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NAFDAC at 25: We Have reasons to Celebrate –Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye

• Prominent stakeholders honoured in Abuja

In a two-day bumper celebration marking the 25th year anniversary of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), no one was left in doubt as to the fact that indeed the regulatory agency of government has every cause to celebrate in grand style. In this Lead Story PharmaTimes Editor, MORGAN NWANGUMA, and Senior Correspondent, CHIGBU NWAOBIA encapsulates the historic and well deserved commemoration in a blow by blow capture of the events that traversed the two most important cities in the land, Abuja and Lagos.

The events which kicked off in Abuja on Tuesday, 26 March, will go down in the annals of NAFDAC, as the day history was made in the family of the critical agency in health in Nigeria.

The silver jubilee celebration/ award presentation ceremony opened at the Banquet Hall, State House – Abuja, and saw the gathering of renowned stakeholders in the health sector, captains of industry, political stalwarts, federal and state government officials, governors, traditional rulers, and members of the diplomatic corps, journalists, and other categories of humanity that graced the occasion at the presidential villa.

Speaker after speaker poured encomiums on the board, management and staff of NAFDAC for a well–deserved silver jubilee celebration. Wife of the President, Dr. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari and other stakeholders in the health industry commended NAFDAC for its efforts in safe-guarding the country against counterfeit medicines in the last 25 years.

The First Lady, said in her goodwill message that the agency’s efforts in the effective control and regulation of the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines, as well as wholesomeness of foods and other related products was worthy of celebration.

She said Nigerians recall the poor state of the pharmaceutical industry and other related sectors before the establishment of NAFDAC in 1993, adding that the advent of NAFDAC has significantly reduced the country’s disease burden arising from counterfeit medicines, food contaminants, poorly packaged water, corrosive cosmetics and other unhealthy practices.

She lauded the contributions of a former Director-General of the agency, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili – to the development of NAFDAC, pharmaceuticals as well as allied industries in the country. According to her, Nigerians could not forget Akunyili’s patriotic and selfless contributions in a hurry, just as she described her as transparent, hardworking and dedicated to her duties.

Hajiya Aisha Buhari also said that late Akunyili was a great supporter and firm believer in the President Mohammadu Buhari’s vision of a corruption-free and egalitarian society. According to her, the agency has played a key role towards the realisation of the healthcare objectives of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. She added that it had made outstanding contributions to the promotion of the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises as the drivers of the economic growth of Nigeria.

Mrs. Buhari stated that NAFDAC has actively participated in the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse. According to her, NAFDAC has led the fight for the eradication of micro-nutrient deficiencies, which is the vision behind her Future Assured Programme.

“I salute the efforts of the agency; I pray that it will continue to grow stronger and stronger.
“I foresee a NAFDAC in the next 25 years that will attain world class status in food and drug administration,” she said.
Also in his goodwill message, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) harped on the need for collaboration between government agencies, saying no agency could survive without collaboration with others.

He remarked that the menace of drug abuse has permeated every nook and cranny of the country adding that parents should ensure that their children and wards were closely monitored at all times.

The chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse and former military administrator of Lagos state, Brigadier General Buba Marwa (rtd), in his own remarks, said NAFDAC has done very well in the last 25 years.
He recalled how NAFDAC salvaged the horror that trailed unexplainable deaths that purportedly arose from poisonous beans allegedly in circulation in Lagos sometime in 1997 when he was in office. He however, pledged that his committee would continue to collaborate with the agency to tackle the menace of drug abuse in the country.

Also speaking, the Ooni of Ife, Oba AdeyeyeEnitanOgunwusi, who was the royal father of the day and also doubling as NAFDAC royal ambassador, urged traditional rulers in the country to continue to support efforts and advocacy against drug abuse, and other areas required for progress in the country.

The immediate past president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, said that the task of eliminating drug abuse in the country falls on the lap of every Nigerian. While urging support for NAFDAC on the war on drug abuse and counterfeit medicines, Yakasai said that during his tenure at PSN he used every available opportunity to advocate for the elimination of drug abuse for a better society.

He described late Prof. Akunyili as a detribalized Nigerian who carried out her functions with patriotic zeal and gave her best in the development of NAFDAC in particular and the country in general.

