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Reviewing NAFDAC ‘s Success Story

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Nigeria Born Prolific British Medical Doctor, Dr. Abdul Aziz, Anako Fache’s book “Pre-ordained” encapsulates the historical and evolutionary trajectory of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) from an administrative contraption to a world class Regulatory Ombudsman. Divine Providence and the powerful hands of Almighty God had always ruled the affairs of Nigeria’s most cherished and treasured iconic Regulatory Authority since its inception in 1993.
NAFDAC has gone through tortuous journey in the last 25 years beginning with the bickering and acrimonious bureaucratic politics in the Federal Ministry of Health that nearly scuttled and still-birthed the establishment of the Agency via Decree No. 15 of 1993. There was palpable fear and resistance in some quarters in the Ministry as at that time on the ground that the creation of NAFDAC with a new Director – General could whittle down the omnibus powers of its parent Ministry and top apparatchik. The heroes of the ding-dung battle were the then Honourable Minister of Health, Late Professor Olikoye Ransom – Kuti and pioneer Director – General of NAFDAC, Professor Gabriel Ediale Osuide who fought doggedly to lay a solid foundation for the take-off of the Agency with the inauguration of its first Governing Council under the chairmanship of Katsina State born Late Ambassador Tanimu Saulawa.
Inaugurating the NAFDAC Governing Council on 31st December, 1992 as his last major ministerial duty, Late Prof. Ransom-Kuti set the tone and template for the commencement of regulatory business by the nascent Agency. Prof. Ransom-Kuti then charged “NAFDAC as an Agency is being inaugurated today, to give a frontal attack to the health problems arising from foods, chemicals, drugs, medicines and similar regulated products without the inhibition of the civil service setting”

A comprehensive interrogation, assessment and analysis of whether NAFDAC has achieved this pristine goal, purpose and objective of its creation is a subject of two pedagogic books to be launched at the forthcoming Silver Jubilee Celebration of NAFDAC in Abuja and Lagos. Director – General of NAFDAC, Erudite Prof. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye will soon announce details of the celebration in which President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to be special guest of honour. Ranked as one of the top 20 Medicines Regulatory Authorities in the World, NAFDAC is a shining model of a successful government Agency and Africa’s pride judging by its monumental contributions to the overall health care delivery system and ensuring access to safe and efficacious medicines, wholesome food and good quality regulated products. The Agency’s emergence over the years as a key driver of the commanding heights of the non-oil sector of our economy particularly the growth of pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries as well as the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) represents a paradigm shift from its core statutory mandate as a public health and Scientific Institution.

As we roll out the drums to celebrate NAFDAC at 25 with pomp and pageantry, it is equally imperative for us to cast a sober reflection on the chronicle of past events with a bird eye view of the present and teleological projection of the future. It is for us a period of soul searching and self-audit as we take bold and decisive steps into the second phase of the regulatory journey that will hallmark attainment of NAFDAC’s golden jubilee in 2043. This is also a glorious moment for us to pay glowing tributes to the founding fathers and star-studded personnel of the Agency whose personal sacrifices and toil helped to shape the destiny of this phenomenal agency. We remember with fond memories the pioneering role of Professor Gabriel Osuide, the indelible footprint, courageous exploits and bravado of Late Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili, the modernizing and technological reconfiguration of regulatory processes by Dr. Paul Botwev Orhii and the current re-calibration and repositioning task by Professor Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye whose manifest destiny is to lead NAFDAC to the promised land. This task has resonated in the appraisal of the role which effective, transformational and dedicated Leadership has played in the life of NAFDAC.
Twenty five years anniversary represents a major milestone in the annals of this great institution. It is worthy of celebration considering the teething problems and challenges that confronted the Agency at its inception.

