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House To Probe Alta Semper For Allegedly Obtaining Unlawful Waiver to Co-own HealthPlus

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The House of Representatives has directed an investigation into the legality of the operations of private equity firm, Alta Semper Capital UK (a.k.a Idi Holdings), as a part owner of popular retail pharmacy chain, HealthPlus, in Nigeria.

This came following a petition made by Oladimeji Ekengba and presented by Rep. Benjamin Kalu, which challenged the waiver granted by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) to Alta Semper Capital purportedly permitting the private equity firm to co-own and operate the retail pharmacy, HealthPlus in Nigeria.

The petition argued that according to Section 2(2) of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria Act, P.17, 2004 (PCN Act), a retail pharmacy can only be wholly owned by a registered pharmacist or in partnership with other registered pharmacists; and therefore, that the letter of ‘No Objection’ issued to Alta Semper as a waiver by the Registrar of PCN was an illegality.

Speaking to reporters after the plenary session today, Rep Kalu, who is also the spokesperson of the House, said “As you are aware, the PCN Act established the PCN, a body charged with responsibility for regulating the practice of the pharmacy profession in Nigeria, and also charged with the responsibility for maintaining a register of qualified pharmacists and pharmaceutical businesses.

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“The combined provisions of the PCN Act and the PCN Regulations stipulate that a retail pharmacy can only be owned by a registered pharmacist or in partnership with other registered pharmacists.

“So it was shocking to learn that by a letter dated 30 October 2017, the PCN Registrar granted a waiver to an equity investment relationship between Health Plus Limited and Alta Semper Capital UK (a.k.a. Idi Holdings) in March 2018 – in defiance of the clear stipulation of our laws, which does not permit unqualified persons to own or operate a retail pharmacy business in Nigeria.

“A mere letter cannot and must not be allowed to abrogate an Act of the National Assembly. Therefore, any structure put on that weak foundation should not be allowed to stand because it was not birthed by legality.

“The only remedy for the Alta Semper-HealthPlus anomaly is for parties to be returned to status quo. While we are open to foreign direct investment, private equity companies must come through the front door and not the back door. We are a rule of law compliant nation. Investors must understand this and comply with our laws.

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“The Covid-19 scourge has critically impacted medicine security in Nigeria. So, as we navigate the challenges of the pandemic, now more than ever, there is a grave responsibility on the government to ensure best practices and a healthy regulatory space for local pharmaceutical businesses to thrive.

“Pharmaceutical practice standards and the integrity of the supply chain should not be distorted or compromised. We cannot allow unlicensed practitioners in Nigeria’s pharmaceutical space because it could create a window for fake or substandard drugs to be introduced into the system.”

According to Kalu, the Committee on Public Petitions has been mandated by the House to investigate this issue, adding that the management of Health Plus, Alta Semper Capital, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and every other persons who had played a role in the issue would soon be invited to the House.

He said he was confident that in reviewing the petition, the House would do justice to the concerns raised by the petitioner and ensure that the health and safety of Nigerian citizens were safeguarded against predatory or charlatan practitioners in the pharmaceutical sector.

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Further investigation by reporters showed that pharmacists in Nigeria were displeased with the relationship between Alta Semper Capital and HealthPlus, arguing that the union is based on an illegality which is harmful to the pharmaceutical sector.

Speaking to reporters, a pharmacist based in Abuja who preferred to remain anonymous said: “What happened with HealthPlus and the foreign investors sets a wrong precedence in the pharmaceutical industry if allowed to stand. It is an affront to the integrity of the profession that an unqualified person will be allowed to run a pharmacy in Nigeria simply because he is a foreign investor. This cannot happen in the legal profession or the medical profession, so why should it happen to pharmacists?

“We are happy that the House has risen up to this and we hope it will return sanity to the profession by returning all parties, both Health Plus and Alta Semper to their initial positions before the letter of no objection.”

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OONI UNVEILS ANTI-COVID-19 HERBAL IMMUNE BOOSTING DRUGS

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The Arole Oduduwa & Ooni of Ife, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, on Thursday unveiled series of traditional medicines made from local herbs for boosting human’s immune system against infectious diseases, including the rampaging Coronavirus disease.

 

 


 

The products launched were Verozil – an immune booster, Bitter Leaf Capsule – specially researched and produced to attack diabetes and high blood pressure, Vision Pro – an herbal product that tackles eye problems and Rio Capsule – which regulates men’s sexual disorder.

 


 

The product launch which held at the Ile-Oodua Palace in Ile-Ife, was done through a platform called Herbal Remedies International with the Ooni as its Chairman, in partnership with the ace traditionalist; Dr. Akintunde Ayeni, C.E.O./Chairman, YEMKEM International LTD.

