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By Chioma Obinna

10 years after the country approved the Pharmacists Consultant Cadre, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, has appealed to the National Council for Establishment (NCE) to ensure full implementation of the Programme.

In a memo signed by the PSN President, Professor Cyril Usifoh, the Society regretted that though the NCE was approved to the Pharmacists Consultant Cadre in August 2011 and November 2019, respectively, to date, the NCE is yet to ensure full implementation.

The PSN further alleged that some key chieftains of the Federal Ministry of Health, FMOH, have connived with the Chief Executives Officers of the Federal Health Institutions, FHIs, to frustrate the full implementation of the Pharmacist Consultant Cadre.

They disclosed that only the UCH, Ibadan and two other FHIs as well as the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, PCN, have complied with the circular of the OHCSF and the FMOH to implement the new scheme.

Ahead of the NCE meeting from January 24 to 29, 2022 in Abuja, PSN thanked the NCE for its uprightness and the diligence which facilitated the August 2011 approval and urged it to intervene for the immediate implementation of the approved scheme.

The memo entitled: “Memo to all Members of the National Council on Establishment, Consultant Pharmacist Cadre: Matters Arising” states that: “It has become imperative once again to put this position paper as the National Council for Establishment (NCE) meets from January 24th to 29th, 2022 in Abuja.

“The PSN wishes to thank the NCE for its uprightness and the diligence which facilitated the August 2011 approval of the creation of Pharmacists Consultant Cadre which was also given a final nod in November 2019.

“In contemporary times, there have been attempts to create unnecessary distractions for the Pharmacists Consultancy Cadre which has fulfilled all established tenets of due process from the NCE, the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (HOSOF) and even the FMOH which both issued enabling circulars for unhindered implementation of the Consultant Cadre.

“For the sake of clear insight, we wish to catalogue the journey so far on the Pharmacist Consultant Cadre: The release of the circular on consultant pharmacist cadre followed due process and fulfilled all the requirements as stipulated by the National Council on Establishment (NCE). Sir, it is appropriate to inform you that the NCE had in August 2011 given approval for the creation of the Pharmacist Consultant Cadre. This approval followed the receipt and adoption of the recommendations contained in a report of its technical committee on the review of the Scheme of Service and Creation of Consultant Pharmacists Cadre in the Public Service.

“However, owing to reasons beyond our comprehension, the follow-up circular was not released. 

“In 2015, in an apparent attempt at releasing the circular, the Office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) dispatched a letter dated 28 July 2015 (reference no: HCSF/EPO/EIR/NCE/100/S.6/T/56) to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) requesting for his views/comments and inputs before the release of the circular as approved by the NCE in 2011. The FMoH responded via a letter dated 5th October 2015 (reference no: C4007/T4/315) in which the ministry reaffirmed its full support for the creation of the Consultant Cadre for Pharmacists.

“One of the paragraphs in their response stated as follows “I, therefore, wish to assure you that the Federal Ministry of Health is in full support of the creation of the Consultant Cadre and look forward to the release of its Scheme of Service.” Again, the release of the circular was stalled for reasons we are yet to understand. In furtherance of its support for the Fellowship training program, the FMoH on 15th September 2015 sent out a circular (Ref no FDS/231/04/II/68) where it conveyed the approval of the ministry for the “use of facilities/departments under the Federal Ministry of Health as training sites for the residency program of students of West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists.” (See annexure 4)

“Finally in 2019 the matter of Consultant Pharmacist cadre was presented to the NCE for a second time for its consideration during her 41st meeting held in Asaba, Delta State from 4th- 8th November 2019. The NCE, in its wisdom, ratified its earlier approval (made in 2011) for the creation of the Consultant Pharmacist Cadre structured from SGL. 15 – SGL.17 in the Schemes of Service for use in the Public Service of Nigeria. After this second approval, another letter dated  March 6, 2020, was sent from OHSCF to FMoH (ref no: HCSF/SPSO/ODD/NCE/CND.100/S.8/39) to FMoH informing the ministry about the ratification of its earlier approval for pharmacist’s consultant cadre and requested that the FMoH should liaise with the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission to develop the appropriate salary structure for the new cadre to enable the OHCSF issue the appropriate circular for the implementation of the Council’s approval.

