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BBC launches Africa Eye, screens documentary on codeine abuse

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The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), last week, further made an inroad into broadcasting and investigative journalism in Africa with the launch of Africa Eye and the screening of Sweet Sweet Codeine, an undercover documentary of addiction to cough mixture in Kano, Lagos, Jigawa and Ilorin.

According to BBC Commissioning Editor for TV, Nisha Kapur, Africa Eye will promote the culture of investigative journalism across Africa and strengthen the skills of African investigative journalists.

She noted that all the programmes would be based on in-depth reporting and tackle topics that are of intense concern to the audiences in Africa, adding that the reports would be produced in a fresh and contemporary style that resonate with young audiences.

“The new strand is part of the BBC’s commitment to invest in original content for Africa in English, French, Swahili, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa languages, as part of the expansion of the BBC World Service. Africa Eye will create a network of trained investigative journalists across the continent — within BBC Africa and among BBC’s partnering organisations on the continent.

“African Eye will also work with independent journalists to deliver up to 20 original and high-impact investigations from across Africa every year,” she said.

Sweet Sweet Codeine, a co-production between Africa Eye and BBC Pidgin looks at the cough syrup industry and how codeine is causing a plague of addiction across Nigeria. The undercover documentary reveals how senior figures in Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry are moving their legally produced products, codeine cough syrup, through the back door of their factories into the hands of drug dealers who sell them for the price of a bottle of cola drink.

The duo of Ruona Meyer and Adejuwon Soyinka of BBC Pidgin exposes how this sweet tasting opioid is found in nightclubs in Lagos and on backstreets of shanty communities in Kano, Jigawa and other towns in the North, as well the negative effect it is causing users, parents and the society.

The documentary also films some of the users, now demented, in Doriye Rehabilitation Centre, Kano, where they are being taken care of.

The audience made up of journalists, pharmacists, advocacy groups and traditional rulers, while commending African Eye and BBC Pidgin for the insightful reporting called for a follow-up with a second edition and also want BBC to make authorities concern in the distribution chain and monitoring do their work properly, as part of ways of preventing the mixture from getting into wrong hands and eradicate the menace.

Responding to the various calls, Soyinka standing for BBC, said his organisation has played their part by exposing the codeine epidemic and urged other organisations to pick up the issues where Africa Eye stopped. He disclosed that the decision to do a second edition does not lie with him, but his organisation will be on the story and report any positive changes as they happen.

The BBC Pidgin Editor expressing showing surprise at some of the things he saw and heard, while doing the story said: “It’s shocking what we found and how much of an epidemic cough syrup abuse has become in Nigeria. Equally shocking is the sheer size of criminal network involved in the illicit trade.”

Speaking at the event, Dr. Bashir Mohammed, Dan Kande of Kano, representing the Emir of Kano, said the problem is an epidemic that everyone should rally round to fight.

According to Dr. Mohammed codeine syrup is just one of the drugs abused in his domain, adding that the Emir of Kano is working in collaboration with different groups, including health care organaisation to end the menace.

“Codeine is not the only drug abused in Kano, there are others like morphine. We even hear that some people go the extent of sniffing lizard droppings and inhaling the odour of decomposing corpses; so, it is a problem we must all fight. Government should ban the production of codeine and also come up with laws that will make illegal, the use, sales and distribution, and anyone found going against the law should be punished,” he said.

The audience called for the documentary to be taken around the TV stations, tertiary institutions and secondary schools in the country for people to know the dangers of codeine abuse.


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