System Over A N100 billion Intervention Fund A s SMEs Heave Sigh Of Relief

By Elizabeth Chukwuma

When Isaac Okoroafor, a Director, and the Central Bank of Nigerian,CBN, Spokesperson disclosed last April of plans by  the apex to start the  weekly sales of the Foreign Exchange, to the  Money Deposit Banks   nobody  took him serious because of  the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the  Asian country of China  emerged Coronavirus, popular, COVID 19.

True to its words, the apex bank  has  kept to its promise as it had resumed  the provision  and sales of Foreign exchange   to all Money Deposit Banks, MDBs,  for onward sales to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, wishing to make essential imports of raw materials and chemicals needed to revamp economic activities across the country as well as parents wishing to pay school fees abroad.

Okoroafor, had said  that the apex bank  would make a  weekly provision  of $100 million and above  to  the  MDBs  for  sales to interested applicants. It was said to have also completed arrangements to resume  Forex sales to the Bureau De Change, BDC, segment of the market to accommodate  business tr and personal travels as  soon as International flights resumes.          

Godwin Emefiele: CBN Governor

Recall that last April, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, a multi-lateral Financial Institution, had approved a $3.4 billion loan facility for the Nigerian government to cushion the effect of the drop in the price of Crude Oil, in the International market in order to Fund the 2020 budget and support the Small and Medium Scales  Enterprises, SMEs, which are at the brink of Collapse because of the COVID 19.

In a related development, the bank was said to have to have also kept to its promise  of  providing N100 billion  Credit support to the nation’s health sector as part of the  measures to address the impact  of  the  COVID 19, on the nation’s health sector   between 2020 and 2030.

Godwin Emiefiele, the governor of the CBN, had said that the objective of the  health care intervention  Fund , include , reduction of  health tourism  abroad to conserve foreign exchange for the country, providing low cost  finance   for health infrastructure development  that would lead to development of a world class access  healthcare  facility in the country, improving  affordable Credit to indigenous Pharmaceutical  companies to  expand their operations and comply with the World Health Organisation, a United Nations Health agency,Good Manufacturing Practices, GMP .

 The facility, according to medical experts, will  go a long way in supporting the companies  in the provision of shared services   through a one-stop healthcare solution and reducing the  cost of healthcare delivery in the country. the CBN , may have been working according to  President Muhammadu Buhari’s broad   plan to tackle  the country’s weak  health system.

 Going by the broad plan of the katsina state  born Nigerian President  to  strengthen the nation’s weak health system, was the  establishment of Standard Laboratories , Intensive Health care Units,  Isolation  and Treatment centers in all states of the Federation that will be Calibrated  for future emergencies.

Already, the apex bank  has made it clear  that the eligible applicants  that would  benefit from the intervention Fund are  Pharmaceutical Companies producing drugs and medical equipment,  healthcare Product Manufacturers and healthcare service providers/medical facilities,Hospitals/Clinics, Diagnostic  centers and Laboratories, Fitness and Wellness centers, Rehabilitation centers, Analysis centers and blood banks among others.

Ifie Sekibo: Managing Director, Heritage Bank

This is in addition to the distribution and logistics services and other human health care service providers as may be determined by the bank ,from  time to time. The bank was said to have made it clear to the MDs and Development banks that the  eligible activities  to be supported by the intervention Fund  include manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs  and medical equipment , companies expansion/upgrade of basic special health care   facilities  and medical /pharmaceutical supplies which is in line  with the government health policy.

Others  are  medical, pharmaceutical  research  and development , distribution of  medical and pharmaceutical drugs  and supplies, technology and other health care value chain as may be prescribed by the CBN. The apex bank was said to have made it clear that  the  term loan  had a minimum of N2 billion per every successful applicant ,  but the interest rate   would not be more than 5 %  per annum until February 28, 2021.

Given that the intervention Fund would be used to provide Credit to indigenous Pharmaceutical Companies  and other health care chain players   intending to  build  and expand Capacity, the CBN, has given a matching order to the Money Deposit Banks, MDBs, to ensure that the Forex bought from the banks are sold only to Parents  wishing to pay school fees, SMEs, in order to make essential raw material and Chemical imports for their factories and Pharmaceutical Companies. This is  because the bank has made N100 billion available to support the nation’s health sector

Ifie Sekibo, Managing Director, Heritage Bank , has said that  the bank  will serve as a conduit   which will assess  and channel the profiles of interested  applicants  to the apex bank  using its Platforms to create awareness for the scheme. Sekibo  reportedly said that for  firms  in the health care sector and Corporate Organisations  interested for the loan facility  must submit its application to a Participating Financial Institution , PFI, whichh must either be MDB or a Development Financial Institution of its choice with a workable business plan.

The MDs and the Development Banks, The Magazine was informed , according to the CBN,  must  not only  receive the  applications from interested Corporate Organisation or parents wishing to pay schools abroad  but must review the applications submitted by its Customers, undertake due diligence  based on business considerations and bear the Credit risk.

The bank , was said to have also insisted that the MDs must issue ‘’offer letters   and forward qualified applications of Customers to it  in order to facilitate the disbursement of the Funds  to the successful applicants and be able to monitor their project as  well as recover the loans from the beneficiaries and  maintain adequate records of all the beneficiaries facilities

The  Banks also  requires, the MDBs and the Development Banks to   register   all moveable assets of the benefitting Companies  with the National Collateral Registry and equally forward   periodic returns  in the prescribed format  on the scheme to it, urging the banks to ensure they ’’ Comply with the guidelines  and carry out other duties that , may prescribed by it.

This is bad news for SMEs that may want to buy the Forex on the official exchange rate or the Pharmaceutical Companies that may the  get  the N2 billion loan facility  without using it for the purpose  for the purse in which it was  meant for as was the case in the past.

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