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Drug peddling: Has it been legalised in Sierra Leone?

July 12, 2019

By Federick V.Kanneh

In my quiet corner and in so many occasions, I sometimes wonder as to whether Sierra Leone is a jungle where everybody is free to do whatever he or she likes. Also, I am always quick to believe that there are structures even in the jungle where the Lion is the King. And, I strongly believe that Sierra Leone is a country cemented with several laws that guide the behaviour of its inhabitants, hence it is not a jungle.

 In every society generally, everyone would want to behave freely without any interruption, but I am equally of the view that if we all behave freely according to our wishes, we would be living in a state of anarchy. Dr. Abu Bakarr Binneh Kamara once told us that “your right ends where another person’s right starts” which is just to tell us that there are laws that guide our very existence. That brings me to the main theme of this piece geared towards shedding light on a particular menace which is putting the life of the public in danger-drug peddling.

By the look of things, it appears as if drug peddling is gradually becoming a legal means in Sierra Leone through which some unprofessional and unlicensed individuals eke out their living. To a certain extent, these unscrupulous individuals think that they are free to hawk drugs as long as they have the money to buy the said drugs in large quantity. I am of the firm view that, if not properly checked, this action is about to put the public health and safety in jeopardy.

As I write, the number of those in the world of drugs peddling is increasing day by day. To prove me wrong, just onboard any of the commercials buses that ply the streets of Freetown during rush hours. You would notice these peddlers who called themselves “marketers of Green World International”. They are all over the place in the name of selling “herbal” products. The most annoying thing is that, these people are selling tablets and other medicines when of course, they have never been in medical schools and are not informed about the right dosages of the medicines they sell.

The last time I picked up an issue with one of them concerning their activities, the guy told me that he was one of the agents of Dr. Kwamie, whom he alleged, was the only traditional herbalist doctor that the Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone had given a license to sell traditional herbal products. Upon investigation, Mr. Kwamie told me that he had no agent that sells his products in public vehicles, and that he was very much annoyed of the way his name was being used by these peddlers. Dr. Kwamie also told me that, these peddlers were alleging that the Coco table was good for every sickness including impotency, and that, their claims about his medicine was misleading.

He added that even the so called “moringa” water that they claim to have come from him, was fake. He clearly told me that there was no “moringa” product in the country, and that what those unscrupulous peddlers were claiming to be “moringa” was a substance made up of one local herb called “gbangba” which was produced by one man who lived at Lungi.

On the other hand, when I asked them about the other drugs which they usually claim to be medications for pain, fever, worms, malaria among other ailments, I was told that, they were green world products. Upon investigation again, I understood that, even though the Green World International was fighting with recognition and legitimacy from the government of Sierra Leone, but they were not the supplier of the drugs as claimed by these peddlers. It was even proven that green world International does not have drugs of such nature.

The relaxed and convenient ways in which these drugs peddlers are carrying their trades brings me to the question of whether Sierra Leone has any institution that is charged with the responsibility to stop drugs peddling. To my understanding, the Sierra Leone Pharmacy Board is charged with the responsibility to regulate how drugs are sold to the general public, by way of training pharmacists and the distribution of licenses to deserving pharmacists. The Sierra Leone Pharmacy Board also has the constitutional right to arrest and charge any drug peddler to court.

But according to their website records, the last time the Sierra Leone Pharmacy Board carried a raid on drugs peddlers was in 2017 of which eighteen peddlers were arrested country wild and some were charged to court and asked to pay a fine of Le 500, 000 upon conviction. Is their action really commensurate to the danger these peddlers are putting public health into?  This is why I said the practice is gradually becoming legalised because as long as they are not obstructed by any government body, they have taken it to be their legitimate trades. Like I said earlier, I believe that these people are doing this illegal act because the body that is responsible is failing to carry out its functions effectively.

As for the innocent public, they would just believe that these peddlers are involved in these acts to make a living, but it left with Pharmacy Board to educate them about the dangers of buying drugs from someone that is not a trained pharmacist.

Like I said, nobody wants to be controlled, but if we all behave according to our wishes, we would be heading for a doomed society. This is why the government always dedicate certain responsibility to its MDAs. In this case, the general public should be protected by the Sierra Leone Pharmacy Board.

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