-Says N350M can Transform Herbal Plant into Phytomedicine
The Director General, Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) Prof. Martins Emeje has identified financial misappropriation as the major challenge hindering the development of most medicinal plants into finished herbal medicines in the country.
The NNMDA DG, who acknowledged the issue was not lack of funding but financial misappropriation, decried the huge portion of the allocated funds to the agency that was expected to be given out to contractors, with an erroneous belief that research is a contract project.
Prof. Emeje, spoke with Pharmanewsonline in an exclusive interview on the occasion of the African Traditional Medicines (ATM) Day. The erudite researcher wonders how the development of natural medicines can thrive in the country, when his agency is expected to dispense 50 per cent of the paltry allocation of N300M in 2023 to contractors?
He disclosed further that the funding appropriation process is fraught with dubious attitudes and until practitioners free themselves from such notoriously freaky method of allocating resources, there will continuous agencies’ underperformance.
The NNMDA boss said “My agency is the only research institution with the national mandate of conducting research and developing indigenous medicines. We were allocated a paltry N300M, but my problem is not even the N300M, but the fact that, almost N150M of this money will not be used for research at the agency, rather, contractors get the money, because, the law says that, research is a capital project, it goes to people as contract; who does that? How can we grow like that?
“I believe you are expecting me to say funding right? Unfortunately, I do not belong to that group of scientists that see funding as the challenge; yes, the allocated funds are never enough, but that’s not peculiar to Nigeria.
“Our own problem is the application of the little funds available. It is fraught with dubious attitudes, and until we free ourselves from such notoriously freaky method of allocating resources, we will continue to have agencies underperforming. My agency is the only research institution with the national mandate of conducting research and developing on indigenous medicines, we are expected to go round the entire 774 LGAs to cultivate, preserve, conserve, research, develop, document, collate, produce and promote everything indigenous, whether plants, animals, or minerals, anything and everything natural.
“Yet, in 2023, we were allocated a paltry N300M, but my problem is not even the 300M, but the fact that, almost N150M of this money will not be used for research at the agency, rather, contractors get the money, because, the law says that, research is a capital project, it goes to people as contract; who does that? How can we grow like that?
“I don’t even understand why half of my allocation for research should go to any other thing aside research; unnecessary deductions, contract mark-ups etc; it hurts, demoralizes, frustrates and incapacitates patriotic researchers like me” he decried.
He has also assured that if given the right funding, himself and team of scientists are set to turn the agency around with innovations, as he dispelled all arguments against the dosage of herbal medicines, saying they have the knowledge for the transformation of natural medicines into finished drugs, if supported by government.
‘ I see most attacks on traditional medicine as struggle for survival/livelihood. When they go to the restaurants to consume bitterleaf, ugwu, oha soups, what is the dosage they give them? If you don’t know something, approach those who know instead of condemning what you don’t know. Did they know how covid-19 vaccine that they took was produced? I don’t need more than N50M to convert one plant to a phytomedicine.
“ I repeat, I don’t need more than N50M/plant, but the money must be given to me 100 per cent without contract, deductions, and other arrows that come with such funds. After that, I will need another N300M/product to conclude simple clinical trials, that is, N350M/plant; do you believe this? If anybody tells you anything different, ask well” he insist.
The newly appointed DG of NNMDA highlighted his objectives to turn the history of the institution around as follows: “I and my team will forge strong collaboration between the academia and the industry; we will develop a strong intellectual property regime; I will pilot the agency’s training institution away from paper to practical qualifications; We will undertake clinical trial of indigenous medicines; I will Institutionalize grantsmanship in order to reduce or totally remove the burden of funding from the government, I will establish the first public herbal Pharmacy in NigeriaI, and will connect with the chemical, food and pharmaceutical industries”.