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The six blunders in BBC’s codeine documentary

When will the Western Media overcome their chronic obsession with spinning negative narratives about Africa? When will they stop deriving sadistic delight in celebrating everything negative about Africa? We have our issues but which country doesn’t? And why is it that even when they don’t have a negative story to report, they resort to junk journalism? The BBC Africa EYE documentary on prescription drug abuse in Nigeria throws up the same old tedious narrative. Corruption, crime, disease and poverty. The same old recurrent themes that constantly run through their stories when it comes to reporting Africa. Only this time, they relied on a poorly scripted piece of drama and elementary school play acting. 
1. Their reporters go undercover and pretended to be black market operators looking for prescription-only codeine cough syrup to buy. They carry cash around and use it to entice pharmaceutical sales people to sell this drug to them. Now this is the first blunder in their documentary. Many people, when tempted with money will subvert the system for easy gain. It is very cheap on the part of BBC to throw cash around and try to corrupt pharma sales people. If they were objective and really wanted to expose the real criminals, they should have posed as Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives looking for black market operators to sell the drugs to. This way, they will be able to attract the real culprits who will offer cash for the product. But rather, they foolishly went out as black market buyers. So if you come to me as a black market buyer and I sell to you, who is the black market I have sold to?
2. Second blunder. The narrator says her younger brother is also a victim of drug addiction, and has requested not to be shown on camera. Okay! So all those other victims being shown on camera have no sisters? Or did she ask them whether they wanted to be shown or not? All those people in chains are not human beings just like her brother? This puts a huge credibility hole in the entire reportage and a big question mark on the real motives behind the docu-drama, as I prefer to call it. At a point the reporter even tried to cry but the tears didn’t flow! Is this investigative reporting or slapstick comedy?
3. Third Blunder. The documentary fails to seek the views of healthcare experts who would have offered professional advice on ways of helping the victims and what steps should be taken to manage the crises and prevent the occurrence of new cases. Rather, the focus is on the problem, not the solutions. This tells me the BBC is not interested in helping us solve the problem, but rather to show the problem to the whole world and perpetuate the negative narratives their viewers want to see about Africa.
4. Fourth Blunder. BBC sponsors a documentary that attacks the professional ethics of Nigerian Pharmaceutical companies, but they have not included or mentioned any British pharmaceutical company operating in Nigeria. This again should make us doubt their objectivity and integrity in this whole drama. Because, there is at least one or more British pharmaceutical companies operating in Nigeria or whose products are sold in Nigeria, who have addictive prescriptive drugs in their portfolio. In fact, a British pharmaceutical company operating in Nigeria owned and operated the world’s largest opium poppy field for decades, in a region accounting for a quarter of the world’s morphine and codeine production. According to a report published by The Telegraph, the British company was, last year, fined £311 million in China for bribing doctors, while it recorded more than 233 cases of sales and marketing malpractice. In Australia, where codeine abuse is also a problem, the authorities compelled this company and others to reclassify their codeine-containing medications as prescription only drugs. Where was BBC while all these were happening?
5. Fifth Blunder. The documentary shows a sick youth lying in a coma. We are told that the boy died three days later. Without obtaining an autopsy report, the reporter concludes that the boy died of drug abuse. Are BBC reporters also qualified pathologists? Is this investigative reporting or junk journalism?
6. Sixth Blunder. Let me say this one is from our own Nigerian Television Authority, an organisation set up and run with our public funds. Isn’t it scandalous that a BBC documentary, presenting such an embarrassing image to the rest of the world is shown on our very on NTA? Would the BBC even remotely consider airing an NTA sponsored documentary about drug problems in the United Kingdom, to be aired on BBC UK? When are we ever going to free ourselves from this colonial slavery? It breaks my heart that this same NTA would always insist on being paid to air content from independent Nigerian producers, even when the content is of a public service nature. Yet they accept to gleefully and foolishly air a damaging documentary about our country. Under normal circumstances, the Director General of NTA should be called out on this faux pas!
While admitting it is a global challenge, BBC has chosen to focus its so called Africa Eye on Nigeria and Nigerian pharmaceutical companies while turning a blind eye to British pharmaceutical companies. The documentary is riddled with twisted half-truths and third rate play acting. It is shamelessly obvious that BBC are only interested in propagating negative narratives that tarnish the image of our nation, and undermine the efforts being made by our Public and Private sector leaders to achieve progress. This being so, they should simply leave us alone and refocus their investigative eyes on the myriad of social problems confronting their own society, which of course, include youth drug abuse in titanic proportions.

– Muyiwa Kayode



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