2 Dec 2006
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Two circulars convening the meeting came respectively from Kamsu Kom, president of the Pharmacists Council and Flambeau Ngayap, president of the general assembly. Garoua is situated in the northern part of the triangularly shaped Cameroon map and it is not easy to access it from the South. Majority of Cameroon’s 925 pharmacists live and work in the southern half of the country. There are two possibilities of getting to Garoua from the South. One is taking an overnight train from Yaounde (Cameroon’s capital) to Ngaoundere, and then boarding a bus for the 4-5 hours drive from Ngaoundere to Garoua. The other alternative is by aircraft from either Douala or Yaounde. The airline cost is high ($250 round trip) and flights are unpredictable.
Douala Garoua by Camair.
At the time of the conference, Cameroon Airlines’ erratic flights were the only option available. The crumbling airline has two flights per week (on Mondays and Fridays) between the South and Garoua. Quite a number of pharmacists gave up the trip because airline tickets were unavailable. Departure time on the tickets was set for 1 pm Friday November 24 for those of us that managed to buy the tickets from Douala. Checking in effectively commenced at 4pm. A notice at the departure lounge B21 gave boarding time at 6pm and departure at 6.30pm. We effectively boarded the Boeing 757-200 aircraft at about 7.30pm and took off for Garoua via Yaounde at 8pm- a full 7 hours behind schedule. Almost every passenger on board had grievances against Cameroon Airlines. “Camair kept me stranded at Charles De Gaulle airport for three days.” Said a man who joined us at Douala airport on his way to Yaounde from Paris. “Last week I was given a boarding pass but Camair brought a smaller aircraft and some of us were not allowed to board.” Said another young man who added that the Camair station manager had to be rescued by the police from a mob of angry disappointed passengers. We landed at Yaounde Nsimalen airport at 8.35pm, waited for one hour before taking off for Garoua at 9.30pm. When an airline voice thanked the passengers disembarking in Youunde for choosing to fly with Camair and wishing to see them in the future, two of them replied in unison “jamais” meaning “never”. The flight to Garoua took one hour. The colleagues of the three northern provinces arranged for late dinner for all of us and made similar meal arrangements for the next two days.
Opening Ceremony 25th November:
The general secretary in the ministry of Public Health (who is also the Lamido of Garoua) represend the minister. The arrival of the Minister’s representative at 9.20 am was followed by the singing of the national anthem. Adamou Ali (pharmacist) read the legal text authorizing the meeting to hold, followed by a welcome speech delivered by the government delegate to the Garoua urban council. The meeting started after observing a minute’s silence for the departed colleagues. Flambeau Ngayap presided over the session in his capacity as assembly president.
Photo: Lamido of Garoua
The deliberations proceeded with reports from the president, the treasurer and the auditor. The president mentioned that the Pharmacists Council has held 25 meetings within three years to examine registration of new pharmacists, applications to open community pharmacies and also look into cases of indiscipline. He reported that some Council assets namely, a photocopier, telephone/fax, and computer were stolen by burglars. He also reported that many pharmacists owed dues to the Council for many years. The estimated arrears is 200million cfa francs ($400,000). This was corroborated by the treasurer’s report that indicated that only 162 pharmacists were up to date with their dues as at the time the meeting was taking place. In her report the treasurer Geh Annunciatta indicated that the total income for the period (November 2005 to end of October 2006) stood at 31,388,294 cfa and the expenditure within the same period was 18,734,775cfa leaving a net balance of 12,653,519 cfa. The consensus among participants was that a system of annual re-registration should henceforth be put in place.
The Director of Pharmacy and Medicaments in the Ministry of Public Health, Ndo Jean Rollin made some clarifications on certain government actions and programs particularly the role of the sworn inspectors in the fight against illegal pharmacy practice. He also shed some light on the rules governing the stocking of medicaments in government hospitals. After general discussions, resolutions were adopted notably.
Photo General Assembly:
On Illegal Pharmacy practice: That the Council should liaise with the Ministry of Health to tackle this issue.
On Continuing Education: Encourage continuing education within the corps on malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Faculty of Pharmacy: That we should work towards the realization of the project in the sub-region.