Addressing newsmen, Ooni Ogunwusi who wondered why the African continent inports medicines and other medical ingredients from developed countries, explained that it is a proven fact which is equally established by the World Health Organization that Africa and indeed Nigeria have the best herbs which could be used for vaccine production.

“We are not doing this in isolation and I am happy to inform you that the National Assembly is currently working on a bill of the Federal Executive Council, on medical research that is alternative to orthodox medicine which is the herbal medicine.

“The Bill is to develop and regulate Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Nigeria. We will endeavor to align with global trends in Traditional Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, there is no doubt that the bill as drafted will greatly enhance the practice of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicine and generally facilitate the integration of the practice into the health in Nigeria and capable of contributing to the GDP growth of the country.”

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“I am very honoured to be in partnership with the best when it comes to alternative medicine practice in Nigeria, YEMKEM International who has been in the industry for the past 40 years. He owns the largest production plant in Nigeria.

“We have been on this for over one year during which we have worked with various stakeholders in the health sector including the NAFDAC, Federal and Osun State Ministries of Health, Standard Organization of Nigeria and many others who have been so supportive.

“To the glory of God, NAFDAC gave us all the approvals last September but I insisted that the products be packaged properly. To the glory of God, these products have been tested especially on thousands of Covid-19 patients including some in positions of authority who are currently free from the pandemic.”

“Now that we have gotten here, our focus is to employ one hundred thousand (100,000) youths within the next fifteen months. This will be achieved virtually.” The Ooni said.

In his goodwill message, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation, Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede, commended the Ooni over the innovation, adding that many youths would be engaged productively through this initiative.

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Mr. Afolabi said, “If you study the value chain associated with this innovation right from the cultivation of herbs, production, packaging and distribution, it is obvious that many jobs will be created and countless doors of opportunities will be opened for our youths.

“I am impressed about this and I wish to commend the Ooni who has continued to lead from the front among other frontiers. This shows that he is committed to the development of our dear country and all of us should emulate him.” 

In the same vein, Chairman of YEMKEM Int’l LTD. Dr. Akintunde Ayeni, described the development as his greatest achievement since over forty years of practice, explaining that such landmark achievement is more spectacular because it is coming from Ile-Ife; source of mankind and natural headquarters of the Oduduwa Race worldwide.

“It was not easy and I wish to state that the Ooni who conceived the idea, gave us all supports including huge sum of money which made this a great success. In the whole of Nigeria, Kabiyesi (Ooni) is the only traditional ruler who has shown immeasurable commitment to the development of alternative medicine. He has been supportive morally, financially and spiritually and I appeal to other monarchs to emulate these good virtues.” Dr. Ayeni stated.

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Speaking on behalf of the Commissioner, Osun State Ministry of Health, Mr. Gbenga Adepoju, pledged government’s support for the products, noting the country has what it takes to solve her problems.

Mr. Adepoju, who is the Director of Public Health in the Ministry, said, “Kabiyesi’s activities in the development of a vaccine against Covid-19 is a huge addition to our efforts as a government. As we keep fighting against this common enemy, I want to implore us to keep observing the Covid-19 protocols including wearing of nose masks, observing social distancing and maintaining personal hygiene.”

In their separate speeches, National Agency for Food, Drugs, Administration and Control (NAFDAC) who was represented by the Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Jimoh Abubakar and the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) represented by Engineer Gideon Amosun, jointly declared their organizations’ support for the innovation, commending the frontline African monarch over the medical breakthrough.

It will be recalled, that Ooni Ogunwusi who is the natural leader of the Yoruba race worldwide had last year proffered African herbal medicine as remedies against the Covid-19 pandemic. The African foremost monarch swiftly assembled a team of professionals including a professor of public health and a WHO consultant, Professor Olapeju Esimai who led the team that distributed motorized fumigators across the 36 states of the federation and Abuja FCT as the Ooni’s contribution in the fight against the pandemic.

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Health

Protein Nutrition: Roadmap to a healthy future

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By Reginald Onabu

The journey of life runs from childbirth to senescence. One activity that remains constant throughout this journey is daily nutrition. The foods we consume daily constitute our daily diets, which is connected to our health and wellbeing.

We must certainly eat and nourish ourselves regularly for our nutrition, growth and development. Nutrition involves more than simply eating a “good” diet; it is about nourishment on every level. This includes eating balanced, quality food, drinking clean water and eating natural fruits with nutritious value.

