It is not uncommon for countries to raise tariffs on things that are considered luxury goods to both generate income and curb imports and one would easily agree that in Nigeria, sports cars and yachts fall under that category but what about antimalarial drugs?
Nigeria is trying to cope with depleting foreign reserves which fell to an 11-year low of $24.8 billion in 2016 and therefore made moves last year to curb imports by raising tariffs. Import duties were raised for yachts, sports cars, and food items with the government defending the increases by asking Nigerians to buy Nigerian made goods.
The import duties on Yachts, sports cars, and even SUVs were raised by 250%. The government also chose to raise import taxes on antimalarial drugs at a much lower rate but still designating them with the move as luxury goods.
Nigeria’s health minister denied the hike of import duties for antimalarial drugs but a ministry of finance document suggested that the President had already approved the additional since October. If the reports are true, antimalarial drugs will now attract a 20% increase.
The additional taxes for antimalarial drugs which previously were tariff-free have been highly criticized. The criticism is not unfounded, considering fake drugs could garner a bigger market when the prices of drugs increase. The UN agency showed in March last year that since 2011, 10 laboratories manufacturing fake drugs have been shut down in Nigeria.
Malaria in Nigeria is still a pretty big problem with around 180,000 deaths per year making Nigeria the worst hit country by malaria in the world. Should the treatment of malaria become even more expensive, those numbers are likely to climb and set back the progress made in eradicating malaria across Africa.
Antimalarial drugs are certainly not luxury goods and until the problem of fake drugs in Nigeria is properly handled, it would be very problematic to classify them as such.