On the 5th of November 2021, as the 2020/2021 tenure of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) winds to an end at the election process for the next tenure in portharcourt, our correspondent met up with the National Vice chairman PSN-YPG – Pharm. Ajibade Oluwabukunmi Omoniyi – who took us through a journey of his tenure from 3rd of November, 2020 till the 4th of November, 2021. Below are excerpt from the interview session;
Q: Can you tell us about PSN-YPG and your role in the Association?
The Young Pharmacy Group (YPG) members are pharmacists who graduated between 0 to 5 years and are not up to 35years old. The YPG is an interest group of the mother body – Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). We help advocate for policies that benefits young pharmacists in the country, we help develop every one and do the right things, the right ways. My role as a vice chairman of YPG, is to work hand in hand with the chairman to ensure things are working in order, to support young pharmacists and help the development of their educational aspect, via providing certification courses, online trainings and so on.
Q: What made you choose pharmacy? And how was your journey like from pharmacy school till now?
During my first jamb I choose medicine but didn’t get admission, so I stayed home for a year. The following year, I wrote Jamb again, chose pharmacy this time and got admission into UNILAG. So the journey began, and I must say that my journey through pharmacy school was a tremendous, adventurous and wonderful one. Let me just say a graceful one, because there was a lot of setbacks, ups and downs but by Gods grace we were able to survive through it all and today, we are called pharmacists. After Pharmacy school, I went on to do my Internship at Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo state and my NYSC at General hospital Ivo, Ebonyi state. Currently I’m running my own personal business, where we deal with pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical drugs such as gynaecological drugs, supplements. We also do drug shipping, importation of medical equipment and we set up pharmaceuticals and medical equipment for hospitals, according to their request and to fit their budget.
Q: Can you share one of your most memorable adventurous experience in pharmacy school?
Hmmmm … It has to be when I travelled to Jos in 200 level without my parents consent. I went on my own and arrived Jos at 12:35am. Then, I went as a PRO for our PANS (Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students) National convention in the University of Jos and I think my ginger to travel was to see a new place.
Q: What do you think is the solution to unregulated drug dispensation in Nigeria?
The first thing we need to know about unregulated drug dispensation in the country is that, it has eaten deep than we can imagine. It’s not just a simple case and can only be tackled when the system itself is working right, because there are many things that needs to be done right. One of such is the “open drug market”, once this can be shut down and we adopt a working “central drug distribution” system in the country, there won’t be access to people getting drugs unnecessarily. Likewise, PPMVAs (Patent Pharmacy and Medicine Vendors Association) should be controlled properly and drugs only gotten through prescriptions when necessary; and not just anybody walking into anywhere or going to Idumota to buy drugs. If these measures are put in place, then we can say we are working towards a regulated drug dispensation in Nigeria.
Sometimes also, some people just come in to the buy antibiotics, increasing antibiotics misuse. Some will say “give me 2 capsules of Ampiclox to flush the system”, what will that flush? And you hear all sorts. So advocacy will really help and much of it is needed because many people are ignorant. Hence, I believe advocacies, policies and actions are the solution to this multifaceted problem.
Q: Are you aware of the increasing menace of recreational drug abuse in Nigeria especially among young people, what is your take on this?
On the menace of drug abuse generally, it boils down back to the issue of unregulated drug dispensation, where anybody can just walk into the pharmacy to buy any type of drug. For example, when people could just buy codeine over the counter, there was a huge impact and they had to ban the sale of codeine publicly across the country. Even if you say you want to do it right, some others will say they are just there for the money; they want to sell and make their money, so this causes a lot of chaos and problem. But currently, the menace is being controlled, as rarely would you find codeine just anyhow, anywhere and tramadol – being a drug often abused – is also highly regulated now. Also, the drug law enforcers (NDLEA) are on the move and working endlessly to ensure this menace is curbed out as soon as possible. However, personally, I believe more advocacy and youth engagement by every involved sector would reduce drug abuse, help the communities grow and create useful young leaders for today and the future.
Q: Still talking about menace, what can you say about the actions of road side drug sellers, patent medicine sellers, chemists and the likes on the images and actually efforts of the pharmacy profession? And any recommendations concerning this?
This particular issue is actually a very serious and difficult one, but the mother body of YPG itself – PSN – is currently working with PCN (Pharmacist Council of Nigeria), NDLEA (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency) and NAFDAC (National Agency For Food Drugs Administrative Control) to see how they can curb out all the road side drug sellers because many of them sell fake drugs and even in danfo you see them advertising drugs for wrong use. You see them advertising diclofenac to be used by ulcer patients which could cause ulceration and danger to their health. Also, my recommendation would still be the central drug system where only licensed pharmacists can get access to drugs which would reduce the prevalence of drug abuse or drug pedaling among road side drug sellers. If you don’t have the permission or authority to sell drugs from the government, you won’t have access to it. Open drug market has to be controlled and we go for a closed system, I know this is a tough one but it can be achieved.
Q: Medical practitioners including Pharmacists are leaving the country, how do you feel about this and what are you doing as an individual and an Association about it?
Well, a lot of us are leaving and trust me, if you ask me also if I want to go, I will say YES! I’m planning to leave. However, like one of my bosses would say, he said, “I wouldn’t advice anybody not to leave but wherever you find yourself, be distinct… If you are here, try to find what can thrive you and make you better”. As an Association, we are trying our best to make sure that there is good pay for the young pharmacists and trying every means possible to ensure the working system in Nigeria is good. Currently, we are working to sign off an agreement to make sure that there is a minimum working hour(s) a pharmacist can work per time and also making sure that there is a minimum pay a young pharmacists can earn in the country. If these things are in place, I believe it would reduce the urgency of people leaving the country and once people have something sustainable going for them and they can live well, it would reduce the idea of them leaving. Also, I’m not against anyone leaving, because everyone is trying to survive in a greener pasture, and only if the system is put in order – then we can boldly say people should stay back. But asides that, we are continuously working for those of us who do not have the opportunity to leave, for them to also have a good life here.
Q: Asides pharmacists in the hospitals and industries, what other opportunities are opened to pharmacists, especially the young ones in Nigeria?
There are a whole lot of opportunities for pharmacists across board. As a pharmacist, you could go into military pharmacy, entrepreneurship, supply chain, even tech – building health software, health apps and the likes, public health, e-commerce and so on. Pharmacy is diversifying to the extent that you can work and thrive anywhere in any industry.
The best is to find yourself and know where your strength is. Once you do this, then you can thrive better.