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NAFDAC: THE ERA OF PROF. (MRS)DORA NKEM AKUNYILI 2001 - 2008
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title page -
Notes and References
State of Regulatory Activities in Nigeria
Notes and References
Challenges and problems Facing NAFDAC
Notes and References
Achievements and Gains of NAFDAC Under Dora Akunyili
Notes and References
Conclusion and Recommendation-
Women have contributed immensely in areas traditionally mapped out for them before venturing into areas dominated by men. The greater involvement of women in key positions of government has been regarded as a new development. The belief of many people is that the greater women's involvement in areas hitherto preserved for men, the better, the society will be. However, the recognition and significance of the place and roles of women in the contemporary society is a current social preoccupation. The rise into limelight of a vocal and articulate class of women of distinction, purpose and idea is itself indicative of the coming of an. age when the lot of female will improve, such that equality of opportunities between both sexes will be an established reality. Especially, when one realizes the tremendous contribution being made by women in the developed economies, with particular reference to the United States of America, one cannot but be hopeful that Nigerian women, given the right atmosphere of freedom and equal opportunity can make even more useful contribution development process and nation building,
Suffice it to say that, if not for the resolute thoroughness, mettle and relentless crusade of Prof. Mrs. Dora Nkem Akunyili (OFR), Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the era of fake, adulterated; unwholesome and expired food, drugs, cosmetics, chemicals/detergents, medical devices, packaged water including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and other regulated products, would have continued unabated in the country.
The scope of this mandate puts the responsibility of safeguarding public health or the Agency and this touches on the life of every Nigerian. Before her assumption of office in 2001, the agency had existed for about seven years.
During this period it was difficult to point at any impact it made in stamping its authority it the areas of its mandate. It existed in name and as one of those public organizations.
It is instructive to note that as at the year 2000, Nigeria was rated as one of the countries with the highest incidence of fake and counterfeit drugs, and other unwholesome regulated products. Consequently, drugs made in Nigeria were officially unaccepted in other West African countries with strong regulations like Ghana, Sierra Leone etc.
Equally, some multinational drug manufacturing companies had divested and left Nigeria out of frustration.
The local drug and food manufacturers were also closing shop while the country became a dumping ground for all manners of products. Gladly, when Dora Akunyili came on board NAFDAC in 2001, she saw the appalling state of regulation as a national emergency that demanded immediate intervention. She was then put under pressure.
Until she assumed leadership of the agency on April 12, 2001, there was little to write home about the state of regulatory activities in Nigeria. Although NAFDAC had been established way back in 1993 with the backing of Decree 15 of the same year (as amended) to control and regulate the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of every imaginable regulated consumer product in the country, very little was known about the agency and its activities until Akunyili came into the picture.
Before her debut, the nation wore the unenviable tag of being one of the countries with the highest incidence of fake and counterfeit drugs on earth. In the face of a failed regulatory process of more than two decades, Nigeria had become the world's largest dump for substandard drugs.
Illegal drug markets which sprang up all over the place rapidly grew into formidable strongholds in the trade of drug distribution. There was chaos in the distribution channels, where potent and often lethal drugs were marketed like any other commodity of trade.
Suffice it to say that charlatans who knew next to nothing about regulated products had a field day and controlled vast distribution networks for products of questionable origin, safety and efficacy. As bad as all these appeared, it was just a tip of the iceberg as no one knew for certain how bad the situation really was.
Undaunted, this veritable amazon who qualifies as a woman of raw courage and unshakeable integrity, set a goal for herself and the new management of NAFDAC.
Their onerous task was to ensure that fake drugs and other substandard regulated products are either totally eradicated or brought to the barest minimum in Nigeria within the next few years.
With a vision statement “To safeguard public health” while its mission is to safeguard public health by ensuring that only the night quality product are manufactured, Towards realizing this ultimate objective, Akunyili's approach has been nothing short of outstanding. With pin point accuracy and a no-nonsense but a result oriented attitude, het successes in the enforcement of regulation laws remain unprecedented in the history of the nation. The level of her impact is such that the parlance in the drug industry is that "the fear of Akunyili is the beginning of wisdom”. Apart from successfully dealing a mortal blow to the antics of fake drug merchants, Akunyili was largely instrumental in the transformation of NAFDAC's former dowdy reputation as an obscure government establishment to that of a respected modern day professional scientific body with international recognition.
Right from her days at the Queen of Rosary Secondary school, in Nsukka, Anambra state, Akunyili has been an embodiment of excellence, distinguishing herself with a Grade 1 distinction in the WASC of 1973. Being a fully qualified consultant pharmacologist, and holder of a Doctor of Philosophy degree including Post Doctorate
Fellowships of the University of London and the West African Post Graduate College of Pharmacy, her exploits are widely acknowledged locally and internationally. But it was in the driving seat of the new NAFDAC, Spearheading an aggressive war against fake drugs that the real essence of this towering achiever really came to the fore. Thanks to her, an appreciable degree of sanity has gradually come into the health industry.
Having analyzed past intervention to eradicate the menace of fake drugs in Nigeria she quickly arrived at the conclusion that: they were all adhoc measures with unsustainable impact, if any. To achieve this, there were a clear vision, set goals and strategies. Since then, the vision has been to safeguard public health. The mission to safeguard public health by ensuring that only the right quality products are manufactured, imported, exported, advertised, distributed, sold and used in Nigeria" and the goal “To eradicate fake drugs and other substandard regulated products". Akunyili deemed it more effective to embark on massive enlightenment campaign, dialogue, education and persuasion in pursuit of her regulatory activities.
