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What is new in NAFDAC?

In Nigeria,  the battle to accord its citizens full access to  healthcare  is being  prosecuted by the  National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Evidence show  that NAFDAC has initiated  measures  directed at stamping out  practices  capable of bastardizing the  healthcare sector. This is professionally executed by a determined  leadership  and  NAFDAC workforce towards the attainment of  sound  health goals. However, adequate cooperation and support on the part of the  populace is required to make the agency’s efforts  a  huge success.

NAFDAC’s  determination to eliminate  counterfeited, substandard, obliterated pharmaceuticals and unwholesome processed foods in line with its enabling  legal mandate-Decree 15 of 1993 as amended by Decree 19 of 1999 and currently Act Cap N1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN)2004 –  is, indeed, a  worthy engagement in view of the  havoc these  substances have  wreaked on the unsuspecting  public.

NAFDAC has continuously adopted  initiatives  to  enlighten Nigerians who  will bear the brunt of  the prevalence of  deadly anti- health  substances if left  unmonitored.

While the relevance of the  agency’s  regulatory efforts and the dangers inherent in flooding the nation with counterfeited regulatory products is being made known to the general public on a regular basis,   novel rapid response systems aimed at boosting the  war against regulated products faking has been intensively adopted.

Recently, a high-powered federal task force on fake and counterfeit drugs cum unwholesome processed foods which  gave birth to state task forces  was set up.

The taskforces parade  members  from the Pharmacists  Council of Nigeria,the Consumer Protection Council, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Customs  Service and the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Seeing  that domestic efforts are insufficient to cage the death merchants, NAFDAC  got assistance of the World Health Organization(WHO) which established  International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeit Task Force (IMPACT) and  gave its  vice chairmanship position to Dr Paul Botwev Orhii, NAFDAC  director general.

The  agency’s  efforts on the international  scene is yielding dividends as  shown  in  the recent interception of a consignment of counterfeited  multi-million naira worth of anti-malaria drugs at a Lagos port  whose shippers were apprehended in China  by  the International Police (INTERPOL) and the United States Federal Drug Agency(USFDA) in collaboration with the Indian and Chinese High Commissions which  led to the ‘death sentence’ passed on the suspects.

Another  constituted  high-powered collaborative team consisting of  operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, NAFDAC, Pharmacists  Council of Nigeria as well as the Consumer Protection Council  recently raided  corporate pharmacies in  the  highbrow Ikoyi and Victoria Island areas of Lagos State in an operation code named “Operation Cobra”. INTERPOL had, prior to the commencement of the exercise, organized a two-day  workshop on capacity building and training for the operatives to  prepare them for the operation.

The  exercise was put together as a joint operation between INTERPOL and seven West African countries viz: Nigeria,Ghana,Guinea,Burkina Faso,Togo,Cameroon and Senegal at the instance of the World Health Organisation’s IMPACT and the Medical Product Counterfeiting and Pharmaceutical Crime (MPCPC) unit of the INTERPOL. A similar onslaught tagged “Operation Mamba”was executed in some East African countries viz:  Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda,Tanzania,Zanzibar and Uganda, last year.

These  exercises were not without their  benefits. For instance, the Lagos  operation led to the arrest of over 30 suspected fake regulated products merchants with voluminous counterfeited pharmaceuticals valued at several millions  of naira  seized. In all, over one hundred shops were inspected.

While those with fake regulated products were sealed, the numerous and ubiquitous unauthorized drug kiosks and counters found littering the metropolis were dismantled. Also inspected were large pharmacies, wholesale outlets as well as importers warehouses where the agency’s ultra-modern technology-the TRUESCAN machines -was  engaged in the verification of their wares.

Now, NAFDAC  is said to have commenced arrangements to put in place  a rapid alert technique between Nigeria and collaborating countries with the intention of efficiently creating a formidable network towards combating both substandard and counterfeited regulated products.

The  internationally celebrated  breakthroughs of the agency often did not come on a platter of gold. They came with bloody confrontations, harassment, molestation of  the NAFDAC operatives and even destruction of the agency’s operational vehicles by the disgruntled and self-centered health saboteurs.

NAFDAC appears to be  working ‘tooth and nail’ and vowing not to rest on it’s  oars until a genuine transformation of regulated products distribution system  is achieved nationwide, thereby ensuring that only quality and safe products are made available in Nigeria.

Martin Ikhilae is a Lagos based  public affairs analyst







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