For Nigeria to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, experts have called on the Federal Government to immediately establish a comprehensive national Intellectual Property, IP, a policy that would address what they described as “fragmented framework” for IP protection in Nigeria even as they regretted that Nigeria does not produce up to 1 per cent of generic medicines in the world
At a media parley on Counterfeiting and IP Infringement in the Pharmaceutical Space”, the stakeholders maintained that getting an effective policy and strategy was the only way to benefit from the African free trade otherwise Nigeria will end up with only pockets of activities.
At the parley organised by America Business Council in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, Lead, Brand Protection Employment, and Global Mobility Olajide Oyewole LLP, Mr. Otu Ukoyen who spoke enormously on the importance of the policy acknowledged that in the last 12 months there have been strategic discussions among the leadership of the various Ministries, Agencies and Departments in Nigeria, specifically towards securing their buy-in, on one hand, and in facilitating their cooperation towards IP policy and strategy.
“The Honourable Minister of industry trade and investments, the Honorable Minister for justice, Honorable Minister for Foreign Affairs Science and Technology Education, the Office of the Secretary of government, and most recently, the Office of the Vice Presidents have registered their full support for an IP strategy.”
Ukoyen also called for a national forum where stakeholders including the media would discuss and trash the issues and hopefully, develop a framework that the country can build upon to establish the IP policy urgently needed, particularly, now that the country was looking at implementing the African continental free trade agreements.
On the possible influx of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, he said Nigeria would definitely have an influx of all manner of goods with questionable quality from African countries.
Citing that a survey conducted in June last year, showed that 21 percent of a drug called oxytocin, was shown to be substandard. And this hormone drug is usually required by women at the point of childbirth, “that is a huge problem when you have influx of such commodities coming into Nigeria with our already existing issues.
He maintained that the Federal government must recognize the importance of IP, and the role it plays in driving and boosting the economy as well as protecting the rights of people when the free trade agreement is eventually implemented.
On his part, a Senior lecturer & Supply Chain Consultant, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, University of Nigeria Nsuka, UNN, Michael Ubaka said despite the fact that Nigeria has the largest sector in West Africa, it does not produce up to 1 per cent of the generic medicines in the world and 90 per cent of the raw materials in making medicine in Nigeria are imported.
Querying if the situation would change when the agreement comes on, Ubaka explained that the whole objective of the agreement was to create a single market that would also unify the customers as well as bring about global competitiveness and get a lot of people out of poverty.
He said COVID-19 has shown that imports can actually be cut off, hence the need to look inwards. Throwing more light on the IP policy, the moderator, Mrs Isioma Idigbe, Senior Associate, Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors explained that the IP policy should really focus on improving enforcement of intellectual property rights, and also improve router marketing.
Speaking, Science and Health Editor of the Guardian Newspapers, Mr Chukwuma Muanya who spoke from the media perspective stressed the need for training and retraining of journalists on public relation reporting as they cannot do much if they don’t have the required knowledge.