Monrovia — Delegates from the ECOWAS Parliament Joint Committee on Health and Social Service, Trade, Customs and Free Movement are in Liberia attending a week-long meeting to discuss ECOWAS policy on the fight against Counterfeit Medical Products and expired Products and how Parliamentarians can contribute toward implementing and improving the policy.
The delocalized meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Social Welfare, Trade, Customs and Free Movement of the ECOWAS Parliament, is convening in Monrovia from April 10 to the 14th.
The meeting is under the leadership of ECOWAS Parliament Speaker, Moustapha Cisse Lo.
Mr. Lo is a member of the Malian Parliament seconded to ECOWAS Parliament.
The meeting is been held under the theme, "ECOWAS Policy on Combating Counterfeit Medical Products and Expired Products: Role of the Parliament in the Implementation and Monitoring of this Policy."
Liberian President, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf graced the opening ceremony while the Speaker of the lower House, Emmanuel Nuquay and members of the Committees on Health, Gender and Child Protection of the House of Representatives and Liberian Senate, were in attendance.
The conference's objective is to ensure the effective existence of an ECOWAS policy on counterfeit medicines and also to ensure its implementation in the region to coordinate the Parliament's effort to fight the menace together.
At the opening ceremony, the speaker of the House of Representatives Emmanuel Nuquay, called for tougher punishment against individuals bent on polluting countries in Africa with Counterfeit medicines and provide economic empowerment for its citizens to alleviate poverty and illiteracy in the region.
The Speaker said survey conducted in 2008 by the West African Regional Health Program, states that the trade of counterfeit medicines in Liberia stands at 60%.
Quoting the same report, the Speaker named; Nigeria and Ghana as the Major hubs for counterfeit medicines, and Guinea serves as the conduit for counterfeit and illegal medicines entering Liberia through border in Ganta, Nimba County.
Speaker Nuquay said Nigeria accounts for about 60% of the value of illicit medicine in the sub-region, with Guinea also accounting for 60%; Ivory Coast accounting for 30%, Sierra Leone 30% and Liberia at 15%.
The Speaker added: "The Prevalence of the transportation and sale of counterfeit medicines in our sub-region has also been confirmed by a 2013 survey report of the Institute of Research against Counterfeit medicines.
According to the IRACM, about 70% of the medicines on West African markets are fake because the suppliers of these medicines see West Africa as soft spot for the illegal trade.
"Our own drugs enforcement agency has also confirmed the proliferation of the counterfeit medicines and illegal drugs in Liberia with Nigeria cited as the major source."
Speaker Nuquay says he believes the issue of counterfeit medicines and illegal drugs is not only a Liberian problem but a problem of the sub-region and arguably all of Africa is vulnerable to counterfeit medicines and illegal drugs.
He pledged the Liberian Legislature's commitment to work with other branches of the Liberian government and ECOWAS parliament to deal decisively with the threat.
Speaker Nuquay added: Our legislature will lend its fullest cooperation and support to this noble initiative.
"We believe that the parliament of ECOWAS and the respective parliament or legislature of members countries have pivotal role to play in preventing the proliferation of the counterfeit and expired medical products across Africa.
For his part, Mr. Moustapha Cisse Lo, Speaker of the ECOWAS parliament said the issue counterfeit medicines is a global phenomenon that has to be attacked at the source by deploying important financial and human means and establishing adequate arsenal in order to sanction all those involved in the manufacturing process, importation and sale.
"It appears that several millions of dollars are engulfed in the market for these counterfeit products around the world. As for the victims, there are thousands of them. The issue of counterfeit medical products and expired products should be a matter of conscience. We are seriously concerned about this issue in ECOWAS parliament," Lo said.
Members of the Joint Committees concerned are around twenty one (21).
Delocalized meetings are organized in the member states to enhance the visibility of the Parliament and to bring the programs closer to the peoples for ECOWAS Community.
Members of the Liberian delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament include the 3rd Deputy Speaker Jefferson Kanmoh and Representative Haja Siryon.
Others are Representative Edwin M. Snowe, Senators George Weah and Prince Y. Johnson.