Abuse of herbal drugs is inappropriate, dangerous —Balogun Olaleye

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Balogun Nurudeen Olaleye is the Chairman of the Alternative Medicine Board, Ogun state. In this interview with AYO FADIMU, he speaks on the steps being taken by the board to assist the alternative medicine practitioners to take advantage of advancement in research and technology in medical world as well as sanitization of the industry in order to remove the wheat from the shaft. He speaks on other work of his board. Excerpts:

The world is just coming out from the COVID-19 pandemic, what is your board doing on that?

My board is very new and young, less than a year old. And a Yoruba adage says that “Omo akoko ra koto rin.” Meaning that a child crawls before walking.

We need to put some things in place and stabilize ourselves, do what we need to do before we come on board. Having said that, we have been doing one or two things that need to be done with urgency. Also when it comes to the issue of COVID-19, we have made some research and it’s not a thing that can be rushed because the result cannot be seen immediately.

You know when it comes to the issue of medication, we need to be very careful whether it is orthodox or alternative medicine. We have started working on it and some of our alternative practitioners have been researching on it and have been getting the result but that cannot be on the record now. We must be very careful and anything that we want to consume should be taken to the laboratory. Before one consumes anything, it needs to be seriously looked into. That is why a lot of technical and research work is going on the issue of COVID-19 when it comes to alternative medicine. Very soon, we will come out with a good result but we need to take our time.

There is always dosage issue with alternative medicine in Nigeria and also certification/endorsement by the relevant agencies. What are the steps you are taking regarding the practitioners so that people will not look down on them?

The issue of inappropriate dosage is what I don’t agree with, although people have been saying it. Even before I was born there is what we call agbo, agunmu, (liquid or powdery herbs) and there are always prescription on their use. It is only nowadays that when you are given, they tell you to take a spoon or 2 and because there is easy access to it, people will want to take more and if it is agunmu, one will be told to mix a spoon or 2 with pap but our people will want to use more. I don’t agree that there is problem with  prescription of  dosage , the only issue is that we don’t have the appropriate technology to make them as pills and injections. That way, people think that we don’t have prescription. We do have. On the issue of NAFDAC and other agencies, this is why our board is in place. We are ready to stand as an intermediary between our traditional healers and those agencies so that the issue of giving them unnecessary problems in getting certificates or license will be reduced. We have started working on that and I know that we will soon get the result.

What has been the achievement of your board since you started came on board?

We recently held a stakeholders meeting where all traditional healers in Ogun state were brought together at the cultural Centre (Abeokuta) and a lot of decisions were made concerning the implementation and practice of the organisation were taken. Chief Yemi Elebunbo was invited as the guest speaker while the Deputy governor of Ogun State, Engineer Naimot Salako, who represented the governor of Ogun state Dr Dapo Abiodun, was the special guest of honour. After that, we have held a lot of meetings where we gathered all the elders in one compound and we have been holding the elder’s council of alternative medicine in Ogun state. This is to say that we have had up to 3 or 4 meetings with them.

We also give trainings to practitioners, the TBA, traditional birth attendants were given series of workshop training and we will be licencing them by giving a certificate to practice and also we have been doing the registration for every one of them both in group and individual. That is how far we have gone for now.

When you were given this appointment by the governor, what goal did you set for yourself and the board?

For the board, I am the pioneer, the chairman and it is very new. However, my goal is that in less than two years of our operation, I am very sure that we will be in the same level as those who have been practicing for many years.

There is a misconception that some of these traditional healers are herbalists. What are you doing to make sure that those professionals who are not herbalists and those who are fake will not spoil the names of the good ones?

There is nowhere we don’t have bad eggs. There are bag eggs among the orthodox practitioners too. There is no job without bad eggs. We see fake professors, doctors, engineers, directors so saying that there are bad eggs among the traditional healers is what I disagree with. There are bad eggs everywhere and that is what we are trying to do, sanitization of the environment.

As I speak now, if you are not registered by our board, if you don’t have our license, that is a pointer that you are definitely a bad egg  and if anybody points at you that you are a bad egg in the system, we will agree with the person. Because we will ask that if you are a good egg, why did you refuse to license yourself, why didn’t you register? And if you register and we find out at the same time that you are into bad habit, we can take a lot of punitive actions and decisions. We can deregister or withdraw your license and we will report you to the appropriate quarters for proper investigation and necessary disciplinary action. So a lot of things are in progress to sanitize the environment.

We are into that and you will start seeing positive results here soon.

Medicine, as well as, the knowledge is expanding every day, what are you doing to increase and equip the knowledge of the practitioners because some of them, it is the same book that was passed to them by their great grandfather that they still use. What are you doing so that they will know more and even technology? Do you have any program on that?

Seriously, there is a program on technology and we are working in partnership with College of Health Technology Ijebu-Ode. We are working on partnership with a lot of health organization and institutions. We have come on board, we are looking at it and we will discuss with the commissioner and governor so that when they give us the go ahead, we will start with institutions where they will be going for a lot of research, workshop and training that will improve their knowledge.

One day you were appointed to the board, you will be leaving the post one day. What do you want to be remembered for when you leave?

I want people to say “ Oh my God, this man is no longer there and he has brought us to this level.” I was all the practitioners to think of me and say that when Balogun Nurudeen Olaleye was the chairman of the board, he did this and that and he has put us so far that we cannot forget him.