By: KENNETH ORUSI, Asaba
In what looks like a scene in the National Assembly (NASS), where aggrieved federal lawmakers stage a walk out of plenary over failure to arrive on mutual agreement, members of the Delta State chapter of the Nigerian Association of Patent And Proprietary Medicine Dealers (NAPPMED), staged a walk out of a sensitization meeting and update of participants on the commencement of activities of Delta State Taskforce on Counterfeit and Fake Drugs And unwholesome Processed Foods over an eight-year long litigation which questions the authority of Pharmaceutical Council Nigeria (PCN), to issue license to patent medicine dealers in the state.
Mr. Christian Ganagana, who spoke on Wednesday on behalf of NAPPMED with our correspondent in an exclusive interview, argued that it is the absolute right of the President of the country which is sublet to the ministry of health to issue licenses to her members and not PCN.
Hear him: “The ministry of health cannot again sublet power that is given to them to another person. So, it is the ministry of health that should issue us license but not the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria”.
Ganagana, hinted our correspondent that the circular dispatched to them inviting NAPPMED for the meeting stated that unregistered premises of patent medicine dealers would be closed down, “and being that we have been in court since 2010, we have not being renewing or taking license from the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria. We are waiting for when the court will give judgment and if it is in our favour, then it is the ministry of health that will issue us license. So, for that reason, we cannot go to the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria to obtain license. Therefore, there is no genuine patent medicine dealer in Delta State that has the license issued by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria”.
He said the desire of the group is that their prayers in court be granted for the ministry of health to issue the licenses to them.
“let me use this opportunity to clear a misgiving that the society is having about us that we don’t want to be controlled or regulated. It is a wrong notion, we want to be regulated by the federal government which we are under but who to regulate us is the bone of contention which we say should be the ministry of health and that is what we want from the government, they should grant our prayers to us”, he stated.
Earlier at the meeting Ganagana, told the organizers that their shops have been shut down before, hinting that they dared PCN by breaking the padlocks, “and heaven did not fall. And we will do same again and heaven will fall”, before shunning the meeting.
In his speech, the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Mordi Ononye, said the effect of proliferation of unregistered pharmacies and patent medicine shops pose grave danger to the health of the nation, which made the federal government to promulgate the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs Decree of No. 17 of 1989 which today is Cap: C34 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“Delta State has a taskforce inaugurated by the Minister of Health on 19th of February, 2014. Due to unavailability of funds as at that time the taskforce could not kick start its activities. Thankfully the present government saw the need to reawaken the task force by releasing funds to enable the task force help to rid the state of the menace of fake and substandard drugs, cosmetics and unwholesome food as well as the unauthorized sale and display of regulated products in place not duly licensed or registered for such purposes by the appropriate authority”, Okowa said.
He revealed that membership of the task force spans through all the relevant agencies and bodies as stipulated in section 8 of the enabling Act which include the Nigerian police, NAFDAC, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, ministry of Justice and inspection officers.
He expressed hope that the interface would serve as an eye opener to all participants not to engage in illegal or unauthorized acts but determined to do the right thing which is to make sure that, “all regulated products displayed for the purpose of sale are registered with NAFDAC. All the places or premises where these regulated products are displayed for the purpose of sales are registered or licensed by PCN. All indiscriminate advertisement and sale of herbal products without approval of the relevant agencies are stopped forthwith”, he warned.
In his address, chairman of the federal task force on Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and unwholesome processed foods cum Director, Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, Kingsley Ejiofor, disclosed that the federal task force is charged with the responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the enabling enactment; vis a vis coordinating the activities of the state task force, directing and monitoring the activities of the state task force, paying unscheduled visits to ports of entry and border posts among others.
Ejiofor said the federal task force have the powers to seal up any premises used or being used in connection with any offence under the enabling Act until such time as t drug or poison, as the case may be, in the premises has been removed by the federal task force or until reasonable time as the minister may determine in the circumstances.
On his part, chairman of the State task force Pharm. Barr. William Etubiebi, lamented that over 10 years, the state task force was not functional just as he appreciated the state governor and requested for the provision of Hilux Van and a bus, “without which the job of the task force of sensitizing and safeguarding the health of Deltans will be a difficult task”.
On her part, the Director, Inspection and Monitoring, Pharm (Mrs) Anthonia Aruya, said the Act setting up the counterfeit and fake drugs and unwholesome processed foods provides for the prohibition of sale and distribution of counterfeit, adulterated, banned or fake substandard or expired drugs or unwholesome processed food; and of sale of drugs or poisons in certain premises or places.
She hinted that the state task force is empowered to seize any drug or poison displayed for the purpose of sale in any premises not duly licensed or registered for the purpose and seal up such premises, “the regular outings of the state task force would go a long way to reduce the level of fake and counterfeit drugs in the nation and also eradicate illegal outlets that will impact positively on the health of the populace”.