“The FMoH referred the request from the OHSCF to National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission via a letter dated 13th May 2020 (ref no: C.4007/II/217/T/21) (see annexure 6) to develop the appropriate salary structure. The National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission responded to the request from FMoH via a letter dated 17th June 2020 (reference no: SWC/S/04/S.218/T1/97). In the letter, the Salaries and Wages Commission stated that “the salary structure of medical professionals including Consultant Pharmacists have since been developed.”

“It went further to add that the salary structure for pharmacists is the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS). Accordingly, Consultant Pharmacists should be placed on CONHESS 13 – 15 which is equivalent to SGL 15 – 17 as shown in the Consultant Pharmacists’ cadre,” the letter added.

It concluded its submission by stating that “the Consultant Pharmacists are entitled to be paid relevant allowances including Specialist Allowance as contained in circular No. SWC/S/04/S,410/Vol. II/349 dated 8th December 2009” a copy of which is attached to their response. Upon receipt of this letter from the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, the FMoH sent a reply to OHCSF via a letter dated 28th July 2020 (reference no: C.4007/II/217/T).

The memo stated: “Based on these clarifications and having met all the statutory requirements, the OHCSF on the 13th of September 2020, finally released the circular (reference no: HCSF/CSO/HRM/1274/T3) for the Cadre. The circular was signed by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, who is a dental surgeon by Profession. To the best of our knowledge, this process and procedure for the approval and release of the circular for the Consultant Pharmacist Cadre are perhaps the most thorough in recent history.

“Because the due process was met, the OHCSF on September 13, 2020, issued a circular ref. No. HCSF/CSO/HRM/T3 for the Consultant Pharmacists Cadre which was personally signed by the HCSF, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan.

“In a letter ref. No. HCSF/PS/SPSO/268/T2/46 of December 18, 2020, endorsed by Dr Emmanuel Meribole, PS, SPSO the OHCSF forwarded a copy of the scheme of service to the Chairman of the Nigerian Chapter of the West African Post-Graduate College of Pharmacists,” it added.

 It also claimed that the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in a petition addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha dated November 5, 2020, which is labelled “Consultant Pharmacist Cadre: Danger to the Fragile Health System” protested against the approval of the Pharmacists Consultant Cadre.

According to the society, prominent stakeholders in the Health Sector including PSN and JOHESU responded by putting issues in perspective in their well-informed position papers to the SGF.

These events compelled the SGF to refer the various positions to the FMOH for comments and formal response, PSN noted.

Citing SGF response, it said, “In a letter addressed to the SGF on January 28, 2021 ref. No. FMH/FDS/CSPTH/1/56 by the Hon. Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora affirmed the creation of the Pharmacists Consultant Cadre followed due process because it was a product of a series of activities coordinated by the NCE, the statutory organ of Government routinely charged with such responsibilities.”

In a related development, the society said that the Permanent Secretary, FMOH in a letter ref. No. FMH/FDS/CSPTH/1/77 of March 18, 2021, issued an internal circular to all Heads of Departments, FHIs, Agencies/Parastatals and Regulatory bodies directing the immediate implementation of the approved scheme.

The memo further reads, “In yet another internal circular ref. No. FMH/FDS/CSPTH/1?95 of August 2, 2021, while citing precedents in the creation of Cadres in Civil Service ‘Clarified’ the mode of application for the implementation of the Consultant Pharmacist Cadre.

“It hinged this on the ‘Fellowship’ of the WAPCP for officers already in the directorate cadre or the equivalent of GL 15 and above stating without ambiguity that such officers shall transit to the corresponding GL as Consultants without stepping down any grade.”

PSN decried the delay in approving the scheme after passing due process. “Despite the flawless process that engendered the approval of the Consultant Pharmacists Cadre, it remains a sad testimony that only the UCH, Ibadan and about two other FHIs as well as the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria have complied with the circular of the OHCSF and the FMOH to implement the new Consultant Pharmacists Cadre.”

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