The Minister of State, Health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora, says Nigeria is endowed with over 10,000 species of medicinal plants.
He also said the country had good arable land and climatic conditions for harnessing the potentials of the plants, for health, social, economic and other benefits.
Mamora said this in Abuja at the opening of a conference on Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM).
The conference was organised by TCAM, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health.
The World Health Organization identified medicinal plant as the whole or part of a plant that contains bioactive substances that can be used for therapeutic purposes or serve as precursors for the synthesis of drugs.
Nigeria has a full-fledged TCAM Department in its ministry of health responsible for the formulation, review and implementation of policies and guidelines for research, development and regulation of herbal medicines.
The country launched the Traditional Medicine Policy in 2007, which has as its key objective, harnessing the potentials and economic benefits of TCAM.
The country also has a compendium of medicinal plants, the Nigerian Herbal Pharmacopeia (NHP), first published in 2008 and currently under review.
The compendium contained medicinal plants used for the safe treatment and management of various diseases.
Mamora said the conference should promote the cultivation and utilization of medicinal plants as raw materials for the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries.
He said this was to create short, medium and long-term value chain and attract agricultural and manufacturing loans.
The minister said this was important, as Nigeria and other African countries currently benefitted minimally from the global herbal medicine market projected at seven trillion dollars by 2050.
He said the market had been dominated by China, India, US, Germany and Thailand.
“Significantly, the cultivation of medicinal plants and commercialisation of herbal medicines will attract huge economic benefits to Nigeria.
“Especially in the following areas: increase foreign exchange earnings and wealth creation, alleviate poverty through the creation of job opportunities in areas of cultivation and conservation of medicinal plants in Nigeria,” he added.
He assured that the ministry remained committed to developing and promoting traditional, complementary and alternative medicine in Nigeria.
He said stakelders had initiated sensitisation programmes and activities to promote the cultivation, commercialisation and use of indigenous medicinal plants in the country.
It “facilitated the passage of the TCAM Council Bill into Law, to effectively coordinate and regulate TCAM practice in the country.
The stakeholders also “inaugurated an Expert Committee that is currently working out modalities for the take-off of TCAM Institute for the training of TCAM practitioners in Nigeria”.
Prof. MacDonald Idu, a professor of Phytomedicine from the University of Benin, in a keynote address, said if properly harnessed, the value of traditional medicinal plants in Nigeria would hit N1 trillion by 2025.
He put the current market value of traditional medicinal plants conservatively at about N200 billion, regretting that not much attention has been paid to harness the sector.
“We talked about $200 billion. It is conservative. I’m serious. Other forms of literature that I have also read, we are going to hit about N1 trillion by 2025. I know what that means. That’s a lot of money” he said.
Idu said Nigeria must show commitment towards diversifying the economy.
“Nigeria I’m sorry, we don’t walk the talk. We talk a lot, but we don’t walk the talk. So my point of interest is to drag the hearts of our people to realise that we should diversify our economy.
“We don’t have any reason to be poor. That’s the real truth. We don’t have any reason to import everything that we need to survive. It’s already here. Why do you have them here?
“So, I believe that if we’re able to set up that platform again, and then we’re able to organize ourselves and organize the traditional medicine practitioners and producers, we should be able to raise enough money for this country to move forward,” Idu added.
Earlier, the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, expressed regret over the low level of utilisation of the over 10,000 species of medicinal plants in the country, in spite of its huge need for the production of drugs, cosmetics and other essential products.
Buhari expressed the present administration’s commitment to boosting the commercial cultivation of such plants for the health, economic and social benefits of the people.
She said it would also open new areas for wealth and job creation for the teeming youths of the country.
The Conference is expected to bring together experts and other stakeholders in various fields of TCAM to brainstorm on the importance of indigenous medicinal plants to healthcare delivery in Nigeria.