On Information: That the Council should acquire a website and improve on her library
On Pharmacy profession: The Council was urged to organize a forum (etat generaux) within three years to review all the problems of the profession.
Other resolutions touched on medicinal plant research and quality control laboratory.
The Ordinary general assembly came to the close and the president of the general assembly declared open the extraordinary assembly specifically for elections.
Beginning of Drama
It did not take long into the session before everybody got embroiled in a tangle of verbal polemics surrounding the interpretation of the law governing elections. Contradictory articles were cited and much grammar pertaining to ‘jurisprudence’ etc flowed easily from anybody that wanted to be heard. The bone of contention was the famous article 59 that stipulates a quorum before elections are held. According to the article, it will require the presence of two thirds of members of each of the divisions to enable elections hold. Pharmacists in Cameroon are classified in divisions depending on their jobs viz. Community pharmacists, civil servants, wholesalers, manufacturers etc. The reality is that, for more than sixteen years that I have been practicing pharmacy in Cameroon, I am yet to recall a meeting that assembled two thirds of all the registered pharmacists. After more than three hours of heated debates and consultations among the 100 pharmacists present, the issue of elections was cancelled. People that had sacrificed a lot to be there were visibly disappointed. According to the law, another meeting will be organized within one month and elections shall then take place regardless of the number of people that attend.
Some colleagues took advantage of that free evening to have a rest while others opted for the nightclub.
Photo CNOP Gaoua 2006
On Sunday November 26th, at 10.50 a.m, the Secretary general in the office of the Governor of the North province declared the meeting closed after a brief mention of key points of the adopted resolutions by Council president. We then sang the national anthem to round off the meeting.
Majority of the pharmacists that were to travel by Cameroon Airlines the following day opted to visit Lagdo. The dam that powers hydroelectricity supply to the three Northern provinces is situated here. Lagdo is about one hour’s drive from Garoua. The trip to Lagdo gave us the opportunity to see life in Rural North province. When crossing river Benoue within Garoua, we could spot three hippopotamuses in the water. We drove past many villages with mushroom-shaped houses made of mud walls and roofs of grass. We saw small individual holdings of millet and cotton farms. The real Sahel landscape became more apparent compared to Garoua city where there has been extensive tree planting. My impression is that people in the north lead very simple lives. The Lagdo dam built in 1982 has created a very large lake (586 square kilometers) that is used for fishing and serves also for tourism. We spent over three hours at a resort on the banks of the lake, had late lunch there and some colleagues even had canoe rides to a nearby island. The scenery was very beautiful, the water was clean and the fishes came as close as possible. The surrounding rocks remind me of typical scenes in the Northern Nigeria city of Jos. Part of our delegation later visited hydroelectricity generating plant. We were shown round the project and told how it functions. We returned from Lagdo in the night to attend a farewell dinner in a restaurant at Garoua airport offered us by our colleagues in the three Northern provinces. The president Kamsu Kom thanked the colleagues in the Northern provinces for their hospitality and wished that others can copy from their shining example. He urged everybody to sacrifice and attend meetings wherever they may be. He cited the case of one of our colleagues Musa Yaya who covered the longest distance in difficult conditions to reach Garoua. Due to the bad state of roads, Musa Yaya covered a distance of 45 kilometres on a motorcycle from Ekondo Titi to Kumba in the South West province, before proceeding by
car (8-12 hours) to Yaounde from where he took a train to head North.
Checking in started about 9.am on Monday 27th November. The aircraft that was to take us finally came before Midday. It was the Boeing 767-300 ER named Le Dja. We eventually took off at 1pm (only one hour behind schedule). From the air, Garoua appears as a very small city compared to the vast of land around it. The river Benoue is conspicuously snaking its way besides the town. On a clear day, as you fly southwards, it is quite exciting to see how the semi-arid Garoua region gradually gives way to the hilly greener lands around Adamawa before you come into contact with overwhelming greenery of the rain forest as you begin to approach Yaounde. The plane touched down at Yaounde Nsimalen airport for the one-hour transit wait for departure to Douala. We finally arrived Douala at 3.30pm.
Photo: Sights of Garoua
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Njei Moses Timah