2019 Elections: Importation of tramadol, threat to national security — Stakeholders

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By Seun Ibiyemi

Following the disclosure of seizure of 40 containers of Tramadol worth N7.3bn and other dangerous drugs by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) at the Apapa port on Thursday, the Tin-Can Island Customs Command also on Friday said that its men intercepted 13 containers of the banned drug along with other contraband items worth N3.13 billion.

FG’s ban on illicit drugs

The Federal Ministry of Health directed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to ban with immediate effect further issuance of permits for the importation of codeine as active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough preparations.

The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole made this known in his office in Abuja on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

He said that the directive became necessary due to the gross abuse of Codeine usage has been subjected to in the country.

In its stead, the Minister said Codeine containing cough syrups should be replaced with dextromethorphan which is less addictive.

He also directed the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, (PCN) and NAFDAC to supervise the recall for labelling and audit trailing of all codeine containing cough syrups in the country, while he has also banned sales of Codeine containing cough syrup without prescription across the country.

He noted that the National Agency for Food and Drug administration and Control had an emergency meeting with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (PMGMAN) to inform them that there is an embargo on all new applications for registration of codeine- containing cough syrups as well as applications for renewal has been abolished.

The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) has been directed to continue enforcement activities on Pharmacies, Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendor’s Shops and outlets throughout the country.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control [NAFDAC] was also directed to fully carry out its functions among others: to regulate and control the manufacturing, distribution and sale of drugs, including inspection at points of entry of drugs, drug products and food for compliance with the new directive.

The Minister stated that the FMOH shall ensure collaboration among regulatory agencies namely, NAFDAC, PCN, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), for effective implementation of extant Acts, regulations, policies and guidelines on codeine control and usage.

‘Furthermore, these agencies shall work together to increase pharmacovigilance around codeine, tramadol and other related substances of abuse,’ Adewole stated.

Already, NAFDAC has developed IEC materials that will be used in an already planned national campaign against drug abuse, an awareness programme that includes Young Pharmacists Group of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. This will soon be flagged off in Kano and Lagos.

As a way of discouraging youths to shun the drugs, the Federal Government through Federal Ministry of Health shall partner  National Orientation Agency (NOA), Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Football celebrities, members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Performing Musicians of Nigeria and other celebrities to drive national campaign against drug abuse.

‘The FMOH shall ensure that Drug treatment intervention for victims of substances abuse shall be undertaken across the spectrum of health care delivery system in the country,’ Adewole stated.

He stated that Civil Society Organizations shall be strengthened to deliver effective sensitization, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.

Recall that in view of the serious public health concerns drugs abuse poses to Nigerians , a working group which comprised  experts from various Ministries, Agencies of Government (including regulatory agencies), Development Partners and Associations was constituted in January and tagged Codeine Control and other Related Matters Working Group (CCRWG).

The CCRWG was formally inaugurated on January 23, 2018 with clear terms of reference of developing key recommendations and strategies to address the menace of codeine, tramadol and other related substances in Nigeria.

The CCRWG submitted its interim report on April 12, 2018 and recommended short-, medium- and long-term measures for implementation in a memorandum submitted to the Minister.

Finally, Professor Adewole restated the commitment of FGN to ensure the full implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guideline (NDDG) by January 01, 2019 and closure of all open drug markets penultimate the implementation date of the NDDG that is, December 31, 2018. It is a public knowledge that easy access to codeine, tramadol and other substances of abuse is promoted by the chaotic drug distribution system.

Reactions

The National Public Relations Officer of Nigerian Customs Service, Attah Joseph said the motive of the importers of the illicit drug is to make money without caring about the consequence of their action.

Attah said those who import dangerous items into the country care less about the lives and the wellbeing of that nation, their interest is about the money they make from the business.

He added that the Nigerian Customs Service will continue to ensure that nothing harmful gets into the country and the result of our action is the result of what you have seen

The Director and founder of Muslim Rights Concern ( MURIC)  Professor Ishaq Akintola, in swift response said that all banned products remain dangerous to the health of Nigerian community but tramadol in particular is dangerous and pose a threat to the conduct of 2019 election.

He said particularly the youth who politicians intend to deceive and use as political thug might be intended for them so as to follow orders given to them.

He added that is a security threat because when young ones take the drug they don’t longer think like human beings, they are likely to be violent, they are likely not to look back when they are told to kill

A maritime security expert, Mr Gbenga Leke Oyewole said that “this is a serious threat to  the national security against 2019 election and investigation must be made to see that the people behind this importation of illicit drug are brought to book”.

“In the ports, we have the Customs, the State Security Service (DSS), the Navy and the police; all maritime security agencies of government at the ports. When these agencies of government get security report of harmful movement of cargoes or persons within and around the port premises, they all take their information back to their respective headquarters. There is need for a port security coordinator who coordinates these agencies, and ensures there is a central information pool at the ports.

“These are areas government needs to look into and come up with strong and very effective strategies.

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