‘We are the cause of our own problem’ — Lagosians speak on scarcity of face masks, sanitisers

‘We are the cause of our own problem’ — Lagosians speak on scarcity of face masks, sanitisers
February 29
10:11 2020

On February 6, 2020, Ifeanyi Ubah, senator representing Anambra south, raised the alarm over the “illegal exportation” of face masks to Asia where coronavirus is spreading rapidly. He had lamented that this could have a negative effect in the event of an outbreak in the country. Three weeks down the line, Nigeria recorded its first case of the disease and residents of Lagos where the index patient met with people have been running from pillar to post to gets masks and sanitiser as a preventive measure but the items are scarce.

TheCable visited pharmaceutical stores in different parts of Lagos but only a few of them had the products less than 24 hours after an Italian who had flown into Nigeria’s commercial hub via Turkish Airline tested positive to the disease.


Purchased face masks

The few stores that had the products put them on sale at thrice the normal rate. At Smiles Pharmacy, Allen, Ikeja, a mask which was sold at the rate of N50 on Thursday was given out at the rate of N150. In the Idimu area of the state, face mask was available at N200. At Juta Pharmacy in Isheri Olofin, a pack containing 50 face masks sold at N7000 as against the earlier rate of N700.

When TheCable also visited Alpha Pharmacy and Stores Ltd at Toyin street, Ikeja Lagos, the items were available but at higher rates.


‘We don’t have face mask or hand sanitiser’

But while those stores had the products, the same could not be said of many others across the state. When TheCable requested for a face mask  and hand sanitiser at Medcourt Pharmaceutical Limited in Ojodu, one of the attendants simply said: “It’s not as simple as you think. Several people have been coming for the same items since morning. We don’t have them in stock anymore.”

At 360 Royal Care Pharmacy, situated at some distance away, the products were still not available. The story was not different at Medplus Pharmacy situated at Adeniyi Jones axis of Ikeja, Lagos. The attendant, with the name Bolaji A. crested on his uniform, said they just finished selling off the products.

A resident purchasing hand sanitiser at a pharmarcy

A security man at pharmaceutical shop told TheCable that there had been heavy demand for the items since news of the first coronavirus patient in Nigeria broke.

“People have really been coming for the products. As at 11am on Thursday, we still had them in stock but they got exhausted by 12pm today.  The attendants have to start telling customers to come back by evening to see if they will be available by then. We have not received them yet,” he said.

Jude, a security man at Medplus Pharmacy, Ikeja, Lagos

Visits to Boluke Pharmacy at Awolowo way, Ikeja, and Good Mark Pharmacy, situated at a Lagos bordering community were fruitless as the items were not available. At Good Mark Pharmacy, the attendant said: “You can’t get those items anywhere around here.”

At Health Plus Pharmacy located at Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, the attendant who was in a hurry to make a call wasted no time, telling the reporter that the items requested were not available.

“They (referring to face masks and hand sanitisers) are not available now. We are going to have them tomorrow. However, the prices depend on the type, quantity and time it is being requested. We can’t tell what the price will be tomorrow,” she said.

No face mask at HealthPlus , Ikeja

From Health Plus, the TheCable visited Elpha Pharmacy located along Allen axis of Ikeja where the reporter was told to “check back tomorrow”.

He, however, added a caveat: “The price could be different by the time you come tomorrow.”

Some Nigerians have complained over the ballooning prices of face masks and hand sanitisers.

A Lagos resident with face mask

Commenting on this, Ifu Ennada, ex-housemate of the Big Brother Naija, noted the sudden increase in the prices of the items is indicative of Nigerians’ “penchant for taking advantage of themselves unnecessarily”.

“Disposable face mask now N15,000! No longer N750 or N10,000 which was the latest price in Lekki this morning like I reported some minutes ago,” she wrote on Instagram.

“Nigerians, we are our own problem. I hope these Pharmacies ripping people off their money also educate them on how to use.”

A resident of Lagos who preferred anonymity alleged that pharmacists who have the products are hoarding them, adding that this fueled the inflation of prices.

“A pack containing N50 pieces is being sold for N550 before but now it is N7,000 and we still don’t have it around. A whole box containing packs of face masks sells for N12,500. All of a sudden it is being sold for over N20, 000 and it’s still not in the market, people are hoarding it,” he said.


Olusegun, a medical doctor

Olusegun Bankole, a medical doctor at Alimosho General Hospital in Lagos, said the panic buying of face masks and hand sanitisers was needless.

In an interview with TheCable, he said while the reaction trailing the outbreak of coronavirus in Nigeria is not out of place, there is no need for panic. He said those who have been confirmed to be infected with the virus as well as well as those close to such persons should be the ones using face masks, not the entire population.

“I think we need more enlightenment. We have an index case in Nigeria but it hasn’t gotten to the stage where everybody needs to start wearing face masks all over the place. I think the people need to be more educated about the issue,” he told TheCable.

“It is people who have respiratory tract infections or who have been confirmed to have the virus that need face masks so as to prevent the spread to people around them. Those taking care of such people or staying close to them also need to wear face masks like to prevent the virus from getting into their respiratory system. But for the rest of us (Nigerians), I don’t think it is necessary.

“It hasn’t gotten to that stage in Nigeria, so this is just a panic buying. If you go to pharmaceuticals these days, you won’t even see sanitsers anymore and even where they are available, they are very expensive. It’s like a case of demand and supply in economics, when there is a sudden stampede or demand for a product or service, like we have for face masks now, naturally, some people will cash in on that and start making business out of it.

Receipt for purchased mask


“I saw a patient that told me he got one mask for N700 at a pharmaceutical shop. Normally, they sell 50 of them in a pack for N1,000 and now people are buying one for N700 or even N1, 000.”

At a press conference on Friday, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos, assured residents of the state that the situation is under control.

He said the state and federal governments measures have put measures in place to to contain the spread of the virus across the country.


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