It was a beehive of activities on Tuesday at the Alfred Diete Spiff Civic Centre, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as thousands of pharmacists, not just in Nigeria but across African continent and America, gathered for the 94th Annual National Conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN).
According to the PSN President, Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa, as of Tuesday 2 November, 2021, day two of the conference, about 4,000 pharmacists were already in the Garden City for the event, a development he said would, no doubt, boost the economy of the state.
Speaking during his address, Ohuabunwa expressed optimism that pharmacists will recover what they must have lost in the past two conferences (Crocodile City 2019 – Kaduna and Omoluabi 2020 -Oshogbo), which were gravely affected by high spate of insecurity and COVID-19 pandemic respectively.
Commenting on the theme of the 2021 conference, which is “COVID-19 Lessons: Broadening & Strengthening the Nigeria Pharmaceutical/Health Sector”, Ohuabunwa pointed out that Nigeria seems to have learnt some lessons from the pandemic as the Nigerian government and its various agencies have since been making some laudable moves.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s 100 billion naira pharmaceutical / healthcare intervention fund, the dedicated fund for research, increased funding to NIPRD and the fact that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammed Buhari, spent quality time in his 61st Independence broadcast, speaking about the government’s plan to support the industry, the first time in the history of Nigeria, are very strong pointers to the fact that we may have learnt a few he said.
The number pharmacist in Nigeria, whose tenure, as the president of PSN comes to an end on Friday 5 November, 2021, noted that his tenure was disrupted by unpleasant developments, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, notwithstanding, he did a lot to confront all the challenges that surfaced and recorded many accomplishments.
He said “Truly, we may not have accomplished all we hoped for, but we are definitely not where we were three years ago. We have advanced significantly in placing Pharmacy at a higher spectrum in the minds of Nigerians and in attracting respect and honour for our profession.
“We opened our Society for greater participation of members in governance, rejigged our constitution and did our best to build love and friendship in the profession, giving due honour and respect to all the organs of our Society, including the Board of Fellows (BoF), the College of past presidents (CPP), and Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm).
“Many pharmacists broke career and professional ceilings and today, the difference between pharmacists, pharmacies and other pretenders are becoming more evident and easily differentiable as many pharmacists adopt the Pharmaceutical Care as minimum standard of care for all patients and clients. These have been achieved through the collective effort of members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), Council, the leadership and members of our statutory and ad-hoc committees. The energy, comradeship and teamwork was unprecedented”.
Ohuabunwa however urged the Nigerian government to provide a level playing ground for pharmacists and give the needed recognition and reward for the critical work they do. “The healthcare team must be treated as a team without undue bias or preference for any group. Nigeria government must recognise our pharmacies as bonafide component primary health care architecture and involve us in testing, vaccinations and other public health offerings as it is done in many other countries.”, Ohuabunwa said.
He also called for strong legislative support for the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the National Agency for Food and Drug, Administrative and Control (NAFDAC), saying the intention of the government to have a sanitised and ordered pharmaceutical distribution system can never be achieved without adequate legislation.
In her keynote address, the Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, COVID-19 pandemic descended on Nigeria and the entire globe like a thief in the middle of the night and subsequently posed several challenges on Nigeria in particular, adding that the pandemic posed uncertainty on what will happen next.
The NAFDAC DG averred that the effect of the pandemic became enormous on Nigeria majorly because of drug insecurity, simply because Nigeria is importing the largest percentage of the drugs in the country, pointing that the nation’s drug importation, in actual fact, shouldn’t have been more than 30%, which she said she has been emphasizing since she became the DG of NAFDAC. She hoped that the nation will achieve the target in no distance time with determination.
Prof. Adeyeye however pointed out that Nigeria has learnt many lessons just as many other countries, stressing that some measures had been put in place before the pandemic broke, adding that the outbreak of the pandemic has also prompted the agency to make strategic moves that would help to move the pharmaceutical sector and the health sector, as a whole, to greater height.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the occasion, Mr Odein Ajumogobia, has pointed out the need for Nigeria to be at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccine production, even as he charged pharmacists not to allow the advent of COVID-19 to make them lose focus.
In his remarks at the event, the former Minister of Foreign Affair said “Nigeria should be at the forefront of production of COVID-19 vaccine. The pandemic is yet to be overcame. In advanced countries Like UK and America, large percentage of people has been vaccinated by receiving the third dose of the vaccine, whereas, in Nigeria, less than 3% has received one dose, which is not good enough”.