IP Rights Will Reduce Health Burden, Improve Economy, Experts Tell FG

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By Martins Ifijeh

Health and media experts have stated that strong Intellectual Property (IP) rights will curb counterfeit of drugs and foods, as well as improve the economy of Nigeria.

Speaking during a virtual media parley, tagged ‘IP Infringement in the Pharmaceutical Sector’ organised by the American Business Council in partnership with Johnson and Johnson, recently, they called on the federal government to develop an IP policy that would address innovation gaps in the country.

Sharing his thoughts, the Science and Health Editor, The Guardian Newspapers, Chukwuma Muanya said Nigeria has become a hub for fake, counterfeit and substandard medicines because there is no strong policy on ground protecting innovations and IPs of hardworking Nigerians.

“This in no small measure has increased the country’s health burden. Over the years, Nigeria has become a target destination and transit routes for counterfeit and pirated goods. Foreign and local traders flood our market with fake or substandard products while some local manufacturers illegally imitate products of established brands.

“Corruption, weak policies and lack of proper awareness causes has been some of the factors driving this. Nigeria has become a hub for fake drugs.

“There is a strong correlation between strong IP rights and economic development. IP rights create an enabling environment for innovations necessary for economic property to thrive. Unfortunately, Nigeria is home to one of the weakest IP policies, and this hampers progress of our already weak economy.

“IP violation hinders economic progress by discouraging investment, decreasing innovation, discouraging research and development, diminishing financial benefits from creation and may pose harm to consumers,” he said.

He recommended that for government to tackle IP related infringements, it should address corruption, strengthen IP legislation, and foster collaboration among government agencies, improve border enforcement, expand IP related capacity building, develop national policy on IP, as well as launch an awareness campaign to educate the public on the dangers of IP infringement to the society.

On his part, the Lead, Brand Protection Employment and Global Mobility, Olajide Oyemwole LLP, Mr. Otu Ukoyen believed that the present IP fragmentation in the country will not help its proposed free trade agreement.

“We need to develop policies that would address IP fragmentation. In the last 12 months, there have been discussions among Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria specifically towards securing their buy in.

“We need to have a national stakeholder’s forum and develop a framework that we can build upon in developing IP strategy, particularly now that we are looking at the African Free Trade Agreement.”

Senior Lecture and Supply Chain Consultant, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, UNN, Michael Ubaka said IP infringement discourages researchers since there are no laws protecting their works from being stolen.

“There are cases in which researches uploaded on journals are been stolen and then reproduced. We must close this gap,” he added.