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Inside story of Kano drug sellers resisting relocation

Several drug dealers are refusing to comply with an order to move their operations to a new market following the establishment of a wholesale centre…

Several drug dealers are refusing to comply with an order to move their operations to a new market following the establishment of a wholesale centre in Kano Economic City. Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Since the opening of the coordinated wholesale centre in the Kano Economic City, Dangwauro, on February 10, 2023, some drug dealers under the aegis of the National Association of Patent Proprietary Medicine Dealers (NAPPMED), are resisting an order to relocate their business to a new market.

Instead of relocating, members of the association challenged the order at the Federal High Court, insisting that they could not afford the cost of shops at the market, which is over N1million per shop. They decried what they called forceful relocation from their registered business premises at the Abubakar Rimi Market in Sabon Gari, Malam Kato Square and Karami Plaza, to the coordinated wholesale centre.

The court, presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda, on February 16, 2024, however, dismissed their fundamental right enforcement suit, directing them to relocate as ordered. The judge also held that where there are rules and regulations guiding the conduct of business, citizens are bound to respect them. 

He ruled that the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) was established by an act, so the plaintiffs could not hide under constitutional provisions to refuse the relocation order.

He said there was no correlation between constitutional rights and the regulation to control influx of drugs into the state, adding that there was no evidence before the court where the defendants tried to stop the plaintiffs from carrying out their businesses on account of ethnicity, religion and political association.

Armed with the court judgement, the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the PCN descended on drug dealers at Sabon Gari and Malam Kato square who were perceived to be resisting the relocation directives. Consequently, 1,320 shops were sealed.

Musbahu Yahaya, the chairman of NAPPMED at the Malam Kato Square, said over 2,000 of his members had not relocated to the CWC at Dangwauro.

“We are not selling tomatoes or potatoes that we should just relocate to any other place. We are not moving an inch until government finds an alternative place for us. Once that is done, we will move,” he said.

But Usman Labaran, who relocated to the coordinated wholesale centre, together with other dealers, faulted the claim that 2,000 drug dealers had not relocated.

“The ones that went to court were 924, so where did you get 2,000 from? Again, the PCN sealed 1,320 shops, how did you arrive at 2,000? It is just propaganda to get public sympathy,” he said.

Labaran said a total of 1,324 shops had opened for business at the market, adding that each shop is equivalent to two at the open market. He said a shop measured 13square meters instead of 9, and two dealers could occupy one shop conveniently.

He said their decision to relocate was based on public interest and to guard against the unwholesome practice of selling illicit drugs.

He also said many people selling drugs at the open market were not licensed; and it is a legal requirement for those on wholesale to obtain licences.

“Drugs are not supposed to be kept under high temperature. There are drugs that are meant for temperature of -2 degrees Celsius. We do not have such at the open market.

“Oxytocin injection, for example, is supposed to be kept at a temperature below 8 degrees Celsius, but we do not have the facility. Investigation has shown that 46 per cent of this drug in Kano has been rendered ineffective on account of lack of storage facility,” he said.

He said leaders of the association were perceived to be profiteering from illicit drugs.

“When people see our members building new houses, they will say it is from proceeds of illicit drug business. If we are not doing well in life, people will say it is because of the clampdown on drug dealers. So it is even better we relocate to the coordinated wholesale centre, at least to protect our reputation.

The idea of a Coordinated Warehouse Centre (CWC) for pharmaceuticals to stop the dangerous practice of trading in drugs in the open markets was first muted by the federal government. For years, federal regulatory agencies, particularly the NAFDAC and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had engaged perpetrators of this unwholesome trade in a costly battle.

Brains and Hammers Limited partnered with the Kano State Government to secure the place and subsequently built the centre, which Jaiz Bank financed to put an end to wholesale of drugs in an unregulated environment across the country.

When the Coordinating Minister of Health, Professor Ali Pate, visited Kano last week to inspect the place and direct dealers to relocate, the Commissioner for Health Kano State, Dr Abubakar Labaran, said the state would assist drug dealers to acquire shops at the CWC.

Dr Labaran, however, confirmed that one of the concerns the drug dealers raised during his meeting with them was the possibility of acquiring shops at the CWC.

In 2021, the chairman of the NDLEA, Brigadier-General Buba Marwa (retd), had said that Kano had about two million drug addicts, representing 16 per cent prevalence in the country.

“In Kano State, drug abuse prevalence is 16 per cent; that is, in every six persons, one is a drug addict and they are between the ages of 15 years and 64.

“Kano State has close to two million drug users, abusing Tramadol, Codeine and other cough syrups, rather than cannabis.

 “I will like to mention here that since I assumed the leadership of the NDLEA in January, we have seized over two million kilograms of assorted drugs, estimated at billions of naira.

“Eight thousand people were arrested and 1,600 are now serving jail terms in correctional facilities, and we are still working,’’ The NDLEA chairman had said.

Many residents of Kano who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday believe the decision to relocate drug dealers to Dangwauro town would help to combat illicit business in the city as many young people indulge in substance abuse.

Kamalu Muhammad said he supported the relocation to Dangwauro, where regulatory agencies could easily detect any unwholesome practice by dealers, which could be very difficult to detect at the open market.

“In view of the prevalence of substance abuse, particularly among our youths in Kano, I am in support of the relocation of drug dealers to that place. We need this kind of arrangement to be able to deal with the monster of drug abuse. Let them embrace the initiative for the sake of our state,’’ he said.

Another resident, Nasiru Wudil, said although he was worried about the rising cost of drugs and medical consumables, which he believes may likely continue to rise, the relocation may turn out to be a good move.

“Things are costly now, including essential items, which drugs are part and parcel of, but I think  the movement to Dangwauro would greatly assist in checking the supply of illicit drugs to our people,” he said.

 

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