Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Between Goko Cleanser and the Ministry of Health


As soon as Akwa Ibom State began to sprout economically, coupled with the  infrastructural renaissance the former Governor, Godswill Akpabio gave to it; several opportunities were created for businesses of all kinds to thrive and boom. Creative think-tanks were apt in making good use of the available opportunity which lied at their doorsteps. Foreigners who heard of the uncommon transformation which had betaken the State also travelled down to witness the boom and survey the environment for subsequent business intentions. The state had become an expansive market economy for those who had the eyes. 
Soon, Akwa Ibom became a beehive of activities and businesses as non-indigenes from close-by and very far distances came down with articles, services, products and a number of goodies which they traded on and fared better than we house owners. Our eastern brethren were foremost in tapping into our market potentials; shoes, clothes, handbags, jewelleries, make-up kits and other fashionables became the order of Itam Market, Akpan Andem Market, Afaha, Kpo-Kpo and other key markets in the state. Akwa Ibom markets were fast becoming like Asuani, Idumota, Ariaria and Oil Mill Market where one can find absolutely everything wanted for anything! 

About a year or two later, we began to play host to the westerners and northerners who invaded us with a number of herbal mixtures including Ginjad flusher, Amo Bitters, Gonko mixture, Oroki special, Yoyo bitters, Goko cleanser and other renowned herbals claiming to cure boundless illnesses and diseases known to mankind. Our streets were subsequently polluted with overbearing noises from vehicle speakers at junctions with no sensitivity to the eardrums of passers-by or residents of the environment. Several approaches were employed by these herbalists to ensure that they reach out to people and make money by force. Beginning from the door-to door approach where tired, hungry and worn-out men carried rubber bottles with dead sticks in them and preached about their efficacy to whoever crosses their path; to the gentle-man system where the herbalists went viral on the electronic media telling people all manner of gospels their herbs have preached and finally to the rugged approach where it became too much for people to bear; street-street marketing of the herbs with nauseating and very annoying noises from their vehicle speakers. This became very customary of Goko Cleanser. 

The level with which Goko Cleanser invaded Akwa Ibom State is one that cannot be measured by any scale or measuring instrument as everywhere in the state had a junction housing Goko Cleanser. Uyo was the worst victim; every bustop belonged to Goko Cleanser. It soon became a name on the lips of the aged and little children. Funny enough, Goko Cleanser was also selling itself. People were recommending it for use after confirming its authenticity and effectiveness and what happened?  Goko Cleanser became the Almighty herbal drink prevailing against others. In fact, news on other herbal mixtures died while Goko Cleanser reigned supremely. Funny enough too, pharmacists and healthcare givers were recommending it for use up until reports started springing that the Cleanser had its side-effects which it truly does have. But convincingly, its benefits were more than its detriments. 

After keeping silence about the issue for more than a year, the Ministry of Health and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) began contemplations on banning it. The move was made by medical doctors during the 2015 Annual General Meeting/Scientific conference of the NMA. The state Chairman of the NMA, Dr. Augustine Umoh had said that day that there were regulations guiding the advertisement of drugs which Dr. Iguedo does not recognise. He therefore called on the state government to enforce the necessary laws to stop the sales of herbals in the state, adding that some of the herbs were not good for the health. He also decried the existence of healthcare providers, ‘doctors’, staphylococcus experts, low sperm count curers and other ‘physicians’ at every corner of the State and advocated for their outright expulsion from the state. The NMA Chairman had admitted that the herbals, especially Goko Cleanser has sent a number of patients to be dialyzed and caused several damages to the organs of those who consume it.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong who was also present at the event had informed the gathering that the government had perfected plans to deal with all herbal medicine sellers in the state. He cited an example of his experience when he visited Emmanuel Hospital at Eket and heard the blaring sound of the Iguedo men disturbing the tranquillity of the environment. Upon apprehension, he was told they were authorized by the Local Government to disturb the peace of the environment. He had also stressed that day that no medicine on earth exists which can cure every disease known to man else, there would be no justification for the existence of medical practitioners/ healthcare givers. 

Few weeks on, the state government sealed its plans to execute the demands of the NMA. Goko Cleanser was banned alongside the hawking, advertising and unregulated display of food and drugs in the state. A press statement issued to that effect by the Ministry of Health and signed by the Director of Pharmaceutical services indicated that all cleansers, bitters, food supplements and other herbals were to be expunged from the streets of Uyo. This was on the grounds that the claims by promoters of the products “have not been scientifically substantiated by relevant regulatory bodies of these products”, and to ensure the success of this mandate, the Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee of the Ministry of Health was to carry out surveillance and enforcement to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of the act in line with the relevant provisions of the law. 

Members of the public were then advised to exercise caution in the consumption of unprescribed drugs or herbs by certified health care givers and seek medical attention in health facilities across the state. This, as far as now is concerned was story and is now history because Goko Cleanser still exists with all amount of potency as before. 

Even when it was banned, the herbal mixture was still selling large in interior parts and rural areas of the state, and gradually, it warmed its way back to town. Those versed with speaking Pidgin English would say “How manage?”. The question is directed to the Ministry of Health. How come the banned Dr. Iguedo Goko Cleanser is still advertising and selling in Akwa Ibom State? Or has the ban been lifted? Was the supposed ban for real or a mere-say? Is it possible that the Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee was not equipped to work? Or was the entire talk on banning the herbal a joke? 

If it was a joke, the NMA and its Ministry of Health should stop such a high-priced joke and allow us some peace. But if it wasn’t, they had better live up to their words and put Dr. Iguedo behind the scenes because it shows no responsibility and commitment on their part. One would therefore not be wrong to say that the government is a lying government or an unserious one. What responsible government would call its citizens to down their arms and embrace peace, and then allow enemies to fight them without any defence? We have been told the herbal is detrimental to our health and we accepted, thinking the instruction was for our good. Yet the herbal still sells. Isn’t this an indication that we should continue taking it?

And in case the Ministry of Health and the NMA do not know, the message of the said ban did not go beyond the shores of the reading public. Those uneducated adults in villages who cannot read and those who cannot access the print media are as ignorant as ever on the ban and these are the people who consume Goko Cleanser more! Even in Uyo, Abak, Eket and Ikot Ekpene which happen to be major towns in the state, the news is yet to settle. What happened to the most accessible medium of information dissemination-the radio? And why can’t the Ministry of Health employ the same aggressive advertising Dr. Iguedo uses or send them packing totally? 

It is disappointing and disheartening that the Ministry of Health cannot live up to its words and give citizens the confidence that they are there for them. What is most painful in this story is that they agreed and came to terms with the fact that no medicine or herb can cure virtually all diseases of man yet, they choose to remain silent, less-concerned and careless about the matter. So how healthy are other drugs we have been taking? And how true are the results we get from the Hospital? Perhaps the Ministry of Health has been bribed by Dr. Iguedo because this height of audacity and temerity exhibited by Goko Cleanser and the laxity with which the Ministry is treating the matter is strange. The Ministry of Health is charged to seat-up and work on its lapses before it does more harm than good to the people it thinks it is protecting.

It should learn from the past and not allow any sprouting danger a chance to exist. When the former Director of NAFDAC died, yours truly was wondering why Dora Akunyili had to die of Cancer in a country where campaigns against cancer are mounted daily. And If Dora could die of a disease as ‘cheap’ as cancer which is being discussed every day in the media, what then is the fate of others? The Ministry of Health and the NMA should please call themselves to order and stop this ungodly affair with Dr. Iguedo’s Goko Cleanser.

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