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the waning glories of NAFDAC

By Bisi Lawrence
NAFDAC once dazzled our eyes by its operations .. Its charismatic Director, Dr. Dora Akunyili, captured the affection of many Nigerians, though there were some who were very eager to see her off the scene.

What made her so popular was ironically none other than what those other people found so detestable in her.

As the official in charge of the protection of the people’s health through the prohibition of fake and dangerous drugs, she pursued her mission with admirable zeal and courage, in a transparent and forthright manner.

Products had to obtain the NAFDACs seal of approval to find a shelf in the open market. She also took the fight to the den of the importers of fake drugs, smashing several crooked establishments and burning their vile produce.

It was not an uncommon practice for these dealers in dangerous drugs to import them by personally traveling overseas to order these lethal items. They would then fly back to Nigeria to see the items through the ports to the warehouses.

But Dora’s operatives waylaid them at the ports, scaring them away and setting their harmful goods on fire in public. Some items escaped, of course, but only to find themselves pursued to the warehouses where they too ended up in ashes.

Ironically again, most of the perpetrators of this crime came from the same section of the country with the “Iron Lady”, aa she soon became known. That fact however did not help the criminals.

They tried the usual dirty “honey” way, without any result. Dora would not play ball. They even resorted to the way of the “final solution”, but she survived their plots of murder to even take them to court.

Perhaps the results from the courts were not as rousing as one would have expected, but she was not fazed even by the threats to her life. She carried on with the good work and the result was great in its impact on the quality of the supply of medicines and drugs throughout the country.

Looking ahead, she then went to contest for the senatorial seat in Anambra State, and there came the backsliding fortunes of safe medicine everywhere.

The change at the helm was accomplished with the usual hoopla that can be produced by those who are professionals at it, and there was the normal eager expectation.

Nothing happened suddenly; in fact,everything appeared to be going at the usual pace. The news of prohibited and unapproved medicines had subsided before Dr, Akunyili withdrew, and nothing occurred to bring it up noticeably again.

But silently, surreptitiously, all sorts of queer medicinal products began to be imported into the ountry. Vigilance was visibly relaxed, especially at the ports where we only really import, rather than also export products anyway.

he legitimate importers seemed gradually overshadowed and aIl sorts of illicit operations became stronger. On the home front too, new medical products were bei g manufactured freely.

The main sources of these illegal products are in the Asian countries, mostly around China and India. But almost every country gets to play a part since the Nigerian entrepreneurs are the motivators. They go out and encourage the manufactures of the counterfeit drugs for which they pay very little and sell at a huge profit, not caring about the ealth of their hapless customers.

It is said that they seem to quote false NAFDAC registration num rs some time ago, but they seldom bother about such subterfuge any longer.

They just put the articles out, stark and plain, just like that without any inhibitions. The rest is left to the man who believes he has bought a malaria remedy and winds up with a massive sore throat, or something more serious, or much worse.

Malaria just came to mind as a very common malady. In fact, the claims of some of these devilish drugs boggle the mind. Some are supposed to cure diseases that are declared incurable, like .

AIDS, for instance. But there is a twist to the situation because, surprisingly enough, a few of these preparations actually do carry a NAFDAC registration number. How safe are we now? Dora, where are you?

 call for a loud debate

A fall-out from the rumpus about the 5000 naira note, the introduction of which has been suspended until you and I learn more about it—according to the magisterial pronouncement of Dr Rueben Abati— is the indication that inflation will continue to rise in this country, for as long as the Central Bank of Nigeria does not desist from making the monthly allocation to the States in naira, out of the revenue accruing mostly from petrol sales which come in dollars.

This is presented as the source of the surplus of naira chasing a relatively low amount of goods to buy. Complying with the loose definition of inflation, it creates excess liquidity—that is, too much for too little and that naturally makes way for a scarcity that gives rise to increasing costs.

It sounds much mellower in the words of Henry Boyo, the erudite economic columnist of “The Punch”. He is so convincing.

But don’t the State Governors realize this setback? They seem to gleefully perform their “cap-in-hand” act every month without much complaint as to the currency in which they are paid.

And it is not as though they are shy of complaining having forged a conveyance for the promotion of their point of view through their “forum”, which ranks with the strength of the National Assembly these days, in the establishment of a position in national affairs. They must appreciate that the system of paying out the state allocations is inimical to the health of the national economy by the stated manner in which it generates inflation perennially .

Otherwise, they should have come out with their own standpoint. But they seem so complacent with that aspect of the monthly distribution of the “national cake”.

However, perhaps more light  needs to be shed on  how this system of payment increases the inflow of money into the economy. Is the exchange of currency from dollar to naira so generous that there is so much overflow into the coffers of the States?

No State Governor has yet complained of  being overstuffed with the monthly allocation. Who stands to gain from the exercise in which the common man stands to continue to lose in this manner? In any case, even if there were a case of a surfeit of available funds, could it not be diverted to productive ventures in industry that would create jobs and thus limit the thrust of the actual cash injected into the economy?

But the State Governors have said nothing, and the CBN is saying nothing other than the installation of the 5000 naira note. But it seems to me that this is a national issue, and a loud debate is called for here.

 the traffic laws of Lagos state

The threat of prison sentences has thrown many people across the street from the new traffic laws of Lagos State. But that should not be so.

The truth is that the situation had deteriorated to a stage where some action needed to be taken promptly. The chaotic traffic movement in the Capital is caused by the counter-currents of people traveling from the suburbs to their work-places on the island, and those who are engaged in a similar activity traveling from the island in the opposite direction to the mainland.

The island is the commercial nerve-centre, not only of the State but also of the entire nation, while the mainland —specifically, Ikeja—is the focal point of the affairs of government administration.

The diversification of the direction, however, is tilted heavily towards the incoming traffic from the mainland to the island .. Several measures had been taken to combat the ensuing problems. Over the years, the resultant heavy traffic across the lagoon had given rise to the construction of two long bridges to ease the traffic flow.

The first one-way law for street traffic was also created in Lagos far ahead of several other cities in West Africa. The former National Capital was also one of the first West African cities to install traffic lights on urban roadways.

Overhead bridges were still a rarity in the sub-region until quite recently, whereas it has been a feature on Lagos Island for decades. But the sheer volume of the increase in vehicular movement has tended to neutralize all of those efforts.

Without any doubt, the most aggravating aspect of the traffic situation in Lagos is traffic control.

The agencies involved appear to be numberless—the LASTMA, the Police, the Armed Forces, the V.I.O.,  and almost anyone in a colourful uniform in the street—not forgetting, with respect of course, the State Governor himself. But so little is achieved because of the ineffectual manner in which the exercise is performed. The officials  are reported to be incurably corrupt.

They are, in this regard, aided by the frightening and prohibitive penalties that the law stipulates for some of the offences. Many would rather opt for “settlement” than face the possibility of a jail term, or astronomical fines. Unfortunately, the negotiations that lead to the “settlement”: in themselves generate a clog in the movement of the traffic.

But, stiff as the traffic regulalations may seem,they sum up to good  a law in search of  good law  enforcement.

Time out.


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