21 August 2016
His voice woke me; a local salesman blaring out his adverts over a megaphone. He began with a string of prayers, and then proceeded to itemise diseases to which he claims expertise of cure.
I had planned to read a book, but I could not. I laid it aside to hear him out first. I thought I could learn a few things.
On and on he went with his marketing, reeling out drugs that he called ultimate remedies; and then he changed gear, declaring the ingredients for some of his remedies.
My ears tingled when I heard: “the beak of a cockatoo, alligator pepper, and fresh weed from the stream cooked in rain water. “Hey, who will drink that”? I queried, but no answer came.
Just then, he unveiled his best invention yet, the ring that dispels fear and wards off strange dreams.
How effective could that be? I wondered. How can his piece of metal ward off shots of adrenaline in the body of a man cornered by a lion? Let him tell us!
Alternative Medicine Practice in Nigeria is largely unregulated
In Nigeria, nothing keeps the local salesman behind my fence from doing business as usual on the streets, in transit and anywhere else. He has no licence whatsoever, and he doesn’t even need one. I could even tell from the tone of his voice that his business was booming.
Claims sell, even where healthcare is concerned. But should that be the case? For those who are knowledgeable about the health benefits and healing properties of natural ingredients that may be contained in a herbal formula, a quick check on the list of ingredients and their composition in the herbal product would help. But how many of us really know?
What then is government’s structure for the regulation of Alternative Medicine Practice in Nigeria? In fact, what is Nigeria’s legislative position on traditional/alternative medicine, and what body is responsible for safeguarding the citizenry from falling victim to quacks?
Some Quick Facts
The Medical Practitioner Act (MDP Act), which is the general law for the regulation of the practice of Medicine and Dentistry in Nigeria provides the necessary requirements for registration of a traditional medicine practitioner but completely exempts the practice of Traditional Medicine from registration prior to engagement in it.
“Where any person is acknowledged by the members generally of the community to which he belongs as having been trained in the system of therapeutic medicine traditionally in use in that community, nothing in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of this section shall be construed as making it an offence for that person to practice or to hold himself out to practice that system”
– (Law of the Federation of Nigeria, LFN 2004e).
This shows that the present requirement for any specialist in traditional medicine to hold himself out as a practitioner is only the specific acknowledgement by the members of the community to which he belongs that he has been trained in the system of medicine in which he renders them service. Thus, no formal form of registration is legally required. (Alternative Medicine in Nigeria: The Legal Framework; Azeez & Ishola, 2014.) Simply put, his level of patronage in his indigenous community sanctions his practice. Is this safe enough?
Healthcare regulation in Nigeria must get the right attention
Much has been said about the Traditional Medicine Practice Bill lying unattended to on the floor of the Legislative House.
Among other things, the Bill seeks to establish the Traditional Medicine Practice Council of Nigeria, and set the standard procedure for the registration and licencing of practitioners and practices respectively.
This bill is long overdue for passage into law.
For a start, the Traditional Medicine Bill should be passed to ensure that no Ayodeji, Chukwuemeka or Danladi parade themselves as traditional medicine practitioners in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, will you pay the local salesman?
Well, maybe I would pay the man for some of his products if he can tell me the contraindications of his IQ booster. Will it cost me my left eye or take away my manhood? I really do care to know, and I think you should too.
Author: Yemi Sanni Newman
‘Yemi Sanni Newman is a Writer, Public Speaker and Social Entrepreneur who lives in Lagos, Nigeria.