Earlier, the Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said the agency was celebrating because of its many achievements such as protecting the country from counterfeit medicines, clearing its huge debt, improved staff welfare, seizure of N198 billion worth of Tramadol last year, and simplified application of procedures, among others.

Highlights of the event was the presentation of a grand diamond excellence award to the Wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, and a post-humus life time achievement awards to Prof. Dora Akunyili and former minister of Health, Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, as well as the pioneer Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Gabriel Osuide.

Eminent Nigerians and international partner bodies were rewarded by NAFDAC for supporting the agency in delivering on its mandate in different categories.

Africa’s richest man and president of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; former Lagos State Governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and former First Lady, the late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo were decorated with Diamond Excellence Awards at the event for their contributions to the growth of NAFDAC.

Others are, the Executive Governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Geidan; the Executive Governor of Kano State, Dr. Umar Abdullahi Ganduje; Executive Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Bagudu Abubakar; and the immediate past president of PSN, Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai.

In the Legacy Award Category, Prince Julius Adelusi Adeluyi, former minister for health and iconic pharmacist; Late Ambassador Tanimu Saulawa, pioneer chairman, NAFDAC governing board; and Prof. Essien Essien, former director, Food and Drug Services, Federal Ministry of Health were decorated with this award. Others included: JUHEL Pharmaceutical Company, and Drugfield Company Limited.
WHO, UODC, UNICEF, GAIN, USAID, and USP received Merit/ Partnership Awards for their outstanding support to the growth of NAFDAC.

The second and concluding part of the celebrations was equally a colourful gala held at the Lagos City Hall on 28 March 2019. The grand finale of the anniversary events was in full gear – with all important stakeholders such as the IG of police, Controller General of Customs and Immigration, as well as the Chiefs of Naval Staff, Army Staff, the Air Staff, and not to forget, the DG of NIMASA who were ably represented on the occasion.

In her exhilarating speech that got her a standing ovation, the DG of NAFDAC went down memory lane – extolling the beautiful legacies and impeccable landmarks left behind by a former DG, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili. As it is today, the impressive performance of the late Amazon of NAFDAC everyone agrees, has bestowed on her the face of NAFDAC as it were. On her part, Prof. Adeyeye recounted how when she got to the agency things were generally on a state of lull: staff morale was low as staff welfare was nothing to write home about. Also, the agency was highly indebted – to the tune of N3.2 billion, while there was a backlog of about 6,000 procedure applications unattended to.

But the damning situations were revamped in a record time. The embarrassing huge indebtedness was settled in less than a year; the backlog of applications was treated within two months. In between, the NAFDAC boss who was later dubbed “an activist” by a highly impressed PSN President, (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunnwa, did not leave anyone in doubt as to how she indefatigably had had to confront and strangulate the looming level of corruption that bedevilled the agency prior to her appoitment.

While urging all stakeholders to team up with her to resist every corrupt tendency so ‘we can look forward to a healthier and proud NAFDAC’, she added that, ‘we must also do all we can to bequeath a better Nigerian society to posterity’. “We need a rewashing of our brains…, we (NAFDAC) are now recognised internationally,” she added. She said all of these are the reasons NAFDAC is celebrating.
On his part, Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa, who was the guest speaker at the event urged authorities in NFDAC to consolidate on its gains by employing its statutory roles to further enhance national development. In a message titled “Effective Regulation as a Tool for National Development – The NAFDAC Example”, the guest speaker also going down memory lane recalled that while at Pfizer Nigeria many years ago the company’s drug – Terramycin was being faked and pumped into the Nigerian market by some criminals said to be operating from a non-existent foreign country.

Sam Ohuabunwa said that today, as a result of the exploits of NAFDAC, there are now more registered products, and high quality products at that, circulating within the country. He also noted that the number of manufacturers and investors have increased over the years while new investors have continued to find their way into the country. With nostalgia, the PSN President stated that the days of NAFDAC as a corruption-free zone during the days of Dora Akunyili must be brought back.

The events culminated in a public presentation of a book on NAFDAC’s 25 years journey which was incisively reviewed by the immediate past president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, and it was followed by a book launch of the same.

“I salute the efforts of the agency; I pray that it will continue to grow stronger and stronger. I foresee a NAFDAC in the next 25 years that will attain world class status …”

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