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Kano drug dealers, regulatory authorities disagree over relocation

The February 16, 2024, judgement of Justice Dije Simon Amobeda of the Federal High Court in Kano State dismissing a suit filed by the National…

The February 16, 2024, judgement of Justice Dije Simon Amobeda of the Federal High Court in Kano State dismissing a suit filed by the National Association of Patent Proprietary Medicine Dealers Association (NAPPMED) should have laid to rest the controversy surrounding the relocation order of the dealers to the Coordinated Wholesale Centre (CWC) located in the Kano Economic City in the Dangwauro area, but the battle line might have just been drawn between the association and the regulatory authorities.

Members of the association are challenging the relocation from their registered places of business at the Abubakar Rimi Market, Sabon Gari, Malam Kato Square and Karami Plaza to the CWC.

The Kano State Government’s decision is to bring to reality the federal government’s quest to put an end to wholesaling of drugs in unregulated environments across the country.

Disturbed by the incidents of fake, adulterated and counterfeit drugs, the federal government, in 2003 muted the idea of CWCs for pharmaceuticals to stop the dangerous practice of trading in drugs in the open markets in Ariaria in Abia State; Idumota in Lagos State; Onitsha Head Bridge in Anambra State and Sabon Gari in Kano State.

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For many years, federal regulatory agencies, particularly the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), engaged perpetrators of the unwholesome trade in a costly battle.

Example, the drug dealers in Kano, when asked to relocate, rushed to the court for a restraining order, arguing that shops at the CWC were owned by individuals and therefore were very expensive and unaffordable.

After the court’s judgement on Monday, February 19, NAFDAC, in collaboration with the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), sealed 1,321 medicine stores in Kano State.

NAFDAC’s Director of Investigation and Enforcement, Mr Francis Ononiwu, explained that the decision was in line with the agency’s regulatory function of enforcement and to ensure that only quality drugs were in circulation.

He said, “The enforcement action was to ensure that medical dealers relocated to the CWC in Dangwauro along Zaria Road, Kano.”

He stressed the need to sanitise the drug distribution system in the country, insisting that if drugs were not kept in cool premises they could degrade into poisonous substances.

He noted that most of the drug-selling premises visited were operating in unventilated environments.

He further said, “Some drugs need to be stored in a refrigerator, especially life-saving drugs, for quality output. Some of these medicine stores smuggle narcotic products and banned products.

He, therefore, urged the Kano medicine dealers to see their relocation as the survival of public health and as part of efforts to continue the fight against substandard drugs.

On his part, the Director of Enforcement of PCN, Stephen Esumobi, said the Kano medicine dealers were operating illegally.

He said, “Most of the drugs we found have a narrow margin of safety to health because the drugs are toxic and therapeutic doses are narrow.”

However, the drug dealers on Monday staged a peaceful protest to the government house demanding the reversal of the relocation order.

The Chief of Staff to the Governor, who addressed them, implored them to exercise patience as the state tried to sanitise the system.

Again, the Coordinating Minister of Health, Professor Ali Pate, also asked the owners of the sealed medicine stores to relocate to the CWC to ensure proper monitoring of their businesses.

Pate said, “I am here at the CWC to see the direction taken by NAFDAC and PCN to improve the quality distribution system to safeguard the system from substandard counterfeit drugs and other illicit substances that are raking a huge amount of havoc on our population.

“The open market system is chaotic, and that is the root through which a lot of substandard and illicit drugs get to our population and youths; damaging their future.”A

He noted that a good drug distribution system was an essential element in improving safety and efficacy of the medication that “our population consumes.

“As we unlock the health value chain in Nigeria, we need to have a streamlined system for getting products from manufacturers to the market to the population.”

Kano State Commissioner for Health, Dr Abubakar Labaran, said the state would assist the drug dealers to acquire shops at the CWC as acquiring shops at there was one of the concerns the dealers raised during his meeting with them, and that the state government would make sure that the market was free from dangerous drugs.

Daily Trust further reports that the government also received support from the Kano Unity Forum (KUF), a coalition of CSOs including Kano Concerned Citizens Initiative, Inuwar Kano and Kano Youth Promotion Council, has thrown its weight behind the relocation, giving the reason that the move would greatly address the practice of selling drugs in the open market which contributed to the sales of illicit drugs in the state.

The leader of the coalition, Gidado Mukhtar, noted that calculated attempts had been made to destroy Kano through the importation of dangerous and illicit drugs, adding that the sad development had become the greatest threat to Kano’s future, and by extension Northern Nigeria.

He said, “This orchestrated drug war is a carefully planned war that is unleashed on our youths and our future generations. Many of these drug dealers operate openly in the Muhammad Abubakar Rimi Market, Sabon Gari, which is a clear violation of the relevant federal and state laws.

“Unfortunately, despite all the modern facilities provided in the new Dangwauro market, those involved in the illicit trade have deployed all means at their disposal to resist and frustrate the directive to move to the new market.”

Muktar noted that no responsible government would allow illicit drugs to permeate the very fabric of its society and for such drugs to be sold openly and indiscriminately in clear violation of professional ethics and in total disregard “to our societal and moral values.

“It should be clearly noted that Kano State has been turned into a major consumption centre and exit point of the illicit drug trade.

“We, as elders and patriotic citizens of our beloved state, would like to make it clear that this unfortunate development will no longer be tolerated. It should also be clearly understood that we are speaking with one voice on this. We are also determined to follow all legitimate ways and means to put a stop to this unfortunate development.

“We are, therefore, calling on all the pharmaceutical traders at the Muhammad Abubakar Rimi Market to comply with the government’s directive as affirmed recently by the court to immediately relocate to the new pharmaceutical market at the Kano Economic City.

“The menace of illicit drugs will no longer be tolerated in Kano as it is destroying the future of our youths and the society in general.

“We take this opportunity to call on the government and other law enforcement agencies not to relent in their efforts to ensure that the pharmaceutical traders relocate to the new Dangwauro market as directed.”

Commenting on the development, NAPPMED’s spokesman, Alhaji Nasiru Hamada, said his association had directed its members in Sabon Gari, Malam Kato and Karami Plaza to stop speaking on the relocation.

He said the dealers had resolved not to move anywhere until the state government found an alternative place for them as promised.

He, however, said there were members who chose to relocate to Dangwauro as directed.

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