By Stephen Ubanna
When Aminu Dahiru, an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs and Coordinator of Nigeria Customs Service, Zone A, Lagos cried out loud last April that tramadol, one of the pain relief drugs allegedly processed with Codeine by an India Pharmaceutical Company and pushed to the Nigeria market was having a negative effect on youths in the north many people did not believe him. They dismissed his claim, insisting that it is like every other pain relief drug manufactured by Pharmaceutical companies in the country.
But Dahiru knew what he was talking about. He knew that tramadol has severe adverse reactions on users which include seizures and potentially fatal reaction called serotonin syndrome. This is in addition to the dangerous side effect of a fast heart beat, difficulty breathing, convulsions, lightheadedness, unusual drowsiness, confusion and coma.. . Youths in in the northern states of Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Adamawa and Yobe who take tramadol are said to experience these problems .
Insiders told the Magazine that Muhammed Uba Garba, a one- time Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, and now Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, may have created much of the awareness about the dangers of tramdol to those who use it. He was said to have appealed to youths in Imo state and other states in the south east and south- south geo-political zones to keep away from tramadol because of what may come out of it after usage.He was said to have cited depression,, agitation, diarrhea, numbness in the extremities, ringing in the ears, hallucinations and paranoia among other effects.
A close source confirmed that he made a seizure of 903 cartons of tramadol which was said to have been loaded into trucks between March and May 2017. It could not be ascertained whether the drugs were released from Onne sea port in Port Harcourt, Rivers or the ports of Apapa or Lagos and trans-loaded from the Container into trucks to the east. The good news , however,was that the Command operational team never allowed the importers to push it into the market which may have fallen into the hands of young men and women who use drugs in order to be aggressive at all times..
The Magazine learnt that the tramadol importers did not find it funny as they came after the officer that was said to have laid the operation to intercept their trucks. Fully armed, they were said to have invaded their hotel premises at Owerri and shot sporadically at the team leader’s window but luck ran out of them as three of the hoodlums were said to have been gunned down.
The action of the drug barons may have forced the officer, who led the team to call for reinforcement from the Federal anti-robbery Rapid Response Squad, FARRS, to step in to calmthe situation.
The attack by the drug barons on the officers may have opened Muhammed’s eye that there is more to it. It is not surprising when he was deployed to FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, May, 2017, his attention was focused much more on tramadol imports.
Having known that some Nigerian Pharmaceutical importers may have shifted base to the Asian country of India to import tramadol which are shipped to Nigeria through any of the country’s seaporthe kept a close tab at cargoes released at the ports.
Between July and December, 2017, the FOU, Zone A Command made a seizure of 3 449 cartons of tramadol at the first instance. The drugs were said to have been loaded into four Containers and trucks as well.
The repeated seizure of the tramadol drugs may have opened the eyes of other Comptrollers, particularApapa and Tincan Island port to tighten up the irnoose on cargoes imported through their ports to ensure that tramadol was not released mistakenly from the seaport. It is not surprising why both Apapa and Tincan Island had made seizures of tramadol in the recent time. Last January Apapa Command made seizures of tramadol whileon Tuesday May 8, Tincan can Island Command made a seizure of a ”40” and ”20” Containers load of tramadol Hydrochloride.
indeed, the seizure of tramadol in the country may have opened the eyes of officials of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, to go after Pharmaceutical Companies which produce drugs including cough syrups with codeine. Emzor Pharmaceuticals limited and two other firms became a victim. The Companies were forcefully closed down.
Giving reasons to justify the closure of the Pharmaceutical firms , NAFDAC officials had claimed that the Companies: Emzor , Peace Standard Pharmaceuticals ltd and OBIORAJ, were closed due to their due to their inability to provide required documents on their use of codeine during a recent. inspection of their facilities.
The repeated instances of tramadol seizures in the country may have forced the government to finally ban the use of codeine in the production of cough syrup by pharmaceutical companies in the country.This is in addition to the ban on the importation of cough syrups, containing codeine from foreign Pharmaceutical Companies. many see the ban as a big blow to tramadiol importers who may have placed order for the item from their oversea suppliers.
The three Companies that were closed down by NAFDAC, were said to have been indicted by a british Broadcasting Corporation, BBC documentary on the abuse of codeine -based cough syrups, especially in the northern part of the country. Already, the Customs has been given the nod to impound cough syrups suspect to contain codeine in the country.
Also, Isaac Adewale, a Professor and minister for Health was said to have given NAFDAC and other agencies of the ministry to be on the alert to forestal the banned drugs from coming into the country through the land border station or the seaport. They have one option, analyst suggest to regularly raid the Phharmaceutical outlets to assess what is in their drug shelves. .