The recent call by the new President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa on President Mohammadu Buhari to sign the new Pharmacy Council Bill, which has been presented to him since last year, into law, is a patriotic call that the presidency must hasten to answer in order to address the multifarious challenges of drug safety and healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the Pharmacy Council Bill, having undergone all the legislative processes, was passed by both houses of the national assembly in 2018 and sent to the president for assent. Considering the importance of this bill, the expectation had been that the president would expeditiously attend to the document to bring the much needed transformation to the pharmaceutical sector and, by extension, the health sector.
Unfortunately, the president has continued to delay in signing this bill into law. Interestingly, the president has, in the last couple of months, signed some other bills into law. These included the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill; the National Judicial Institute Amendment Act; Quality Surveyors Registration Amendment Act and the Utility Charges Commission Amendment Act. It must be emphasised that while these bills are important and while the government has the prerogative to decide which bill to sign at every point in time, the Pharmacy Council Bill is of utmost importance and requires more urgency, considering the importance of drugs to the wellbeing of Nigerians and the security of the country as whole.
Government must be aware that the entire healthcare delivery sector depends on quality medicines to function because without drugs there would be no way to nurse the sick back to good health after diagnosis. It should also be stated that aside from food and water, medicine is arguably the next most important commodity to human existence and sustenance. The Nigerian government must therefore give the issue of drugs its deserved attention by promptly addressing the issue of the Pharmacy Council Bill.
As the PSN president has rightly observed, signing the pending bill into law will equally go a long way in holistically addressing the growing drug abuse problem that poses a major threat to the health of millions of Nigerians and the security architecture of the nation. It will further help to invigorate the pharmaceutical sub-sector of the Nigerian economy, bolstering it to achieve its full potentials.
It is noteworthy that Ohuabunwa’s call to President Buhari had come after a recent statement credited to Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd.), chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse, that about one million illegal patent medicine stores operate in the country. Therefore, by signing this all-important bill into law, the government would have taken a huge step towards providing the legal framework needed to tackle the problem of illegal drug outlets and other associated drug challenges in the country.
Moreover, when signed into law, the Pharmacy Council Bill has provisions that will tremendously help to strengthen agencies saddled with drug regulation and enforcement of pharmacy laws. It will further ensure that these agencies are adequately funded to deliver on their mandate of sustaining an effective nationwide tracking of drug distribution to stop the increasing incidence of medicine abuse caused by unethical drug distribution.
It is our view that if there are areas in the bill that the president has some reservations about, he can expeditiously take it up with the relevant stakeholders and ensure that such issues are addressed and corrections effected, if necessary. This pharmacy bill is very important and the president will be doing the nation a lot of good by personally ensuring it is perfected and signed into law. The time to do that is now.