From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The controversy over where the new Coordinated Wholesale Centre (CWC) market for drug distribution in Anambra State for the South-East zone will be sited has been laid to rest.
The state government, Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) and other stakeholders have reaffirmed their endorsement for Oba Market site. The decision was reached at a meeting with the directors of Central Pharmaceutical and Allied Products Wholesale Limited, subscribers, pharmacists, and representatives from the state government, led by the commissioner for health. They disclosed that work would soon commence at the Oba Market site in Idemili South Local Government Area (LGA) of the Anambra State.
The Federal Government had prohibited open drug markets in the country, which necessitated the construction of new markets for relocation of the medicine markets in Lagos, Kano and Anambra states.
In a search of a suitable place to build the market, a tract of land of over 50 hectares at about 492, 385, 900 square metres in Oba was selected at former Oba International Market.
As gathered, the former minister of health, Prof Isaac Adewole, in 2017, visited the site and approved the place for the project, also the PCN and Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) visited and approved the site.
When the project is completed, the existing drug (Ogbogwu) market at Bridgehead Market in Onitsha and other drug markets in Onitsha, like Ose, Ochanja, Relief, Awka and Ekwulobia drug markets would be relocated to the new site.
At the meeting, Commissioner for Health Vincent Okpala said that medicine was in the exclusive list of the Federal Government, which determines how and where the medicine would be regulated and where markets should be sited.
“The Federal Government, represented by registrar of PCN as the regulators, has licensed Oba site for the market. So, Anambra State is not divided. We align with the Federal Government through the PCN who has endorsed Oba location.
“We want to have a regulated drug market in Anambra because it helps a lot in actually taking care of the routine fake drugs in the system.
“The drug dealers have to look at the places where the CWC has worked out well and copy from them. They should eschew bitterness and rancour.
“They should get their project director and start wok and within 12 and 18 months the project is completed,” he said.
Registrar of PCN, Mr. Elijah Mohammed, said there was no going back on the closure of open drug markets in the country to be replaced with coordinated wholesale centres.
Mohammed, who was represented at the meeting by the Anambra PCN’s head, Mrs. Fechi Njoku, said: “The problem of drug distribution will come to an end because regulatory agents like police, NAFDAC, NDLEA and PCN will have their offices there and the issue of fake and adulterated drugs would be a thing of the past.
“We thank the Federal Government for this initiative and other agencies as well as the state government for their support for Oba land for the centre.”
On his part, the chairman of the board of directors of Central Pharmaceutical and Allied Products Wholesale Limited, Mr. Uche Eze, said: “We invited the subscribers and other stakeholders to give them the situation report about the project. For the first time, the pharmacists and drug dealers/traders in the open drug market met, reasoned together and charted a way forward in realizing the project in due time.
“We now have 50 hectares that is 1,000 plots, which can accommodate more dealers in the new market. The reports reaching us shows that CWC project has started in Kano and Lagos, and we will soon start our own, since we have acquired the land.”
On the allegations of some people hijacking the project, Eze said: “Nobody has hijacked or will hijack anything because everything is done in the open. Both the traders, pharmacists and some corporate bodies have invested in the project and we follow due process in all our dealings.”
The CWC chairman of PCN of Anambra State and the secretary of the CWC Oba project, Mr. Chinedu Nwankwo, said: “People should key in and get the forms, we don’t want the Igbo people to miss out in this project; we want to carry everybody along.”
Om the board of trustees of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), chairman of Rojenny Sports Complex, Chief Rommy Ezeanwuka, commended government for the regulation of drug markets in the country to checkmate fakes and counterfeits in the country.
“I’m happy to have witnessed this meeting. The stakeholders and pharmacists have committed huge amounts of money in the project and there is no going back on the project in Oba. The subscribers and other stakeholders have put over N700 million in the project and some people want to scuttle it,” Ezeanwuka said.
On February 18, elders of Oba in Idemili South LGA had appealed to federal, state governments and Onitsha medicine dealers (Ogbogwu) to make haste and commence the construction of the CWC market in the community.
The elders, led by Chief Boniface Onyeka, the second-in-command of the Igwe-in-Council in Oba community, performed the flag-off/ground-breaking of the project at old international market, prayed and blessed the market land.
“We have performed the foundation-laying ceremony because the project is irreversible. We are the owners of the land and we have prayed and blessed this land and have willingly approved the place for the market” Onyeka said.