 

An aspect of nutrition that has been neglected, especially in Nigeria, is protein nutrition. Protein nutrition is the formation of a diet that has a larger protein percentage per calorie than carbohydrates, lipids, and fat.

Calories are micro-units of energy that constitute the basic nutrients in all food sources. However, modern Nigerian diets usually emphasize carbohydrates and fats as the main course, while relegating proteins to the background.

The Nigeria Protein Deficiency report shows that proteins are rarely included in regular diets across all states. Highlights of the report indicate that carbohydrates are the most consumed food amongst Nigerians. Rice topped the list with 91 per cent, closely followed by ‘swallows’ (such as eba, pounded yam, etc.) at 83 per cent.

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This shows the predominance of carbohydrates over protein rich-foods, which cuts across all regions in the nation.

Further analysis revealed that other carbohydrates like bread and pasta are consumed in large quantities, making up over 80 per cent of the daily diets, especially amongst the lower socio-economic classes.

This is a far cry from the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a food nutrient needed to meet the basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it is the minimum amount the body needs to keep from getting ill — not the specific amount that is supposed to be eaten every day. 

The implication of this dietary habit of consuming high carbohydrate, high-calorie foods is protein deficiency. This deficiency is a lack of essential protein nutrients in the daily diet and it is the consequence of primary malnutrition that occurs when there is no protein in our staple food.

Protein deficiency is strongly associated with ill health, as both a cause and consequence. People who are protein deficient are more susceptible to diseases and infections due to a weakened immune system and tend to take longer to recover from incidents of illness. 

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Protein deficiency invariably leads to a plethora of illnesses, including marasmus, psoriasis, edema, stunting and kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor is a condition whereby an individual’s bio ketogenic cells are being burnt out in the body to sustain the internal metabolism of the human system.

The resulting symptoms include severe weight loss, swollen abdomen, and hair loss. 

No state in Nigeria is free of protein deficiency and many families in rural and urban communities struggle with all of these forms of protein-energy deficiencies at the same time.

Nigeria can resolve these issues and build a stable, healthy future. The question is, how? The solution is protein nutrition.

Protein nutrition must be given priority. The regular nutrition pattern must gradually change and all dietary intakes should have some form of protein food source. This will go a long way to reduce the levels of protein deficiency in the nation.

The government could enact a protein-centred food policy that would involve adding proteins to staple foods during processing to enhance their nutritional quality. 

The government could also develop protein-centred plans, decisions and strategies in food cultivation, production, processing, packaging and consumption; ensuring that proteins are utilized to augment food sources.

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An effective approach will be to create public awareness of the benefits of a protein-centred nutrition. People should be encouraged to eat soybeans, legumes, groundnuts, eggs, quinoa daily. The Nigeria Protein Awareness Campaign or Protein Challenge is one of the players operating in this space. Protein Challenge is a protein pull media campaign that seeks to create awareness about the prevalence, status and impact of protein deficiency in Nigeria.

Proteins should be the main course. The narrative should be “more protein, more life”, as every cell in the human body contains protein. We all need protein in our diets to help our bodies repair cells and make new ones. Proteins are also important for growth and development in children, teens, and pregnant women.

Once people begin to grasp the tremendous benefits proteins offer, nutritious habits nationwide will change. 

Life, they say, is a process, and a child that is born today cannot become an adult overnight; so is healthy nutrition. It is a gradual process.

Protein nutrition will pave the way for a healthy future.

-END-

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COVID-19: CACOVID to buy Vaccines through FG, plans on distribution

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The private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) has clarified that only the Federal Government, through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) can obtain any COVID-19 vaccine for Nigeria in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The coalition also explained that the process of buying the vaccines through the Federal Government has commenced and also that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as an official regulatory body, has to approve the vaccine and certify it before use by Nigerians.

These clarifications were made by the Administrator of CACOVID, Mrs. Zouera Youssoufou, while speaking in Lagos during the Global Business Report programme on ARISE TV News. The clarification was made in reference to media reports that BUA (a member of CACOVID) had purchased a million doses of COVID-19 (AstraZeneca) vaccines through Afreximbank for Nigerians.

Responding to questions on how the CACOVID Collegiate Fund Works, Youssoufou, said, “The way this works is that we, as a group, agree on what to actually purchase, on how to purchase it and what the modalities of the purchase would be. This is how the group has been working since we were created back in March 2020. As you know we have several things including testing, test kits and getting isolation centres, PPEs, palliatives, communications among many others.

“So the purchase of the vaccines is very similar to the purchase of the testing supplies, meaning that we do this through very validated and subsidised means. Right now there are three mechanisms that Nigeria is participating in. One called COVAX, one called the African Union Vaccine Acquisition Task Force which is funded by Afreximbank, and the third one is the World Bank, which is also funding some of these vaccines.

