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HealthPlus: Why PCN must remain neutral

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HealthPlus: Why PCN must remain neutral

By Kasim Adeyemi

The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) has recently involved itself in a needless controversy over the disagreement between Alta Semper Capital, a renowned U.K. investment firm and Mrs. Bukky George, the founder and erstwhile Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of pharmaceutical retailer HealthPlus Limited.

It all started in 2017 when Alta Semper began talks with HealthPlus to give a lifeline to the business and help grow it. At the time Mrs. George approached the PCN to secure a letter of “no objection” to the investment. Although such a letter was neither a pre-requisite for foreign investment in a pharmaceutical company in Nigeria, nor has the PCN ever issued it before, the regulatory body honoured the request in a bid to support Mrs. George and save HealthPlus from a potential collapse due to paucity of funds.

The letter was issued by PCN in October 2017 and by March 2018, Alta Semper invested an initial sum of $10 million dollars, thus becoming majority owner of the company. The investors had a window to inject another $8million subject to certain conditions, which were never satisfied.

Aside from selling the majority of her shares to Alta Semper, Bukky George had entered into a Management Agreement with HealthPlus. The Management Agreement details the terms of her employment and provides for automatic termination in certain circumstances, including where Mrs. George commits any act which in the opinion of a majority of the Board expressed in writing, constitutes serious professional misconduct. It was on this basis that the Board terminated her employment in September 2020 due to serious breaches to corporate governance.

It was at this point that Mrs. George started to peddle her influence around, complaining that her company was being taken away from her. Never mind that she sold majority stake to investors who brought in $10million when the firm was going broke. And never mind that she freely agreed to that termination mechanism when she signed the Management Agreement.

On 2 March 2021 news filtered into the public domain that the PCN had withdrawn the “no objection” letter issued to HealthPlus. Mrs George quickly issued a statement to stakeholders saying that Alta Semper and their agents are no longer authorized by law to own or manage a retail pharmacy business in Nigeria.

As an investment analyst, I know for sure that a “no objection” letter is not required for any investment in pharmaceutical business in Nigeria. The PCN Act does not provide for this, neither does any regulation issued by PCN or any other authority. It is therefore not within the statutory powers of the PCN to pronounce foreign investment legal or otherwise. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act and the Poisons and Pharmacy Act 1992 (PPA) permit foreign investors to own all the share capital in retail pharmacy companies.

Mrs. George’s statement was therefore a clear attempt to spin the news and misrepresent the facts of the matter – and the letter of the law – using PCN’s letter as cover. Her plan quickly fell apart as HealthPlus issued a counter statement to stakeholders stressing that the letter of “no objection” from the PCN was not a pre-requisite for their investment.

Indeed, the PCN itself had noted clearly in its communication withdrawing the “no objection” letter that the document “has no bearing on the corporate structure and the relationships within HealthPlus.”

I do not intend to take sides with Mrs. George or Altа Semper, but it is my considered opinion that by withdrawing its “no objection” over a dispute between shareholders, PCN has undermined its own credibility and exposed the body to potential disrepute.

Foreign investors may now be seriously deterred from further investing in pharmaceutical business in Nigeria as the credibility of regulatory authorities is among the factors that contribute to enhancing the attractiveness or otherwise of a business operating environment. Nigeria has lost huge foreign investments in the last half decade and the government is working hard to restore investor confidence in the economy. A regulatory body should therefore not be seen to be inconsistent in its position.

I believe that the PCN issued the initial letter in good faith. What is however unclear is why it withdrew the letter, even though it acknowledged that the document was inconsequential in determining the legality of the investment. The PCN is charged with the responsibility for regulating and controlling Pharmacy Education, Training and Practice in all aspects and ramifications in Nigeria. It is important for the regulatory body to exercise more caution and avoid unnecessarily reversing itself so as to preserve its hard-earned reputation.

