On May 1, 2018, the Federal Government announced the immediate ban of all syrup containing codeine following a documentary (Sweet Sweet Codeine) by BBC Africa, which exposed the cartel supplying the drug to Nigerian streets.
The directive was issued by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who also asked the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) to supervise the immediate recall of all the codeine-containing cough syrup in the country.
Investigations carried out by the newspaper at the Sabon-Gari open drug market in Kano, however, revealed that the syrup is still being sold by licensed pharmaceutical distributors in the state, but strictly on prescription.
“It will be difficult for government to stop the marketers from selling codeine because of the money involved. Do you know how many cartoons of codeine we sell daily?“, he asked.
Reacting to the development, the Head of NAFDAC in Kano, Shabba Mohammad, said the directive of the health minister has not been enforced in the state due to the ongoing industrial action of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).
“NAFDAC is regulating the control of drugs and on the Federal Government directive on codeine, we have started making efforts to commence the enforcement, unfortunately our members of staff are also members of health workers who are currently on industrial action but I can assure you that full scale work will commence very soon.”
One of pharmaceutical companies implicated in the BBC documentary, Emzor, had suspended the distribution of its major cough drug, ”Emzolyn with Codeine’ following the scandal.
A sales rep of the company had sold 60 bottles of the Codeine bottle to BBC undercover reporters. The company has since terminated the staffer’s employment and he is reportedly being investigated by the management and the police.