In recent weeks, the media has been awash with the news of the celebrated murder of Cynthia Osokogu, a business woman as well as a postgraduate student of Nasarawa State University. The story can best be described as a one week, one trouble story as every week, we have a new twist to the tale. The saga started late July 2012 when Cynthia was declared missing after leaving her base for Lagos. Shortly after, her dead body was discovered at a morgue and it was said that she was killed in a hotel. Once the news hit the airwaves, social media was awash with story of all colours and variations. Even before any evidence was gotten, the social media jury concluded that Cynthia was a ‘runs babe’. Weeks later, the wonderful Nigerian police came up with the suspects of the murder. It was at this point the mood in the social media changed from vindictive to apologetic. This went on till the news broke that undercover police had gone out to try and purchase the drug that was used to “knock Cynthia off” and that they succeeded. Before we could say jack robinson, 2 pharmacists were arrested and shortly after they were charged for murder.

This took the whole pharmaceutical community by storm. Unfortunately, once the news broke that pharmacists were arrested, the social media was once again awash with post and commentaries, especially on pharmaceutical fora on the social media platform. Even though I am a part of one of the most patronised pharmaceuticals online for advice, I deliberately refused to raise the issue because I fully understood the power of the social media. The information could very easily be twisted and it could jeopardise the case at hand. When eventually the case was charged to court, I carefully read through the charges and argued with anyone who cared to listen that no pharmacist was charged based on what I read in the papers. However, peculiar case of delusion of the grandeur was immediately put off when I got a call from a young pharmacist friend of mine, who said he was calling from Ikoyi prison where the guys were. It was at that point I knew this was serious. He told me a number of them were there and that the guys had been abandoned there. That the PSN and their employers had abandoned them there to sort themselves out.  With very little facts at my disposal, all I could tell them at that point was simply that, to the best of my knowledge, the owner of the business, Pharm. Ike Ugwu was a very respectable Pharmacist and would not have sat back and watched his staff suffer unjustly. I promised to call them back when I had more details. I then called a senior colleague who practiced in Festac and she gave a full low down. This was in turn related to the guys in the prison because the young pharmacist that called was expecting me, a coordinator of young pharmacists forum, to come up with an action plan, to rescue these pharmacists currently in incarceration. The PSN followed shortly with a press conference and sent the text to pharmacists.  I want to commend most sincerely the work of the PSN under the leadership of Pharm Azubuike Okwor. They have risen to the occasion. Even though I haven’t discussed this case with him personally, I believe he would have established contact with the office of the Director of Public Prosecution of Lagos State, with the aim to amend the charges against these young pharmacists. On my part, I immediately pushed out the press release on the several online platforms I associate with but most importantly, I forwarded them to the very popular blogs I visit so that the message leaves the confines of pharmacy into the court of public opinion. This has worked well thus far.  Very unfortunately, murder is not a bailable offence, therefore the pharmacists will remain in incarceration till the case, which is for hearing again in October, is heard, the charges amended and the pharmacists can then apply for bail.

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In midst of all this a lot has been said and done. Unfortunately, more has been said than done. This case needs to be handled with the seriousness it deserves, however it needs to be handled delicately. Doctors and charlatans can hijack this to rubbish pharmacists and make a case for themselves. However, it is also an opportunity for us as pharmacists to sanitise our practice. Before this issue came up, we have had a lingering issue with formulations containing codeine. This is the time to also lay that issue to rest. Or else policemen will begin to visit pharmacies undercover, looking for who to feast on.

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In the midst of all this we should look at the bright side and make the pharmacy profession one to be proud of. For starters, let’s meet at NECA house on the 18th of October as we discuss ways of growing the retail pharmacy sector of our profession. For more information call Oreoluwa (Project Coordinator) on 07031016725. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to shyne!!



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