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Senate probes sale, use of ‘kidney-killer’ malaria drugs

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Members of the Nigerian Senate during a plenary

• Passes whistleblower protection bill
• Reverses self on screening of nominees
• Decries suspension from EGMONT

The Senate yesterday directed its committee on health to urgently investigate an allegation that 42 anti-malaria drugs banned by the European Union (EU) in all countries are still being stockpiled, sold and consumed in Nigeria.

The action of the Senate was informed by the adopted motion sponsored by Theodore Orji representing Abia central senatorial district titled, “Anti-malaria drugs banned by European Union, still being sold and consumed in Nigeria; the need for Senate to investigate.”

In his lead debate, Orji affirmed that the reason for the ban of the drugs was because they cause kidney failure. EU countries were warned not to stock any drugs containing substances like plasmotrin, artequin, co-arinate, arco, artecon and dialquin, yet, it was alleged that they are still being stockpiled, sold and consumed in the country.

The President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Mike Ogirima, was said to have confirmed the delisting of the dangerous drugs.

Against the backdrop of the dangers posed by the drugs, the Senate flayed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) for not adequately waging the war against the influx of fake and sub-standard items into the country.

The lawmakers observed that the drugs on the banned list are very popular, particularly in the rural communities where there is little or no knowledge of the dangers, and where they are obtained across the counter with or without prescription.

Meanwhile, the Senate has passed the whistleblowing bill to help in the fight against corruption, and prescribed imprisonment of not less than five years or N10 million fine against any person found guilty of false information.

The bill also seeks to encourage and facilitate disclosures of improper conduct by persons, public officers and public bodies and ensures that matters disclosed are properly investigated and handled in accordance with the law.

It further seeks to protect the whistleblower from reprisal, victimisation, job loss, humiliation and isolation, and financial reward for any disclosure that leads to discovery and recovery of funds and property.

The bill which was passed yesterday was sponsored by Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti senatorial district. Also yesterday, barely two weeks after it resolved to stop the consideration of requests for confirmation of nominees from the presidency, the Senate reversed itself and took a report from its committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) regarding 12 screened Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).

The lawmakers had on July 4, 2017 vowed that requests from the presidency would not be considered until the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, withdrew a statement credited to him to the effect that some appointments from the president did not need Senate confirmation.

The position of the lawmakers, a fortnight ago, had followed the unveiling of a letter sent to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, urging the upper chamber to confirm Lanre Gbajabiamila as the substantive Director-General of the National Lottery Commission (NLC).

Ahmed Yerima from Zamfara State raised Order 14 of the Senate Standing Rules and argued that since the acting president had already concluded that the Senate lacked the powers to confirm nominees, there was no need to acknowledge any letter from the executive on issues relating to confirmation.

The Senate accordingly resolved that it would suspend any confirmation of nominees from the executive until issues relating to the power of the Senate to confirm are resolved.

The lawmakers also passed a resolution re-enforcing earlier position that all nominees rejected by the Senate should be relieved of their duties, with a particular reference to the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

At yesterday’s plenary, the Senate received the report from its INEC committee. The 12 nominees are Mrs. Asmanu Sani Maikudi from Katsina State, Sam Olugbadebo Olumekun from (Ondo), Mahmud Isah (Kebbi), Rufus Oloruntoyin Akeju (Lagos) and Riskuwa Shehu ( Sokoto).

Others are Kassim Gana Geidam (Yobe), Jibrin Ibrahim Zarewa (Kano), Abdulganiyu Olayinka Raji (Oyo), Samuel Egwu (Kogi), Mike Igini (Delta), Mustapha Zubairu (Niger) and Ahmad Bello Mahmud (Zamfara).

And worried about the grave economic consequences of Nigeria’s suspension and imminent expulsion from the Egmont Group of 154 countries sharing financial intelligence, the Senate initiated a bill for a law to grant full autonomy to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

Adopting a motion tagged “Dire implications of the suspension of Nigeria from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units”, the Senate condemned what it called a serious issue of dereliction of duty and gross incompetence on the part of the executive arm of government.

The Egmont Group, at its last meeting which ended on July 7, 2017, in China, announced the suspension of Nigeria for failing to comply with the international requirements which include the granting of autonomy for NFIU.

The group is an umbrella body of all member countries through which secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing is enhanced.

As a member of the group, the NFIU can access the bank accounts of persons of interest in all the other 153 member- countries.

Senate President Saraki, in his comment during the debate on the suspension said: “Clearly this suspension is a setback in our fight against corruption and as such, we must move swiftly because we cannot afford to be cut off from the EGMONT Group. We must ensure that this suspension is lifted. And one of the things that we need to do is to ensure that we pass this bill as soon as possible to give independence to NFIU and any of the other activities that must have led to this must be stopped.

“The Committee on Anti-Corruption should carry out their oversight to ensure that the sooner we get the suspension lifted, the better for our image and the fight against corruption.”

Adopting the motion which was sponsored by Chukwuka Utazi who is also the chairman of the Committee on Anti-Corruption, the lawmakers unanimously resolved to:
•pass a law creating a substantive and autonomous NFlU, and make the unit legally and operationally autonomous with powers for the employment, reward training, promotion and discipline of its workforce independently; and
• empower the NFIU to, in line with international best practices, exchange and relate with all countries on issues affecting its mandate at the bilateral and multilateral levels.


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