By Ignatius Chukwu
The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has concluded plans to deploy members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the war against drug hawking.
The NYSC members are also to help in other enforcement and vigilance activities of NAFDAC.
The Corps members would first be trained and deployed especially in the rural and regional areas to complement the task forces and other units by the NAFDAC.
This was disclosed in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, by Dr Leonard Omokpariola, Director of Chemical Evaluation and Research of NAFDAC Thursday, August 10, 2023.
NAFDAC was in Uyo as part of a nationwide media sensitization workshop series on dangers of drugs hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbide, this time, for the south-south.
Dr Omokpariola made the first presentation which was on; “Dangers of Artificially Ripening Fruits with Calcium Carbide”.
Speaking later to newsmen, the director said one of the ways NAFDCA has adopted to cover more grounds nationwide is by using what has worked, using the NYSC manpower coverage to police Nigeria in drugs-hawking.
He stated: “One of the challenges we have is to be able to monitor them simultaneously everywhere in Nigeria, but with this workshop, we will reach the masses.
“We are trying to bring in members of the NYSC, especially those of them in the rural areas, to collaborate with us to fight against drug hawking. NAFDAC bring the Corps members, trains them and they will join us to do the work we are doing.”
The director did not give further details and did not disclose if additional allowances would be approved for the deployed NYSC members. He also did not explain ways to reduce risks and exposure of the Corps members when carrying out the tasks, whether it would be in discreet ways or they would have the power to arrest and impound products.
Dr Omokpariola however said NAFDAC has their own unit that carries out lots of raids in the rural and regional areas. He said the reason they are doing this workshop is to warn Nigerians on the implication of drugs hawking.
He said drug is an essential life-saving commodity. “And because they saving-life commodity, they needed to be stored and distributed in the right condition that will preserve their potency and their efficacy so that when they are used, the user will have the right result.
“When drugs are distributed by pharmacists and even patent medicine stores under control and properly registered by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), then those drugs we can say are in the right condition, because these are all-trained personnel. But what we are coming to speak against today is the aberration and illegal practice of hawking of drug.
“By hawking of drugs, we are talking about selling drugs as if they are common commodities like biscuits, tomatoes, etc.”
He said exposing drugs to vigorous atmosphere such as very high temperature, moisture, and very high humidity that could lead to the destruction of the active of the pharmaceutical ingredients is very dangerous. “This includes selling of drugs in open markets.
“We frown at people hawking drugs in vehicles because it is an aberration. The reason is that these drugs and commodities are either expired or contain degraded ingredients from things such as temperature or humidity or exposure to oxidation processes. For that reason, we are now saying that those activities are very wrong and should be stopped. If we consume those drugs, they are no longer medicine, they are actually poison because active pharmaceutical ingredients are not there.
“We want complete ban on drug-hawking and it is very wrong to patronise such.”
On what penalties they may impose on those hawking drugs, he said: “Our position is that we are not putting any other administrative penalty on this. Anyone that is caught will be prosecuted, because it is totally illegal. Nigeria has a policy on drug distribution in place that was launched by the Federal Ministry of Health, and with that very policy in place, then it is illegal for anybody anywhere to hawk any type of drug.
“We are calling on Nigerians that nobody should patronise the drugs hawkers, because patronising them whether it is in the village or in the city, you are actually patronising somebody that is selling poison and is going to kill.”
In her opening address, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof Moji Christianah Adeyeye, who was represented by Dr Omokpariola, said there have been clarion calls by well-meaning Nigerians on the need to take stringent regulatory actions to stem the dangerous tide of ‘Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide’.
In addition, she added, several national dailies and non-governmental organizations have raised concerns on the looming danger and health implication of these two nefarious activities by certain unpatriotic and unscrupulous citizens in our country.
“Since 2019, we immediately took some decisive steps such as sensitization of the public through different media outlets, enforcement through intelligence and raids in fruit markets that have resulted in seizures and destruction of violative products.
“The flag-off for this sensitization workshop today is again a fulfilment of my promise to sustain and strengthen NAFDAC.”