Enlightenment was a strategy she utilized superbly credibly well and had endeared her to the delight of many Nigerian. Today NAFDAC's crusade against fake drugs is at household level. Everyone from all walks of life is celebrating the voluntary change of heart, which is none result oriented and complimentary to the confrontation and prosecution approach-utilized by the Agency in the past, Workshops, seminars and meeting; for producers of "pure water", patent medicine dealers, Cosmetics Manufacturers and Ethics Association of Nigeria and Herbal Medicine practitioners amongst others are now regular features. Enlightenment campaigns in the form of bi-monthly publications of identified list of genuine and fake products, jingles in radios and TV and international consultations with Directors General of Food and Drug Agencies of other countries were common place.
NAFDAC also held regular consultative meetings with state commissioner of health, the Inspector General of Police, the Comptroller General of Customs, ambassadors of some countries identified with fake drug importation amongst other concerned groups. This strategy, she argued, was necessary because it addresses the fundamental issue of behavioural change.
It is gratifying to note that the strategy yielded tremendous results and in its wake, NAFDAC had shut down illegal drug outlets, prosecuted fake drugs dealers and seized and destroyed large caches of fake drugs across the nation. Interestingly, most of the seized drugs are voluntarily handed over by repentant traders, and a good quantity recovered on tip off by traders.
Undoubtedly, Prof. Akunyili remains a national pride, an icon and beacon of Hope to our nation. Her unwavering and dogged crusade in her area of assignment; has won her national and international awards and honour. She remains a shining light before the international community and a rare breed of the vanishing tribe of patriotic, honest, hardworking and transparent Nigerians.
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study is to examine the activities of the National Agency for Food Drugs and Administrative Control under the stirring leadership of Professor Dora Akunyili. Similarly, the study seeks to examine the state of regulatory activities in Nigeria, the challenges and achievements of the agency in curbing the incidences of substandard products in the country.
SCOPE OF STUDY
The scope of this study covers between 1999-2007. This period however is carefully choose because it marked the height of an era of adulterated, fake and expired products in Nigeria, a practice which had continued for so long a time unabated. Similarly, the period also coincided with a time when the agency was brought out of its obscurity to functional lime light.
LIMITATION of STUDY
This work is limited by the inaccessibility to get officials of the agency to answer questions pertinent to this exercise. Also the lack of fund, absence of written records as well as time constraint are part of the limitations to the study.
In the course of the research, materials will be collected from both primary and secondary sources. The primary source will rely more on oral interviews conducted to get the opinion of renowned personalities on the issue.
Similarly too, secondary source of information will equally be adopted in the study. These include information and data generated from library research, published and unpublished materials, official gazettes, government publications, academic journals, newspapers, and periodical among others.
According to Akande J. Oyekanmi, The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), a creation of the military government had been a docile, ineffective and powerless before the appointment of Professor (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili as the Director General in 2001. She argued further that the government agency was a toothless bulldog that could only bark but could not bite. Although, the decree establishing it empowered it to seize and destroy fake and adulterated drugs, the high level corruption that pervaded the agency staff gave importers of deadly food and drugs the audacity to carry on with their nefarious activities. However she posited that the victims of such activities were invariably women and children and that one of such victims was Professor Akunyili sisters who died as a result of counterfeit drug.
Consequently, this first female Director General of NAFDAC, Professor (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili had fought tooth and nail to ensure that the Nigerian society was free of counterfeit drugs and those importers of fake drugs face the full wrath of the law.
Similarly, in the words of Ighodalo, he opined that one should not be under the illusion that NAFDAC has had an easy battle with fake drug dealers. At first, these peddlers of death resorted to bribery. Thinking that it was business as usual, they offered in April 2001, the NAFDAC boss, fifty million naira bribe which she rejected. Stunned by this unparalled honesty and integrity, Ighodalo stressed that the peddlers sent assassin to her at her Abuja residence which she narrowly escaped Ten years after the. Incidence, the police is yet to bring the culprits to book.
Thus, since 2002, importers of fake drugs had been sending death messages to her and her family members, but she remained undaunted. Needless to say that the indefatigable woman of NAFDAC remained unyielding as she introduced innovation and combative measures to clamp down on fake drug importers. However, the enlightenment Campaigns have yielded the desired results as counterfeit drugs are disappearing fast from the Nigerian market, thanks to the doggedness of Professor (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili. Also Okojo stressed the fact that before the ascendancy of Akunyili as the Director General of the agency, it was common knowledge that Nigerian market was forfeited with dangerous drugs which caused complications in medical circles. There are companies in Asia and Eastern Europe that were mass producing sub-standard drugs and foods and were marketing them in Nigeria. For such drugs, labels are no indication of actual content. It is also true that some Nigerian merchants arranged with such companies to maximize profit. It is worthy of note that, following the death of some members of a family after a meal of pastry food in 2005, the production of such pastry food was put on hold until NAFDAC was satisfied that the necessary amend and control had been effected. Her heroic deeds have won her several honours, awards and accolades. It is believed in many quarters that she deserves the highest honour the country can bestow on her.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Tony Nnaemeka, Philosophy and Diversion of National Health Policy Vol 1and II, Speciation Book Ltd, Ibadan 1989 p. 14.
2. Ibid, p. 18
3. Ibid, pp. 19-20
4. Dora Akunyili, "The Responsibility and Challenges of Public Office" A Key note address at The Special Harvest Launch of the Archbishop Vinning Memorial Church Cathedral Lagos, August 3, 2003.
5. Levi Obijiofor "Akunyili and the Merchants of Fake Drugs, The Guardian, September 24, 2005 p. 36.
6. Ibid, p. 38
7. Ibid, p. 39.
8. The New York Times "Generous Story on Dora Akunyili" 2005 p. 18. 5. Ibid.
9. Dora Akunyili "The Challenge of Our Age" Sunday Newspaper, 2005 p, 19
10. Ibid. p. 22.
11. Ibid, p. 24.