(By Iheanyi Ezinwo)-The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, was established in 1993 to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, sale and use of food, drugs and other related products in Nigeria.
In the Agency’s long history, its impact in checking illicit and counterfeit foods and drugs has been on the decline in Nigeria since after the administration of Dr. Dora Akunyili, when fake drug dealers of different complexions were identified, arrested and prosecuted, and their poisonous products seized.
In spite of the attendant distractions and threat to her life, Dr. Akunyili, who later became a Professor, and then Minister of Information in Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration created sufficient awareness that compelled peddlers of fake drugs and foods to reconsider their ways, especially as she took the battle to foreign countries from where some of the fake products originated.
Unfortunately, since after that administration, NAFDAC, as an agency has been under performing, rendering useless Nigeria’s health and safety law. One hardly hears of the officials visiting markets to identify fake products and to seize them. There are even allegations that the officials are only interested in what they can get, sometimes making things difficult for aspiring entrepreneurs just to extort money from them in the name of requirements for registration.
Recently, an official of NAFDAC in Rivers State was on air refuting the claim of a trader that fake products litter markets in the state. One would have expected the official to reach out to the alarmed trader with a view to getting useful leads to arrest those involved in the sale of fake products.
It was however heart warming to hear after wards of moves by one Chinelo, said to be the South – South head of the Agency to collaborate with traders’ association with a view to fishing out the sellers of fake products in Rivers markets.
All said, it has to be put on record that the impact of NAFDAC is not being felt in Rivers State, and one will not be surprised if the experience is the same across the country at a time when sellers of fake drinks, drugs and foods are having a field day.
Undoubtedly, NAFDAC, as an agency has since lost relevance for failing, over time to live up to the expectation of Nigerians. There is therefore an urgent need for officials of NAFDAC to leave the comfort of their offices and visit the markets where these fake products are being sold in the open. We also encourage NAFDAC officials to improve on their communications with a view to rekindling public confidence in the agency.
It is also important that citizens be convinced that reported cases will not be seen by officials as opportunities to make money, but that those found culpable will be prosecuted. All these strategies are by no means substitutes to officials of NAFDAC visiting the markets with a view to seeing things for themselves and doing the needful.
This is the only way, in our opinion that the agency can justify its mandate and enjoy the confidence of Nigerians.
Iheanyi Ezinwo is the publisher of Notable Outcome.