•Federal govt to replace them with coordinated wholesale centres
From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
On or before August 1, 2017, it would be good night to the popular and sometimes notorious Bridgehead drug market in Onitsha, Anambra State. Similar drug markets in Idumota, Lagos, Ariaria, Aba and Sabo-Gari, Kano would suffer same fate. They would be replaced by Coordinated Wholesale Centres (CWC) for all drug markets in the country.
The markets would be closed down following Federal government’s directive and prohibition of open drug markets in the country.
Daily Sun learnt that in a bid to meet with the given deadline, Onitsha Bridgehead Drug Market has commenced construction of a new market at Oba in Idemili South local government area of Anambra state where the existing drug market would be relocated to. The new drug market will be built in line with the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, (PCN) approved standard and in line with the specification for the construction of all CWC across the country.
In readiness for the closure and relocation of existing open drug Bridgehead Market in Onitsha, PCN and Cross and Crescent Consulting in collaboration with Central Pharmaceuticals and Allied Wholesale Limited, organised a two-day training workshop for all the traders/stakeholders in the would-be CWC in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The Registrar PCN, Mr Elijah Mohammed, while speaking at the workshop recently in Onitsha warned that there would be no going back on the closure of open drug markets in the country by August 1, 2017.
Muhammed disclosed that whoever opposed the CDC being put in place now in some states to house all drug sales in the country should be adjudged a criminal and subsequently arrested.
He stated that no other drug market would exist after August 1, 2017 except the CDCs.
Speaking on the training of the operators, he said: “The council is carrying out capacity building and training for stakeholders to be better equipped when the centres come on board.
“Because people are sick that is why the drug sellers are in the market and the essence of being in this business is to make people to be well.
“Government is not saying you should not do business; rather, government wants you to improve on the health of the people so that the drug you are going to make available to them will improve on their health and not to kill them.
“By the time we conclude this programme, and once other health centres have been put in place, government would face the patent medicine dealers to ensure that they make available to Nigerians quality drugs that will enhance their health,” Muhammed stated.
“We are hopeful that the CDC we are going to put in place in Onitsha, will improve on the health condition of the people and will create more jobs opportunity, and more avenues for people to be employed and scale up the confidence of non Nigerians in the Nigerian drug market. We are expecting that foreigners would be coming to Onitsha to buy drugs.
“Nationals of some West African countries and others want to come to Onitsha to obtain drugs. By the time we build the co-ordinated centre, they would be reassured that it is going to be a structure like Shoprite; everywhere will be air-conditioned; we will have a controlled temperature for the storage of drugs and Nigerians would be assured of the quality drugs they buy. Expectedly, this would increase economic activities in Anambra State.”
The Chairman, Association of Medical and Pharmaceutical Products Dealers, Onitsha, Mr. Uche Ezeh, in his remark said: “The registrar has said it all; if what he said had come from me, some people would have concluded that I didn’t have the power to say so.
“The Coordinated Wholesale Drug Centre, that is being set up has been ordered by the Federal government. Now, what they have said is that from August 1, 2017, all drug markets in Nigeria would be shut down except the CDCs. There will be nothing like open drug market in Nigeria anymore.”
On his plan for the relocation exercise, Ezeh said that some hectares of land had been acquired at Oba through the efforts of the traders. He disclosed that forms for the sale of shops and offices at the new market were being distributed, adding that the facility would be built in line with PCN set standard.
He, however, urged the traders to welcome the decision of the Federal government to relocation the open drug market which would give way to the CDC whose existence he believed would give credence to drug sale and distribution in the country.
The lead Consultant, Cross and Crescent Consulting, Mr. Oluminde Akintayo, recalled that the deadline for the closure of the open drug market was in 2014, but due to other consideration by the PCN, NAFDAC and some drug manufacturers it was shifted to August 1, 2017.
“What we are doing drives its power from the Federal government policy. You are aware that drug matter is on the exclusive list of legislation and in the second schedule of the constitution. Government in 2014 had given a directive and you know that the law prohibits sale of drug in open market. So, any place that is not certified by the PCN for the sale of drug in Nigeria is illegitimate.
“So, all the drug markets in the country have been operating illegally for many years. Government in its wisdom says let us have a place where all drug sales should be co-ordinated and distributed and that is how the idea of CWC came about. Government mapped out four locations in the country: Idumota in Lagos State, Onitsha in Anambra State, Ariaria, Aba in Abia State and Sabon Gari in Kano State.
“The Federal government directed that because of the new drug distribution guideline, all open drug markets should be closedown in 2014 but later shifted the date to 2015. There were protests and uproars against the deadline even from the drugs manufacturers,” Akintayo stated.
He further noted that “the Pharmaceutical Societies of Nigeria (PSN) with PCN, NAFDAC and leadership of pharmaceutical and drug manufacturers met and shifted the fate again to August this year.
“So as we speak, the CWC in Lagos is almost completed; so they would be able to meet the August 1 deadline.
“The essence of this training is to set traders in the right path in terms of regulatory requirements expected by PCN, the financing of the centre to maintain the code of conduct and ethics and the general overview of current laws in Pharmacy practice,” he stated.
Some of the traders who spoke during the training session commended the organisers for enlightening them on the need for the relocation to the coordinated drug centre.
They, however, appealed to the government to give them little time to complete their new drug market at Oba, saying that efforts were on to ensure that the facility was completed so that they would move.
The traders were given rained on the general overview of current laws in pharmacy practice, code of conduct, regulatory requirements for the establishment of CWC as well as effective ways of business financing.