Editor's Note: The National Food Administration has been in the forefront of fighting the menace of fake drugs in the country. The writer, Ozoemena Nonso looks back into the activities of the agency and makes a case for a strong drug administration
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Dr. Dora Akunyili of blessed memory was almost killed by gunmen on December 26, 2003. The assailants were believed to be members of the fake drug cartels she busted. Dora was DG of NAFDAC then. Her appointments saw Nigerians heaving a sigh of relief that the problem of fake drugs will finally be solved. Was it? Yes, to a reasonable extent while she was in NAFDAC. These successes have a cost. Her family was in fear. She did not give up.
NAFDAC is supposed to be the last hope of the consuming man. Everything we consume in Nigeria, should be done in confidence, knowing that NAFDAC is working. Recently, the DG of NAFDAC, who personally is not doing badly, has lamented about the sorry state of the agency. “80 per cent of our equipment is no longer working and that is a major challenge to deliver on our mandate. The last time, the World Health Organization visited our laboratory in Yaba, they scored us zero,” the DG said.
Coming from the DG, this calls for serious concern. The DG was simply stating that the agency needs the attention of the federal government to combat the menace of fake drugs in the country.
The FG understands that the nation’s borders are porous and largely unmanned. The FG understands that the nation’s customs services are allegedly highly understaffed.. Recall that the biggest challenge of the nation regarding drugs, comes from addictions to codeine. This menace is too bad that even musicians sing confidently about it. Every shop in Nigeria is stocked with codeine and you wonder why the agency spends so much on making the media believe they are fighting this scourge.
Sometimes in November, a video circulated where people were using Sniper to preserve beans. Up till today, nothing has been done about it. Sniper is very detrimental to human health. Even if it does not kill now, an accumulation can lead to various forms of cancer. Is this what we are all joking with? Why has the defender of the sick in NAFDAC gone to?. If we are being honest, when was the last time NAFDAC confiscated and burnt a large chunk of fake products? Now it seems we are left with a shadow of what we had.
For the family of the Late Emmanuel Okwuke, Banana and plantain have become a symbol of death. No one that knows them would ever dare consume those fruits. Those fruits have become the messenger of death in their family. How would they have known that the fruit their late father consumed was ripened with carbide if the responsible agency did not tell them or do anything to stop it? Fake products, sniper-preserved products and carbide-ripened fruits have joined other scourges like insecurity. One thing they all have in common, is that the present administration is supposed to build from where previous administration left.
All we have heard is the DG complaining about the World Health Organization rating them zero in the latest accreditation held. This is not the NAFDAC we once trusted for better and efficient drugs. There has been a change in NAFDAC, and that change is not just peculiar to NAFDAC. Recall that the National Bureau of Statistics complained about lack of funds to publish the state of the economy. The federal government must do more to strengthen the works of the agency.
By Ozoemena Nonso - social critic and public affairs commentator.
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