• Mascot Kalu, others laud govt
Okey Sampson, Aba
The first step for actualization of the Aba Drug Mart and Coordinated Wholesale Centre (CWC), was taken on January 26, 2018, when the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Folorunso Adewole, performed its ground-breaking ceremony at Osisioma, near Aba, the commercial capital of Abia State. The Aba CWC being one of the four the Federal Government was planning to establish across the country would serve parts of the South-East and the South-South zones. Others are in Kano, Lagos and Onitsha.
The essence of the establishment of the drug marts across the country was to ensure that dealers on wholesale drugs are put in a defined area that would make it possible for proper monitoring to eliminate fake and substandard drugs. It would also ensure that while the government encourages people who want to do business on drugs realize value for their money, at the same time; it would make it easier for the government to collect taxes.
Adewole said government would as from January 1, 2019, put a ban on open sales of drugs in markets across the country. As from that date going by the minister’s assertion, anybody found contravening the directive would be arrested and the pharmaceutical products would not spared as they would be confisticated.
He said there would be no going back on the deadline to stop wholesale and distribution of drugs at the open markets across the country: “As at last year we agreed at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos that we’ll build a CWC here and there’s no going back. If we find anybody doing distribution, wholesale marketing of drugs outside this designated centre with effect from January 1, 2019, we’ll arrest that person and confisticate the products. This directive came from the committee of pharmaceutical sector reform and it has presidential backing.”
The minister disclosed that it was due to the notable role the South-East play in the sale and distribution of drugs in the country that made two of the CWCs to be sited in the zone; just as he made it clear that the Aba centre which is the second in the zone, when completed would ensure that Abians and other citizens of the country have access to quality and genuine drugs.
He said with the drug mart in place, it would ensure that the issue of drugs dealership would be more organized with the aim of bringing more profit to the dealers and equally remitting appropriate taxes to the governments. He saw the event as historic, saying that it represents a great step forward towards ensuring that the health of the people was well taken care of:
“The whole concept stems from our desire to ensure that we control drug distribution in Nigeria. This will ensure that the drugs that are being distributed are of good quality.”
Before coming for the event in Aba, the minister had earlier in Umuahia, the state capital, commissioned a drug resistant TB laboratory where he said the essence of the laboratory was to find a way to diagnose the resistant and non-resistant TB in patients and also treat them. He said the TB treatment centre and the laboratory, which is one of the five in the country would serve the South Eastern zone.
He took time off to visit the kidney transplant facility at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, where he commended the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Abali Chukw, whom he called the “Magician” for his achievements, stating that the centre would become the hub for kidney care in the South East.
To him, with the drug mart in place, health facilities in the South-East and other parts of the country were 100 per cent sure of getting genuine and unadulterated drugs all year round.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, represented by his deputy, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, expressed government’s delight that the project and the Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Laboratory and Treatment Center at Amachara General Hospital in Umuahia South Local Government, were situated in the state.
Chukwu assured that despite the N100 million the governor promised to give for the TB centre that the state was willing to give out its land to similar developmental project initiatives to be sited in the state by the Federal Government. He also promised that the state government would ensure that the drug dealers would have adequate security and infrastructural facilities that would enable them do business with ease.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ceremony, Chief Mascot Uzor Kalu, who was on the minister’s entourage said he came to witness the ceremony in support of what the Federal Government was doing in the health sector as it concerns the area that was so dear to him, Aba zone, saying that it was a project the state deserves to have.
To him, with the project and others, the Federal Government was handling particularly in the area of roads reconstruction in the state, it would be wrong for anybody to say that the APC-led Federal Government has not done anything for the state:
“The government has done for the state what the 16 years of PDP did not do for us. One of the problems of the South-East has been road construction. If you look around, you see that the APC government has been working on a lot of roads in the past two years that were not achieved in the 16 years of PDP administration.”
He said he had no doubt that the state would stand to gain tremendously from the drug mart and called on all the stakeholders to work closely to realize the project on good time. He also commended the Federal Government for the initiative, which he said, would go a long way to checkmating fake and adulterated drugs in the country.
Chief Kalu called on drug dealers in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones of the country to make maximum use of the opportunity the CWC was going to provide for them and enhance their businesses.
Legal adviser of EPAP, Ebere Uzoatu, said: “The people of the South-East would gain tremendously from the project because it has foreign participation and by January 1, 2019, there would not be anything like selling of drugs in the open market, the South-East has garnered two of the four drug marts, one is at Onitsha and the other one is at Aba; compared to the whole federation where the other two are located in Kano and Lagos respectively. This shows that the Igbo are in control of the drug market in Nigeria.
“The essence of the drug mart is to checkmate the issue of counterfeiting in drug production, distribution and consumption because if you are talking of the drug mart as a holistic entity, the Federal Government will build the necessary facilities there that will house bulk refrigerator room, police and fire service stations; NAFDAC and Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria and what have you, will have their offices there. People will come there to buy drugs under supervised regulation. The major drug manufacturing companies will partner with the drugs marts to warehouse their products.”
He expressed delight that some of the drug dealers in some markets in Aba who hitherto opposed the establishment of the drug mart have started realising their mistakes and have embraced the idea and appealed to those who were yet to come to terms of what the CWC was all about to avail themselves of the window of opportunities provided by the minister of health and key into it.
A chieftain of PDP in the state, Chief Godswill Nwanorue, commended the Federal Government for its wisdom in siting the project in Aba and precisely in Osisioma, saying that it would add to the development of the area, which has long been neglected.
In their addresses, Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, Elijah Mohammed and Prof Christiana Adeyeye; the Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, who was represented by Ali Ibrahim, Director Pharmacolvigilance/Post Marketing Surveillance, expressed the readiness of their agencies to support the Federal Government in eradicating sales of drugs in the open market.
According to Mohammed, one of the major targets for the development of National Drug Distribution Guideline (NNDG) was to positively turn things around the pharmaceutical sub-sector of the country’s economy through streamlining the chaotic distribution system.
President of Enyimba Pharmaceutical and Allied Product Limited (EPAP), Sir Chukwuemeka Osuagwu was not left out at the ceremony as he commended the state and Federal governments for their initiatives and called on foreign investors to see the project as a way of partnering with them to take Aba to the global center stage.