Adeyemi is an investment analyst writing from Ebute Metta, Lagos

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At last resident doctors bow to pressure, suspend nationwide strike

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At last resident doctors bow to pressure, suspend nationwide strike

The National Association of Resident Doctors, (NARD) on Saturday suspended its 10 days old strike after sustained pressure mounted on them to shelve the strike by stakeholders.
The National President of the Association, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi said the strike was suspended after series of long hours of meetings with various stakeholders in the health sector.
He said based on their responsibility to Nigerians and the fact that the Federal government has met some of their demands they have no option but to call off the strike.

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Resident Doctors would account for the blood of any patient that dies on account of their ongoing strike action, says senate

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Resident Doctors would account for the blood of any patient that dies on account of their ongoing strike action, says senate

The Senate committee on health has faulted the strike action embarked upon by the resident Doctors which is having a telling effect on patients.

The chairman of the committee Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe said Nigerians would hold the resident doctors responsible for the blood of any patient that dies on account of their ongoing strike action.

Oloriegbe spoke at the public hearing  of the bill entitled  “Federal Medical Centre, Mubi, Adamawa State (Establishment) Bill, 2021” sponsored by Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (Binani) 

According to him, the National Assembly made every effort to avert the doctors ongoing strike to no avail. 

“We had a marathon meeting just before Easter on March 21st specifically and we agreed on all the issues that were raised by the resident doctors.

He said there three Germain issues which included the payment of salary to house officers which as at that time they also agreed had been essentially been cleared which was the major reason they wanted to go on strike.

“The second one was what they claimed to be payment to local resident doctors, which was an aberration where there was not supposed to be local but the government agreed to commence payment which has started to be done.

“Those are the two critical ones that were germane most of the other issues that were raised were not even issues within the purview of the federal government because they were issues of state governments that owed salaries or something. 

He said they are issues that relate to things that were in 2014, 2015 which was as at that meeting, the Federal Ministry of Finance confirmed that a committee has been set up to look at the other aspects. 

“So we are surprised that the resident doctors went on strike. However, we are not reneging, my counterparts in the house of Representatives are meeting with the resident doctors.”

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World Health Day: Govt decries shortage of vaccines as communities groan over neglect n Nasarawa

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World Health Day: Govt decries shortage of vaccines as communities groan over neglect n Nasarawa

Umar Egbunu Muhammed, Lafia

The Nassarawa State Government has raised the alarm over shortages of essential supplies of COVID-19 vaccines for its citizens who are yet to access the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination particularly the vulnerable persons in the state.

This state commissioner of health, Pharmacist Ahmed Baba-Yahaya made the disclosure during the World Health Day in Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital on Wednesday.

According to him, “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the light on the inequalities among the citizens amidst shortages of essential supplies, poor people have been pushed to the back of the queue in accessing COVID-19 test kits in the state.”

He continued: “There are several shades of inequalities, discrimination based on gender, place of residence, income, educational level, age, ethnicity and disability to disadvantage of the vulnerable populations across the state.”

He, however, emphasized that there was need to start to act on the social and economic determinations of the people, by working across sectors to improve living and working conditions, particularly the marginalized groups.

While reacting on the challenges being faced by the vulnerable persons in the state, he urged leaders at various levels to work together to address inequalities in their respective countries, specially on COVID-19 vaccines.

The commissioner of health also admonished pharmaceutical companies to expand their manufacturing capacity to overcome current supply shortages in the state, urging wealthy individuals to partner with the state government so that the most at risk populations in all countries could be protected.

Also residents in Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital, Awe, Keana and Obi local government areas and others in the state have expressed worry over lack of access to COVID-19 test in their locality.

Narrating his ordeal, Mr. John Daniel, said they could not access the COVID-19 test in their community, owning to the fact that the health workers trained by the Primary Development Agency in charge of administering COVID-19 tests are focussing on tge rich in the state.

He said: “We are poor people. We have been relegatedto the background because we are not government workers.”

Also speaking to our correspondent, Ovey Timothy, said since the state government commenced the COVID-19 test the health workers have not be able to reach their community.

His words: “We are calling on the state government to urgently intervene and come to their rescue.”

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