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X-Raying NAFDAC Under Orhii

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Few of the agencies in Nigeria ever enjoy continuity as the phenomenon is

akin to a camel passing the eye of a needle. Usually, a new helmsman comes

into the saddle and the only strategy at making impact is to belittle the

achievement of predecessors with large scale reversal of policies

regardless of whether they are working. The National Agency for Food and

Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has to the good fortune of

Nigerians and purposeful leadership of its incumbent Director General, Dr

Paul Orhii did not fall to such bad lot. Instead, the agency has become a

perfect example of what how public institutions should run in terms of

succession plans.
Dr Orhii has proven to be the progressive Chief Executive Officer who

succeeded a reformist (late) Professor Dora Akunyili in piloting the

affairs of the agency. He built on the foundation that Dr Akunyili and the

result has been the remarkable pace at which NAFDAC has grown since he took

over its affairs. It is definitely no easy task getting NAFDAC to become

one of the world’s top 20 drug regulators and keeping it in that position.

No doubt, the agency has not be prolific in making headlines but this does

not detract from the sheer volume of activities that go on unreported. For

instance it has not been possible for the counterfeit drug cartels that

have been sent out of business to find their way back into circulation as

the agency daily move one step ahead of them under the able leadership of

Dr Orhii. These daily confrontations may not be in the news but the fact

that Nigerians can buy and consume food and medications with the least of

worries is enough indication that those who would have it otherwise have

been properly curtailed.
Public enlightenment has however not suffered under Orhii as NAFDAC boss.

Series of television, radio, print, online and non-legacy media advertising

has ensured that the populace continue to get informed and educated on

issues around food and drug safety, which is key to sending counterfeiters

out of business. Even though this aspect has not suffered, it must be

pointed out that it is the one area when the NAFDAC boss must seek more

resources to increase what is presently being done as it is important to

further reach those that are yet to be reached with the needed messages.

It is noteworthy that the enforcement activities of the organization did

not detract from its ability to generate revenue. From internally generated

revenue of N2.5billion upon his assumption of duty, Orhii brought about an

increase over the course of four years. Three years ago it earned above N6

billion, moved up to about N7 billion last year with a projection of N9

billion for 2015. It becomes even more remarkable when one realizes that

the increase in revenue was in part due to the plugging of leakages. Beyond

plugging leakages, a comparison with other food and drug regulators

worldwide shows that the Orhii led NAFDAC apparently runs one of the

leanest budget on the globe and has thus saved the government money by

judiciously managing resources.
The organization has also recorded milestones under Orhii in the aspect of

training staff to meet global standards. Available information indicates

the agency, under his watch, has trained staff, locally and

internationally. The result has been for these staff to be able to hold

their own when they are among peers from other nations. This no doubt plays

a role in the increase level of self-reliance that the country today enjoys

in food and drug administration.
NAFDAC has also transformed in terms of infrastructure as the Orhii led

administration marshalled resources to build laboratories and facilities in

places where there previously none. The enforcement office in Apapa falls

into the category of such projects that have created conducive work

environment for staff. The agency’s laboratory that was destroyed by an

inferno in 2004 was rebuilt as well as the rehabilitation of structures

that have become dilapidated in other locations. The drug laboratory in

Yaba was designated as the Centre of Excellence in Africa after it was so

refurbished from its dilapidated state. The upgrade to these facilities

with staff training has earned the agency several international

accreditations that would have been otherwise impossible.

Another of Dr Orhii’s legacy is his taking the bull by the horn and

securing land in Abuja for NAFDAC to build its national headquarters.

Completion of the building will further strengthen public confidence in the

organization while improving its performance.
There is equally the often ignored achievement of NAFDAC under the able

leadership of Dr Orhii. Few people appreciate the fact that the credibility

and reliability of made in Nigeria drugs was something that could be

exploited for the benefit of industries in Nigeria. These qualities are

what the agency has now tapped into that has made in Nigeria drugs to find

high acceptance in the international market because they were well promoted

by the organisation. The implication of this trend is that the gains of

reforms at NAFDAC have delivered benefits even to citizens and Nigerians

businesses and is thus a model that could prove useful for adaptation by

regulators of other sectors.
The narrative on the positive changes in NAFDAC can go on for several pages

even when abridged as has been the case in this article. The crux of the

matter is thus to urge Dr Paul Orhii to redouble his efforts with a view to

beating his own record in the foreseeable future. He cannot afford to

relent on these giant steps he has taken and must do more because Nigerians

demand more of him. He must sustain this NAFDAC’s success story.

Agbese is Executive Secretary, Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Philip Agbese and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Philip Agbese