“Nigeria as a country is a member of all these organisations. We as the CACOVID, the private sector coalition against COVID, our role is to support our government in what is needed in order to help our people in the context of this COVID-19. So I think the important thing that we all need to know is that there are several steps to procuring vaccines. The first thing is that government are the ones who can actually buy vaccines, so we as a private sector group, as individual companies, cannot buy vaccines, we can’t call AstraZeneca or Pfizer or Moderna to order vaccines from them. That is the first thing.

“The second thing is that the distribution of the vaccines and how they would be shared in our country has to be done by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) which is the only agency in our country mandated to handle vaccines and so far, as you know people, children are being vaccinated everyday BCG, Polio. So those vaccines, that whole process is managed by the NPHCDA and they are going to be the ones managing this process too. So it is not a matter of sending money to the Central Bank, that is one step. But the real step is how do we get the vaccines into Nigeria and how do we distribute them to the people.

“I think the most over-looked element in this discussion on that aspect about getting vaccines next week, is that AstraZeneca or any vaccine has yet to be approved by NAFDAC, which is our regulatory agency. So without the approval of NAFDAC, there is no vaccine that can come into Nigeria and be distributed to Nigerians or shot into the arms of Nigerians. And I think this is where some of the misinformation had come in.”

On a question on the statement from BUA that the Central Bank of Nigeria put out a call to the CACOVID members on a small window through which to procure these vaccines, where someone had to step and they (BUA) came in and put up the money, Youssoufou replied, “First thing, I was on a call with the Afreximbank President on February 7 with Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe and Godwin Emefiele, and in that call, President Oranmah (Benedict) was explaining to us their model and how this task force was working with the AU and how they have set up a $2 billion facility to help fund the vaccines for Nigeria and for African countries, and that the allocation of 42 million vaccines had been made for Nigeria.

“He also told us about an extra one million doses that we can get if we can confirm that we wanted those doses immediately by the next day February 8. And so CACOVID leaders agreed that yes, this was a good thing and would bring it to the meeting the very next day, which happened. So we had the meeting yesterday (February 8) and that discussion actually happened. What is really important to know is that Afreximbank, after that call, already secured those doses for Nigeria because they had the confirmation from the Central Bank Governor, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and Herbert Wigwe that they would pay for these one million doses.

“Now, the doses don’t come in; it’s not as if we get a million doses of vaccines one day getting dumped into Nigeria; they get delivered at a specific pace. So we might get a hundred thousand (100,000) immediately, 150,000 the next week, and then let’s say another hundred thousand. So we will never get a million doses in one single day coming into Nigeria at once. And in order for that to happen, we have to work very closely with both the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency which I just explained are the ones who would be managing this process of getting the vaccine into people’s arms, but also sorting out the logistics.

“Vaccines have to be stored at a certain temperature; when they land from the plane, they come out of a cooler, they have to be transferred to another freezer. Then we have to get those vaccines across the country. We also have to follow a very logical logistics chain of how we are going to get the vaccines from point A to point B, what centres are going to get them, who are the people who are going to get vaccinated, where the health workers are going to be doing the vaccinations.

“This is the work that the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency does. Dr. Faisal Shuaib (Executive Director NPHCDA) has to be part of this conversation in order for us to have any legitimacy in bringing vaccines back into Nigeria. So that is the way it happened. But in terms of the vaccine being secured, the vaccines are already secured because President Oranmah said ‘I’ll hold these for you’ for Nigeria. Now we need to get AstraZeneca approved in Nigeria and that’s not for us to do but for NAFDAC to do and then the payment that would go from CACOVID to Afreximbank on behalf of Nigeria for these vaccines would then happen. 

“So nobody is disputing a transfer into Central Bank account; nobody is saying that did not happen, that is not where the challenge is. The challenge is the claim that one company has brought vaccines into Nigeria because that is not factual,” Youssoufou added.

In a statement issued to clear the air on the COVID-19 vaccines purchase, the Coalition noted in part that, “These claims are not factual as CACOVID operates on a collegiate fund contribution model. There is no agreement between BUA, CACOVID and Afreximbank.”

According to the statement, CACOVID leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, noting that “these 1 million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45 million, being the very first tranche. CACOVID will purchase vaccines through other credible and subsidised mechanisms such as COVAX.”

“CACOVID would like the Nigerian public to understand that vaccine purchase is only possible through the Federal Government of Nigeria, and that no individual or company can purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognised manufacturer,” it said.

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