In the midst of a raging controversy over its efficacy, President Muhamadu Buhari, last Saturday, reportedly received a donated sample of the trending COVID-Herbal drug which is being promoted and distributed as capable of curing and preventing the killer COVID-19, to African countries by Madagascar, its country of development.
The sample which was donated to Nigeria by Madagascar, was delivered to Buhari by the President of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, during a courtesy visit to the Nigerian leader. Since the drug was publicised by the President of Madagascar, Andry Rajoclina, during a teleconference of African Heads of State in April 2020, it had attracted mixed reactions, especially due to the awaited approval and certification by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
President Buhari had earlier directed that whenever it arrived Nigeria, the drug should be subjected to thorough analysis and scrutiny by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), for possible use in the country as it is the case for any new, local or foreign medication.
Meanwhile, the government's response to Madagascar's 'COVID-19 Herbal' is coming against a rash of claims by several Nigerians of having developed effective cures for the disease, but have been sidelined by the relevant authorities which should have shown more than a passing interest in the former's enterprise. Among these are a group of pharmacists from the Ahmadu Bello University led by Professor Haruna Kaita, while another Professor of Pharmacy, Maurice Iwu, also parades a herbal remedy that purportedly cures the COVID-19 and other virus related diseases.
Outside the academia are also other claimants to developing a complement of cures for the disease. However, given that for ethical reasons, all medications for routine and approved clinical use globally, are required to undergo rigorous laboratory trials and be certified as safe by both local and global health authorities - especially the World Health Organisation (WHO). This so far has not been complied with by these local claimants of solutions to COVID-19.
A new dimension has however been added to the situation with the intervention of two bodies of health practitioners namely the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), and the Joint Health Workers Union (JOHESU), both of which have condemned the government for subscribing to Madagascar's herbal drug, without first exhausting the potential of local enterprise in that regard. The PSN considers the development as insulting to Nigeria, being a leading nation in Africa.
Led by its National President, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, the PSN contends that the country has more than adequate endowments in terms of manpower and other resources which, if tapped by the government, can develop effective cures for COVID-19 and other diseases. In a statement signed by its National President, Ohuabunwa, the PSN contends that in principle they would not mind if the government imported a drug that is proven to cure COVID-19 or any other disease, which Nigeria has no capacity or technology to produce locally. Their grouse rests on the situation where the country's scarce foreign exchange will be used to import an experimental drug which the country has more than enough capacity to produce locally.
The PSN's position is corroborated in one vein by protests from Nigerian claimants to cures for COVID-19, over authorities who deny them tests of their concoctions - to ascertain the potency of same, but prefer to waste funds to acquire COVID-Herbal. The government has however denied that it imported the drug from Madagascar. This clarification qualifies to douse any queries on waste of forex for COVID-Herbal.
Meanwhile, with the commencement of tests for the Madagascar drug, it is just appropriate that the various claims by Nigerian COVID-19 drug makers also get tested. Where the Madagascan drug and any of the Nigerian options qualify as potent and safe, such a development constitutes the magic wand the country and the world is waiting for, to stem the world wide, morbid ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and lift Africa unto a new pedestal as the conqueror of COVID-19, in respect of which no cure has been found until now.