By Samuel Ogundipe and Ayodamola Owoseye
The Federal Ministry of Health said on Wednesday that its decision to ban codeine as a pharmaceutical agent did not follow a report by the BBC that highlighted the danger of the substance.
Olajide Oshundun, a ministry spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES in a statement that the announcement on May 1 only coincided with the publication of the BBC documentary which started running on April 30.
“The body of the statement released by the ministry yesterday indicated that a working committee had been constituted by the government and they submitted an interim report,” he said.
“The memorandum was submitted on April 30 and it was due to that the minister took the step to ban codeine and that is why the statement was issued. It was only a coincidence that the government took action almost immediately after BBC’s broadcast,” Mr Oshundun said.
“The government did not take action due to the report,” he emphasised. “The action was done as a result of the memorandum.”
The Committee on the Codeine Control Working and other related Matter Group (CCRWG) was set up on January 23, by the Minister of Health Isaac Adewole in Abuja.
In February, Oluwatoyin Odeku, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Ibadan who chaired the CCRWG, provided an update about the work of her committee and said codeine addition amongst married women was on the rise.
The ministry also shared a link holding the memorandum document on its website. The link showed that an immediate ban of codeine was the first of 13 recommendations made by the committee.
The BBC reported on Tuesday that the ban on codeine came as a result of its story, even though the broadcaster noted that a ministry spokesperson had clarified that the action was the culmination of a long time effort aimed at curbing codeine addiction and its attendant social implications.
In 2016, an investigation by the Nigeria-based International Centre for Investigative Reporting published a two-part investigation into how codeine and other substantives were threatening a generation of young Nigerians of northern origin.
The story was also published on PREMIUM TIMES.
The BBC story received widespread mention following its broadcast on Monday, with Senate President Bukola Saraki and Aisha Buhari commending the the British broadcaster for its public service endeavour.
Adejuwon Soyinka, a BBC news editor responsible for the story, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES requests for comments the ,ministry’s position on the timing of codeine ban.