Thought Leadership

Pfizer settles…but what of their collaborators at home?

While we celebrate “justice” for Pfizer, as we did for Siemens and Halliburton…in their dealings with Nigeria…the real devil is among us, in the Nigerians among us that collaborated with these firms. As long as those Nigerians are free, we are all captive, captive to an ongoing systematic rape of a people by its “leaders”…

You would have read from the links on our last post that Nigeria’s Kano State and the US drugs firm Pfizer have agreed to settle a multi-million dollar lawsuit out of court. Pfizer has been accused of killing 11 children and injuring 181 others when an antibiotic was tested on them during a meningitis epidemic in 1996. Pfizer has always maintained that the tests were carried out with the approval of the Nigerian government and that the children’s parents were fully informed.

Now it is time for those Nigerians involved to declare their roles in this episode. Non of what happened could have been remotely possible without the active and deliberate connivance of Nigerians in high places. That is the truth we have to face.

  • Pls read our previous blog on this issue referring to to a book written by Dr Idris Mohamed – “Academics, Epidemics and Politics”….and eventful career in public health. He was the Chairman of the Taskforce of the Federal Republic of Nigeria sent to manage the outbreak.
  • Read a copy of the report of an investigative committee set up by the Nigerian Ministry of Health to investigate the incident here

While it is convenient to blame Pfizer and make them pay…we must ask ourselves the hard questions. Our society will never improve if we let our “leaders” get away with killing, robbing and disenfranchising their own people.

Who has taken responsibility in the Federal Ministry of Health? In the Kano State Ministry of Health…those are the questions that Nigerians need answers to.

Now that NEXT has published details of our leaders involved in the “Halliburton” scandal Nigerians…that accepted at least N27 billion in bribes from the oil services companies in exchange for billions of dollars in contracts to build our liquefied natural gas plant, as revealed by US investigators…

And the names of those invloved in the Siemens scandal are also in the public domain…Nigerians who were alleged to have received about 10 million euros as bribes from the German telecommunications company Siemens…

As long as all these
Nigerians are free, together with our colleagues that worked with Pfizer, and many still actively participating in “governance”….the message for the Nigerian people is that is okay to steal…as long as you are Nigerian, stealing from Nigerians…and for the foreign companies….justice will come to them through their own systems.


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

By Chikwe Ihekweazu

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

2 replies on “Pfizer settles…but what of their collaborators at home?”

I’ve just read the report of the Investigative panel (all 83 odd pages)and clearly no-one comes out smelling of roses apart from- maybe – NAFDAC- barely.

Pfizer plainly broke the law by conducting Clinical Trials without NAFDAC approval. Its impossible that

Question however has to be asked as to how NAFDAC gave approval for importation of Trovan- as opposed to Clinical Trials, when it was clear- or they ought to have known that the drug was still subject to Phase III trials.

The State and Federal Ministries of Health are clearly indicted in the report, there is at best gross negligence inherent. It beggars belief that a Physician could appropriate Infrastructure in a Government Hospital to conduct Clinical Trials (Its difficult to believe that the sum of $20,000 paid him – as Principal Investigators “Honorarium” did not influence his judgement adversely)

I sincerely hope that the Trial victims get a decent settlement- whatever that is worth, its entirely arguable as to whether the State Government deserves any damages- this is of course my opinion.

A truly sad story all round though. Brilliant work Chikwe, please keep up the good work

Your comment is so well informed and perceptive. Away from all the let’s-support-our-own syndrome, the truth is that what is happening is a shakedown or blackmail. In the Southwest of Nigeria we have a proverb which says, “Once an elephant is felled by death, all shapes of knives appear on the scene”. Now that we have found a company with a name to protect, we are ascribing all our agelong diseases which routinely depopulate our towns to them.
Pfizer came to help. Doctors Without Borders also came to help. The Trovan trials aside, Pfizer had a better survival record (94.4%) than Doctors Without Borders (90%). Nobody is accusing the Doctors Without Borders because they did not conduct a trial – and, truth be told, they don’t have the capacity to pay. It is convenient to blackmail Pfizer. I am told that NAFDAC gave a written permission to Pfizer, in addition to the consent of both the federal and Kano State governments. Nigerian doctors and nurses participated in the trials yet we are talking as if some people just dropped from Mars to make guinea-pigs of our people. Where are the Nigerian medics? Some of the patients treated with Trovan achieved full recovery and they are reportedly on the streets of Kano but cannot come out boldly for fear of being lynched by those bent on reaping a bountiful harvest from the Pfizer settlement.
Most of our hospitals are mere consulting clinics. Our leaders go abroad for routine medical check-ups while the people are left to die from preventable diseases. Over 1,000 people have already died in this year’s meningitis epidemic. We have learnt nothing in the last 13 years. Those who are blaming Pfizer should take a trip to Kano and evaluate the level of decay in the place – just like in most states of Nigeria. It is all down to a failure of government.
Our system thrives on corruption. It is the same corruption that we are insisting on bringing into the Pfizer settlement with all sorts of “Victims’ Lists” being carried about because all sorts of people want a piece of the action. Pfizer would be a fool to drop a check without ensuring that the money gets to the intended recipients/projects.
Mark my words, there are already all kinds of vultures waiting for Pfizer’s money. They feed on carrion and this is one as far as they are concerned. It won’t be the first time that some unscrupulous people are benefitting from a tragic situation (after all, some policemen reportedly searched the corpses of accident victims to steal their money). Governor Shekarau should be a man and live up to his reputation of being upright. He should ensure that every care is taken to ensure that the settlement funds are judiciously deployed.

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