BY AUSTIN OYIBODE OMOS
The Delta state command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) has denied claim by one Sega L’eveilleur that the command demanded for one million naira from an unknown pharmacist in Obiaruku, Ukwuani local government area of the state following a raid on his medicine store by operatives of the state command.
Addressing journalists at the weekend, assistant commandant in charge of media, Felix Chukwudi Egede, agreed that though the command arrested a medicine dealer at Obiaruku, he said the man arrested is not a pharmacist but an illegal medicine dealer in the area.
He faulted the claim that the command demanded for one million naira from the man, saying that the comment posted on twitter by the said L’eveilleur was an unfounded allegation, insisting that the command has earned a reputation of integrity which cannot be tarnished for no just cause.
Egede told journalists that the raid was carried out following request by the Pharmacist Council of Nigeria (PCN) to assist the body to checkmate quackery, sale of harmful drugs and operation of patent medicine stores without license across the 25 local government areas of the state.
He said several suspects were arrested during the raid and were released following due process, noting that the comment that personnel of the command demanded for one million naira during the joint lawful operation between the command and the PCN was far from the truth.
However, he said the man arrested during the joint raid was not a pharmacist but an illegal medicine dealer, adding that the illegal dealer mobilized mob to attack the operatives, hence he was whisked away by the operatives of the command.
Egede said the man was kept in the custody of the command, noting that though he was released the same day, he could not meet the bail conditions but the following day, he brought a surety and he was let go.
He said: “We are empowered by law to arrest, if anybody is suspected to be carrying out any illegal or criminal activity. And that we did. Money did not change hands during the bail process. We don’t collect money in the civil defense corps. The condition giving to him is an administrative bail and does not involve any monetary value.
“We released him the day he was arrested but he couldn’t meet the bail conditions. The following day he was able to provide a reasonable surety. And he was taken on bail.”
When asked to supply the name of the arrested man, he said: “The author of the said publication did not name anybody, he was anonymous but we know that the only one suspect arrested was from Obiaruku. That is why we are saying that the person we arrested at Obiaruku is not a patent dealer.
“He is not a pharmacist. He is an illegal medicine dealer. He owns an illegal patent medicine outlet. Illegal in the sense that he is not registered and we also found out that in his outlet he has some ethical products, and there is no pharmacist employed to supervise the dispensing of those products.”
In his reaction, Stephen Esumobi, head of the enforcement department of the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria, said for an individual to operate a medicine store, he must not be less than 21 years, be able to read and write, must not have criminal records, must be of good character and most importantly, he must show evidence of tax payment.
He said the patent and proprietary medicine vendors license (PPMVL) is only issued to those who have registered with the body saying those who are license are called PPMVL holders.
He, however, said that Delta state has more people who into unregistered drug deals than other states in Nigeria, even as he expressed shock that having gone round the state, he discovered that most of the dealers have constituted themselves into cartels where they extort money from people.
He said a lot of people are suffering the effects of adverse drug reaction due to poor handling and maintenance of drugs, stressing that this trend can no longer be allowed to continue.
“Most of these drugs, even though the label is saying they have not expired but because of poor handling and exposure to atmospheric factors, most of them have already degraded, so the quality, safety and efficacy of those drugs cannot be guaranteed.
“Then, secondly, it has been observed that many of the illegal dealers that have been displaced from other states are moving into Delta state, and many of them sell substances that have been abused and many criminal take these drugs and they are causing problems in society.
“Our activity is two-fold: it is aimed at protecting public interest and complementing the efforts of security agencies to reduce crime in our society. The guidelines for providing medicine for anyone is to get the patent medicine license.
“One of the criteria is that for anybody to be licensed, he must show evidence of tax clearance, many of the people are not registered, they are not paying tax to the state government, they are depriving the government of revenue. They are shortchanging the federal and the state government.
“Again, many of the people across the local government areas have formed cartels. The licensing fee is N17,100 per year for a new vendor and N10,500 for inspection year. But if it is not an inspection year, the vendor pays as low as N5500 in a year.
“But one thing I have discovered in Delta state is that some of these leaders extort as much as N350,000 from these vendors. This money does not go to the federal government neither does it go to the state government.
“The money that is supposed to be for the federal and the state government is in private hands. This cannot continue in this state.”