It is apparently impossible to capture here in its entirety the flurry of activities, monumen¬tal achievements, and roles of individuals, organisations and interplay of forces that helped to shape the destiny of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). One can only nibble at a haystack of information on the histori¬cal antecedents of NAFDAC and its evolution as one of the top 20 medicines regulatory agencies in the world.
More than any other factor, visionary, dynamic, dedicated and transparent leadership played a pivotal role in the transformation of NAFDAC. From inception in 1993 till date, NAFDAC has been blessed with good, effective, selfless and achievement-oriented Directors- General.
The pioneer Director-General, Professor Gabriel Ediale Osuide laid a solid foundation for the take-off of NAFDAC. Prof. Osuide, who is regarded as one of the Doyens of the Pharmacy profession in Nigeria held two professorial chairs. His solid intellectual ped¬igree, Spartan discipline and administrative sagacity were the cornerstones with which the foundation of NAFDAC was laid.
Prof. Osuide set the pace and agenda for one of his cerebral, vivacious, illustrious, dy¬namic and visionary protégés, Prof. Dora Akunyili who is reckoned as the Trojan horse that catapulted NAFDAC into national and international limelight. Prof. Osuide was the external supervisor for Prof. Akunyili’s doctoral thesis and that perhaps was the connecting rod of unbroken record of performance and ground breaking achievements made by Prof. Akunyili in her vociferous fight against counterfeit medicines, unwhole¬some foods and other substandard regulated products. Even before her untimely pas¬sage, the Amazon as Prof. Akunyili was fondly called, nearly paid the supreme sacrifice with her life in the bid to give counterfeiters a run for their ill-gotten wealth.
Prof. Akunyili’s gallantry and valour set a new paradigm of public service and raised the banner of selflessness and efficient service delivery. Prof. Akunyili’s exit and eleva¬tion as Minister of Information and Communication paved the way for the appointment of another brilliant, dynamic, efficient and egalitarian Director – General, Dr. Paul Orhii.
Dr. Orhii’s libertarian approach and panache was a paradigm shift from the praetorian order of the Osuide and Akunyili eras. Dr. Orhii’s multi-disciplinary background as a Medical Doctor, Lawyer and Biomedical Scientist coupled with American orientation influenced his focus on modernisation and digitisation of NAFDAC’s regulatory activ¬ities. His introduction of anti-counterfeiting cutting edge technologies and application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to regulatory processes were the hallmark of his tenure. Dr. Orhii is reckoned as Architect of the modern NAFDAC.

On February, 2016, Dr. Paul Orhii handed over the baton of leadership to the most senior Director, Mrs Yetunde Oni who held sway as Acting Director – General of NAF¬DAC for 17 months. She made concerted efforts to consolidate the successes recorded under the watch of Dr. Orhii. Mrs Oni’s tutelage under three (3) past Directors-General prepared her for the onerous task of consolidating the successes recorded under Dr. Orhii’s tenure and also provided her a prismatic compass to chart the way forward for the Agency. Her short-lived tenure set the stage for the eventual assumption of office by Professor Moji Christianah Adeyeye as incumbent Director-Gen¬eral of NAFDAC.
Professor Adeyeye’s over 40 page curriculum vitae is a beautiful rendition of her intel¬lectual gravitas, and academic accomplishments as a Researcher and Inventor. These attributes are basic characterisation of the sterling leadership genre that chroni¬cled the emergence of another great leader in the mould of Prof. Adeyeye.
Her giant strides and superlative performance within the nine months in office has given traction and resonated the cardinal role which effective, selfless, visionary, transparent and ded¬icated leadership has played in the life of NAFDAC over the years.
As we celebrate the silver jubilee of NAFDAC, we pay glowing tributes to these great leaders and commend the yeoman efforts of preceding and current staff who worked tirelessly to build and nurture this great Agency as their toil and personal sacrifices will never be forgotten in a hurry.
We must not also gloss over the political will and support the Agency has enjoyed from current and past presidents, ministers, professional associations within pharmaceutical, food and allied industries, the mass media and well-meaning Nigerians.
The immense contributions of the mass media and Public Relations Division of NAFDAC as veritable mechanism for effective regulation is a subject of another study. The emergence and greatness of NAFDAC is a constellation of Divine providence, transformative and visionary leadership. The stage is set for the march towards the golden jubilee of NAFDAC as we begin a crystal gaze into the future. Some of us unfortunately will not be around to celebrate with pomp and pageantry the Agency’s 50th anniversary but our footprints will remain indelible annexures of the extant historical records.

–Jimoh is a director, public affairs, NAFDAC



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