Gowon, Jega rally pharmacists behind war against faking, drug abuse
• As NAP endorses Odukoya, Urhoghide, 20 others for outstanding performance
FORMER Head of State, general Yakubu Gowon and immediate past chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attihiru Jega on Tuesday charged pharmacists in the country to rally behind regulatory agencies in the war against drug faking and substandard products in the market.
Gowon and Jega, both guests of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm) during the award night held in Lagos, said the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was doing quite much but must be supported by the practitioners to stand a chance of winning the war.
Besides Jega that was decorated with the Academy’s lifetime achievement award on the night, no fewer than 22 practitioners in different areas of pharmacy were also investitured as fellows of the academy for their outstanding performances.
Among the new fellows are Professor of Pharmacognosy, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Olukemi Odukoya; senator of the federal republic of Nigeria, Matthew Urhoghide; Prof. Babalola Chinedum Peace; Dr. Chidomere Evans; Prof. Chukwu Amarauche; Chu-Madu Ngozi and Ekundayo Olakunle.
The list of awardees also has: Professors Eniojukan Joshua; Femi-Oyewo Mbang Nyong; Hussaini Marte Isa; Kolawole Jacob Adegboyega; Mendie Udoma; Ochepe Nelson; Ogundaini Abiodun; Olugbade Tiwalade; Olurinola Philip and Onawunmi Grace.
Others are: Obi Nnamdi; Okafor Nnamdi Nathan; Ugwu John Ikechukwu and professors Onyekweli Anthony and Usifoh Cyril.
Gowon, himself an honorary fellow of the institute, congratulated the awardees, saying it was a rare honour to have been endorsed by the academy, especially at a time when it was more easier to be pulled down by one’s contemporaries than to be celebrated by them.
He said while the fellow inductees had ran the race to reach the top of their profession, the recognition was an indication that quite much was being expected from them.
The former military head said the practitioners must rededicate themselves to the fight against faking and substandard products all around the country. While the situation is not peculiar to Nigeria, he said, NAFDAC’s relentless efforts over the years is yet to succeed “as perpetrators are more determined and very much in the unfortunate business.”
Gowon said, “It is not only in Nigeria but we really have to truncate it here. Drug faking is worth about $7b globally every year, of which the third world receive over 80 per cent of the faked products.
“Our pharmacists must join hands with NAFDAC to really address this problem. The battle is very difficult but if we all are determined, then we can rid the country of faking and faked products,” he said.
Apparently in agreement with the elder statesman, Jega noted with concern the growing phenomenon of drug abuse, where prescription drugs are now freely bought over-the-counter.
He said that is not unusually to now see youths, political tugs and party vanguards getting hooked on codeine among other opioid pain medications that are strictly prescription drugs in other countries.
The pharmacists academy, as trailblazer of the profession, must be concerned not only about ethical conducts but also proper punishment of practitioners that are bringing the profession to disrepute, he said.
In his words: “I urge the academy and the pharmaceutical profession to pay attention to the way and manner in which prescription drugs are being sold over the counter and these are doing a lot of damage to our youths in particular because some of these drugs are addictive.
“Many youths, young men and women, regrettably, can just walk into a patent medicine store or pharmacy and buy these over-the-counter drugs, as many bottles as they wish, and many of them have now become addicted to them. This is causing a lot problems in many parts of the country. I know that it is a very serious problem in the country that I come from.
“So, I believe that having been given this award, it also gives me an opportunity to urge leading and respected pharmacists, whether industrial or professors, to begin to pay attention to ethical issues related to selling drugs over-the-counter, because the damage this doing to our youths is really going to be phenomenal and needs to be addressed appropriately.”
He added that the society also need to be interested in the development, especially with improved regulations on drugs. “We are currently too lax on this matter,” he said.
On his award, on account of his performance during the 2015 general election, Jega dedicated the success of the elections to conducts of the Nigerian voters and INEC staff that worked with him.
He said that the voters’ determination and staffers’ endurance to work even under the most difficult conditions were responsible for the well celebrated outcome. It was on this account that he had decided to dedicate the new award, among other that he had recently received, to the voters and his then staffers.
The awardee said that he and his team saw their appointment into INEC as an opportunity to serve the country and they did their best that has not gone unappreciated through God’s grace.
According to him, “We came into INEC at a time the organisation has acquired bad credibility. But very soon we found that majority of the staff are honest people that were ready to give their best. We encouraged them and they worked under the most difficult circumstances and we were not disappointed.”
Jega added that the lesson from the last election is the importance of stakeholders’ support to get it right in future elections.
