Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, on Saturday, called on the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Council Bill.
According to her, over 10,000 species of medicinal plants in Nigeria are being underutilised, despite rising global demand for herbal medication, cosmetics and other essential products.
Mrs Buhari spoke at the opening ceremony of a conference organised by her office in collaboration with the Department of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Federal Ministry of Health.
The theme of the conference was “Nigerian Indigenous Medicinal Plants – Health Benefits and Economic Potentials.”
She said, “These valuable bio resources often referred to as ‘green gold’ can be harnessed for the production of medicines, cosmetics and other products for the benefit of our people.
“This conference is in line with this administration’s agenda of boosting non-oil exports which will lead to the commercial cultivation of medicinal plants for health, economic and social benefits. It is with the sole aim for providing wealth and job creation for our teeming youths and women.
“Prompt passage of the TCAM Council Bill to regulate the practice and products is needed.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, pledged that the Federal Government would facilitate wide-scale adoption of traditional and alternative medicine in orthodox medical practice.
Ehanire said, “Traditional medicine is all that we had before the emergence of modern medicine. And the same applies to all cultures and civilisations. The continued interest and research into traditional medicine is the right way to go for further development of these ancient herbs in Nigeria.
“The time has come to use the knowledge and skills of the forefathers passed down through the generations for greater value addition. In line with the aspiration of this administration to explore all avenues for proper health care, the Federal Ministry of Health will remain committed to supporting initiatives that promote TCAM in Nigeria.”
The Minister of Health said it was instructive that a high percentage of Nigerians still sought and used traditional medicine in addition to orthodox medicine.
The keynote speaker, Prof MacDonald Idu, in his paper titled ‘Nigerian Indigenous Plants, Our Story,’ warned that the country might be on the verge of missing out on a market whose value would hit N1tn by 2025.
Idu said, “Other countries are making a lot of money. As of 15 years ago that we were sponsored to India, the Secretary of State to the Indian Government told us that from internal revenue alone, they make over $4bn, that’s selling plants to their own people. And at that time, they were making over five to six times above that, shipping their value-added plants outside the shores of India.
“So you can imagine, we were given a mandate for $1bn. Somebody is making $4bn from only within, and with export he is making almost about $10bn or $20bn as of then. You know what money looks like then.
“Nigeria, I’m sorry, we talk a lot, but we don’t really walk the talk. So my own point of interest is to drag the hearts of our people to realise that we should diversify our economy.”