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Public Health: Aisha Buhari urges NASS to fast-track passage of traditional medicine bill

Nigerian First Lady Aisha Muhammadu Buhari

*Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s First Lady, recommends urgent passage of the Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Bill for improved healthcare system and attainment of Universal Health Coverage for the citizenry

*Prof. MacDonald Idu encourages Nigerians to join government’s efforts at  diversifying economy via investments in traditional medicine industry

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

In order to fast-track the achievement of Universal Health Coverage for Nigerians, First Lady Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari has urged the National Assembly (NASS), in Abuja, FCT, to expedite action on the passage of the Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, TCAM Bill in the Federal Legislature.

Mrs. Buhari stated this Saturday, June 4, 2022, at a Conference jointly organised by her office in collaboration with the Federal of Ministry of Health, Department of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM).

Products of traditional medicine 

ConsumerConnect reports the conference had theme, “Nigerian Indigenous Medicinal Plants – Health Benefits and Economic Potential”.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved the bill 2000, which seeks to regulate the TCAM practice and products

The First Lady in her address regretted the low level of utilisation of the reported over 10,000 species of medicinal plants in Nigeria despite the country’s huge need for production of drugs, cosmetics and other essential products.

Stressing the forum was timely, the bill intended to recognise and showcase the country’s local medicinal plants.

“These valuable bioresources, often referred to as ‘Green Gold’ can be harnessed for the production of medicines, cosmetics and other products for the benefit of our people.

“This Conference is in line with this administration’s agenda of boosting non-oil exports which will lead to the commercial cultivation of medicinal plants for health, economic and social benefits.

“It is with the sole aim for providing wealth and job creation for our teeming youths and women,” the Nigerian President’s wife said.

The First Lady also recommended that the outcome of the Conference should lead to the implementation of the; Gradual integration of TCAM into the healthcare delivery system towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

According to her, “prompt passage of the TCAM Council Bill to regulate the practice and products.

“Establishment of a Vegetable, Fruit and herbs Market for fresh produce, semi processed and raw materials for women.”

She also stated: “Land for women to cultivate medicinal plants and vegetables for their empowerment.

“Training and re-training of practitioners and the protection of their intellectual property rights.”

Mrs. Buhari advised the Nigerian Governors’ wives to adapt the initiative and implement it at state levels even.

She further traditional medicine “practitioners to work harmoniously to propel TCAM forward.”

In his address the event, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Honourable Minister for Health, assured that the government would facilitate the wide scale adoption of traditional and alternative medicine in orthodox medical practice in Nigeria.

The Minister said: “Traditional medicine is all that we had before the emergence of modern medicine. And the same applies to all cultures and civilisations.

“The continued interest and research into traditional medicine is the right way to go for further development of these ancient herbs in Nigeria.

“The time has come to use the knowledge and skills of the forefathers passed down through the generations for greater value addition.”

Dr. Ehanire stated: “In line with the aspiration of this administration to explore all avenues for proper healthcare, the Federal Ministry of Health will remain committed to supporting initiatives that promote TCAM in Nigeria.

“It is instructive that a high percentage of Nigerians still seek and use traditional medicine in addition to orthodox medicine.

“It is my hope that this conference would deliberate on opportunities that are hidden in traditional medicine to be adopted in our orthodox practice.”

Prof. MacDonald Idu, Conference Keynote Speaker, in his paper titled: “Nigerian Indigenous Plants, Our Story”, lamented Nigeria doesn’t value what it has.

Idu disclosed that Nigeria has been out of circulation in terms of harnessing her biodiversity.

According to him, other countries are making a lot of money.

Idu also said: “As of 15 years ago that we were sponsored to India, the Secretary of State to Indian Government, told us that from internal revenue alone, they make over $4 billion, that’s selling plants to their own people.

“And at that time, they were making over five to six times above that shipping their value added plants, outside the shores of India.”

He noted: “So you can imagine, we were given mandate for $1 billion. Somebody’s making $4 billion from only within, and with export he is making almost about $10 billion or $20billion as at then. You know what money looks like then.

“Nigeria I’m sorry, we don’t walk the talk. We talk a lot, but we don’t really walk the talk.”

The expert further stated: “So my own point of interest is to drag the hearts of our people to realise that we should diversify our economy.

“We don’t have any reason to be poor. That’s the real truth, we don’t have any reason to import everything that we need to survive. It’s already here.

“So I believe that if we’re able to set up that platform again, and then we’re able to organise ourselves and organise the traditional medicine practitioners and producers, we should be able to raise enough money for this country to move forward. That’s my worry actually.”

On the value of traditional medicine, Idu said: “For instance, the value we talked about? We talked about $200 billion and that is conservative. I’m serious.

“From other forms of literature that I have also read is going to hit about $1 trillion by 2025.

“This is 2022, in the next three years, it will be $1 trillion. And you know what that means. That’s a lot of money. And we are not on record.

“I gave a talk at the United National University in Ghana. And I tried to look at the status of trade, or medicinal plants in Africa, my dear, we’re not in the radar. We’re not there at all,” he stated.

“Many of these ones that are here as traditional medicine practitioners, they parcel their own and send it to the US, or to Europe to sell and all that. But there are no records we don’t have statistics. And a country cannot develop without statistics.

“So we need to sit down and talk the truth to ourselves that we’re not doing well. If we’re doing well, we’ll be better than where we are right now.”

Idu, expressed home that with the presence of policymakers at the conference, the country can change narrative.”

Also present at the event were Minister of Women Affairs, Paulline Tallen, Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, Head of TCAM at the Ministry of Health, Zainab Shariff, representatives of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, as well as various traditional medicine practitioners from across the country.

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