By Deshi N. Munkuwe,
Shankyula I. Matthias
There is no doubt about the fact that justice, fairness and equity is key in dealing with issues at every face and strata of life. On this regard, absence of these can in no small measure downgrade whatever effort by individual, agency and or government saddled with the responsibility of serving and protecting its audience or citizens.
As an anti-corruption body, we deem-it-fit at this point to comment and fathom certain issues that emerged after the outcome of the long controversial case between Kano state government versus Pfizer. Pfizer is an American Pharmaceutical organization ranked one of the world’s largest Pharmaceutical companies.
Been a renowned company that develops and produces medicines and vaccines for a wide range of medical disciplines, Pfizer was in Kano state. While engaging in a clinical trial of its drugs on some children in the state, eleven children died in what was described Africa’s worst ever meningitis epidemic in 1996.
It was recorded that hundred children were given an experimental oral antibiotic called Trovan, while a further hundred received ceftriaxone, the “gold- standard” treatment of modern medicine. Unfortunately, after the experiment, five children died on Trovan and six on Ceftriaxone. This summed up the total of eleven children who among others couldn’t survive the exercise.
However, later it was claimed that Pfizer did not have proper consent from parents to use an experimental drug on their children, which caused the need for legal action demanding justice to the matter. At this point, the Kano State Government rightly sued the pharmaceutical company alleged that some children were administered a dose lower than recommended, resulting to brain damage of many, as others ends them paralysis or slurred speech.
On its side, Pfizer argued that meningitis and not its antibiotic had let to the deaths and harm to many of others. However, after 15 years of legal battle between Kano State Government and Pfizer over the fiercely controversial drug trial, in 2009 it reached a tentative out-of-court settlement where $75m was agreed to be paid for compensation.
Having achieved this, out of the families of the 11 death victims, four collected cheques for $175,000 each from a Compensation Trust Fund, after submitting DNA samples to proof that the dead were their offspring. This was equally confirmed by the Pfizer spokesman. This issue gets to be a matter of concern when our attention was drowned to the fact that while some families rightly benefited from the compensation, others were denied and deceived. This is so as according to one of the parents of the victims who said he was asked to exercise patience because the company (Pfizer) has not given the money.
At this juncture, we condemned in strong terms the barbaric and unfortunate act by any individual, group or government involved in the unjustified and inhuman attempt of withholding the right of any families of the victims of the calamity.
According to Aristotle, “equity consists in the same treatment of similar persons”. To us, the conundrum here is why other families of the victims will be denied their right.
On this regard, we call on Kano State Government and all the agencies responsible to mount up an intensive investigation panel and prosecution of any individual, group or organization involved in this act of corruption. Until then, we are not convinced with the scorecards on the fairly transmission of the compensation to the beneficiaries.