In defence of NAFDAC

When a group of protesters sometimes this week staged a march to the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), one’s expectations that youths are waking up to support the war on corruption was soon dashed. The expectations were dashed on a gargantuan scale because rather than routing for an end to corruption and corrupt tendencies these youths were at the EFCC headquarters to demand the resignation of its chairman, Mr Ibrahim Larmode. Mr Larmode’s crime ostensibly is his refusal to sink to the level of the jungle justice that a lynch mob expects.

The rationalisation is that youths will always be youths but how does one rationalise hen fully grown adult professionals entrenched within organisations are also doing their bit to truncate the progress the country is making. Because this kind of saboteurs package their acts as whistle blowing the discerning public may have a tough time sniffing out their treachery. In this case, the attack dogs’ mission was to savage the reputation and integrity of the Director General of the National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Dr. Paul Orhii, hiding under a petition written by an embattled or is it embittered staff of the agency.

The petition by NAFDAC’s Director of Accounts and Finance, Mr Olusegun Mogbojuri is better put into perspective when one realises that he signed off on all the transactions he referenced in the document. The picture becomes clearer still when one realises that there has been a recent redeployment in the organisation that saw Mr Mogbojuri redeployed as director of the agency’s training institute in Kaduna. He thus became an emergency anti-corruption crusader even though there is a barrage of questions arising from his action. For instance, why did he wait until 2015 and after the redeployment to blow the lid on the going-on in NAFDAC when the man he is hitting at has been at the helms of affairs since 2009?

Mogbojuri should under natural circumstances be perturbed that the Agency, as a corporate entity and not Dr Orhii, formally issued a statement to distance itself from his petition. He should not only be perturbed but should be in panic mode considering that the statement said “NAFDAC is aware of orchestrated plot to throw mud at it by certain interests whose trade in unwholesome food and counterfeit drugs had been affected by proactive actions of Dr. Orhii towards ensuring that unwholesome food and counterfeit drugs become history in Nigeria.”

“We are therefore not surprise that these allegations are coming up from a director, who is already disgruntled and finding ways of hitting back at the agent and chief executive.”

The assertion by NAFDAC would suggest that its erstwhile lead accountant may be balancing more than financial books. Could it be true that counterfeit drug barons had a mole at a high level in the organisation saddled with smoking them out? Was this why a public servant would not accept a lawful deployment in good faith?

There are further questions that go beyond NAFDAC with import for national interest. A coalition of groups, African Arise for Change Network on the War Against Corruption in Nigeria, had suggested that there are saboteurs planning to overwhelm anti-corruption agencies by sending them on wild goose chase though petitions that have no substance. Could Mogbojuri’s petition be the sentinel in a long list hogwash that would be thrown in the way of these agencies to distract the anti-corruption fight? Are proceeds from counterfeit drug barons now being deployed for rent-a-crowd to call for leadership change at federal government agencies, including those fighting graft? What implications will this have on the zero tolerance of the government of the day for corruption?

Frivolous petitions would only serve to distract the focus of the anti-corruption bodies, waste valuable man hour, dissipate resources and kill interest in pursuing future cases. These agencies could also lose public sympathy as they will then be accused of being used for witch-hunting. This, apparently, is the expected outcome among those kicking up the dust at the moment.

It is on this note that one must emphasize that without prejudice to the need to crush corruption, the leadership of government agencies need protection just like they require support from the populace against the kind of lynch mob being put together by those opposed to the performance of their expected duties. It could be EFCC and NAFDAC today, whose turn tomorrow?

Not that Dr Paul Orhii needs any form of protection since his work at NAFDAC speaks for him. It certainly is no mean feat to be at the helms of affairs of an agency once led by the Amazon that Professor Dora Akunyili was, and still be able to make impact. His success at not relenting on the achievements he met on ground must have peeved the drug barons who found a willing insider to help mudsling the agency.

Sadly, as some people have noted, wrecking the integrity of NAFDAC for personal score could boomerang on the economy of Nigeria as foreign nations use the petition as a basis for measuring the efficiency of the agency as a regulator. A direct consequence would be the loss of confidence in the wholesomeness of the consumable goods from our small and medium scale enterprises, which will in turn frustrate ongoing efforts to diversify the economy. The lost opportunity to create new jobs will ensure that barons continue to have minions to hold dubious protest marches for them and continue to harass conscientious heads of government agencies.

It is up to Nigerians to break this circle.
Comrade Philip Agbese is an anti-corruption crusader based in Abuja.

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Articles by Philip Agbese