The mass solidarity move to protest what it termed the ‘Delay of Presidential Assent to, and Loss of Passed Pharmacy Council of Nigeria Bill that took place early May was as it were, a warning shot to the government and a piece of sensitisation for the general public. The two hour nationwide industrial action was strictly carried out by the community pharmacists in the land owing to the fact that they are the ones in the frontline – working directly and interfacing with the end users of pharmaceutical products.
Is there anything beyond sending a message to the government or is there a possibility of a complete downing of tools by pharmacists in the entire pharmaceutical healthcare sub-sector if the bill finally does not see the light of day?
No, not necessarily. According to Pharm. Obideyi Olabanji who is the Chairman of the Association of Community pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) Lagos State chapter, the pharmacists carried out the strike action which was also endorsed by the apex body of pharmacists – the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) merely to challenge government to do the needful. “There is no denying he fact that times have changed, and so too the level of sophistication in Pharmacy practice. Also changing is the prowess of drug fakers and adulterators.
“The simple and logical thing to do for any country that is progressive and have the interest of her citizens at heart is to be in tandem with the current realities,” Olabanji stated. The contents of the bill suggest that when passed into law it will go a long way to ensure sanity in the drug distribution and sales network while guaranteeing the wellbeing of the masses by such enablement as highlighted below:
1. Empower the pharmacy Council of Nigeria regulatory activities.
2. Make for adequate regulatory framework for Pharmacists and other cadres of pharmaceutical workforce in the country.
3. Make available adequate regulatory framework for different cadres of pharmaceutical premises; it will also include the concept of Satellite pharmacy to guarantee provision of pharmaceutical care services to all regardless of location, be it urban or rural.
4. Improve penalties for various offences – to serve as deterrent to people who violate the provisions of the current pharmacy laws at will. In the same vein, the bill compels pharmacists to show more responsibility in their professional practice considering that its disciplinary committee is empowered to check and bring to book every erring pharmacist and others engaged in the pharmacy workforce, etc.
It is important to note that not long after the inauguration of the outgoing assembly, the committee of the House of Assembly at that time initiated actions aimed at amending certain laws which were thought to have outlived their usefulness. Notable among them was the Pharmacist Council of Nigeria Act 91 of 1992 (now CAP 17 LFN 2004). The House Committee was accused of commencing the bill amendment without carrying along major stakeholders such as the PCN and PSN amongst others (including any of the associated technical groups).
The consequent protest which was observed nationwide was only carried out by pharmacists who operate pharmacy outlets, and largely aimed at appealing to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari to quickly assent to the Bill. It was also a means of sensitising Nigerians regarding the frustrations wreaked by the unscrupulous approach that has become the nuisance of drug distribution, as well as the recurrent menace of drug abuse in the country.
Nigerian pharmacists therefore insist that the lives and future of innocent Nigerians may be in serious jeopardy if the current trend is not checked especially by the signing into law the proposed bill which has already passed through the stages of reading before the above named two stakeholders got to know about the amendment and later joined for proper amendment. It was eventually passed by the National Assembly towards the end of 2017.
It would appear that going by that symbolic action in May the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria ably backed by the PSN, are eagerly working for the benefit of the generality of the populace. In pursuit of this they seek to ensure that drugs (pharmacologically referred to as poisons) distribution and sales are properly done – along global best practice in addition to safeguarding the lives of the majority of Nigerians.
By Sammy Adaba