He said that the voters, civil society organisations, governmental and non-governmental partners must rally behind INEC to sustain the success, keep the reforms going and further deepen democracy in the country.
Gowon, also in his commendation, said that the conduct of Jega and his team, not forgetting the gracious acceptance of the election result by the then president, all combined to ease tension and “fears of Armageddon” that engulfed Nigeria at the time.
Gowon, 81, said the outcome of the election had rekindled hope in Nigeria and of a nation that would wax stronger.
Chairman of the occasion and president of Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, said that Jega merited the prestigious Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy Lifetime Achievement Award for his personality that stood tall during the 2015 general elections.
Adelusi-Adeluyi noted that Jega stood to his name, ‘Attahiru’, which in Arabic means ‘clean’. “It means you are living according to your name. It means you are free from contamination, or deceit – political or social. God has helped you to help Nigerians by your unadulterated, flawless, free of moral corruption attitude, in the way you carried out the election.
“And that is why the academy of pharmacists having looked round this country, choose to have you receive the first life achievement award,” Adelusi-Adeluyi said.
On other awardees, Adelusi-Adeluyi said that the academy has successfully brought together senior pharmacy professionals who have distinguished themselves in the corporate world, in academia and public service.
“Every effort has been made by the organisers to ensure that Fellows of the Academy are drawn from the widest possible spread professionally, occupational and geographically. The product may not be perfect, but it is a qualitative beginning by any standard. Pharmacy is fortunate to have an abundance of bright minds whose education and experience should be jointly and severally shared while they are still physically with us.”
Adelusi-Adeluyi, former state secretary for health, added that the onus is on the inductees, as leaders in the profession, to improve on pharmacy and ensure that it gets “better and not bitter.”
Inaugurated on June 26, 2014, NAPharm is a strategic organ of Pharmacy in Nigeria and made up of practitioners who have distinguished themselves in the corporate world, in academia and public service and have contributed to nation building.
The Academy provides experts opinion and thought leadership in the education and practice of Pharmacy in the country. It aims at promoting harmony and team spirit among members of the health team and other relevant professionals. It also networks with similar Academies within and outside Nigeria and partners with relevant regulatory bodies and associations to ensure high ethical standards in the practice of the profession.
Olukemi Odukoya, one of the new fellows, is an accomplished academic, pharmacist and the first female professor of pharmacognosy in Nigeria.
Odukoya, the immediate past dean of the faculty of pharmacy, University of Lagos, has contributed immensely to pharmacy through education in the training of pharmacists, advancement of the frontiers of knowledge in the area of classical pharmacognosy, evaluation, standardization, phytochemistry of natural drug products and pioneered the first herbal therapeutic laboratory in the faculty of pharmacy, UNILAG.
The achievement of Odukoya’s scholarly research has been communicated to others in form of publications, seminars and conferences both nationally and internationally. Some of these publications established pharmacopeia standards; some unraveled the chemical constituents of biologically active medicinal plants; while others evaluated and assessed some medicinal plants and herbal medicinal products for biological activities.
She is a recipient of various national and international awards and fellowships. Through excellence in research, her research team emerged as the University of Lagos Best Researcher in Science and Medicine for the year 2007 and 2008, and was awarded a Gold Medal as the highest honour for excellence and innovation in research by the University of Lagos in 2011.
Another awardee is Matthew Urhoghide, a senator, and a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). “He combines his pharmaceutical expertise with entrepreneurial acumen and political acuity.”
Urhoghide is the chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a number of companies in Nigeria, including COBAM Ventures Limited, Matisa Pharmaceutical and Chemical Agencies Limited, Trust Med Pharmaceuticals Limited, Equipment and Instruments Company Limited, and Matisa Oils Limited.
Among those that graced the occasion are: Senators, Samuel Anyawu and Clifford Odia; Lagos gubernatorial aspirant during the 2015 election, Jimi Agbaje; PSN President, Olumide Akintayo; Pro-Chancellor, Caleb University; Prof. Fola Tayo; former PSN president, Azubuike Okwor; Former controller general of , Dr. John Iwuiwu; pharm Paul Enebeli; Dr. Margaret Ibru; former dean of the faculty of pharmacy, UNILAG, Prof. Cecilia Igwilo.
Others are CEO of Evans pharmaceuticals, Bunmi Olaopa; Gbolade Osibodu; former PSN president, Alh. Yaro Guda; Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Nda-Isaiah; former commissioner in Kano State, Ahmed Yakasai; former president of National Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP), Lolu Ojo; former PSN president, Anthony Akhimien among others.
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