Adeyeye: Unending Search for Akunyili’s Replacement

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By Eric Elezuo

During the week, President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed the appointment of Prof. Moji Adeyeye as the substantive Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in the search to produce a suitable replacement since the exit of Dr. Dora Akunyuli. Consequently, for the next five years, back dated to November 3, 2017, Mrs. Adeyeye will attempt to surpass a record set by Mrs. Akunyuli while she was DG, or in the worst case scenario equal it.

The Federal agency under the Ministry of Health came into being in 1993 under the country’s health and safety law to checkmate illicit and counterfeit drugs in Nigeria. It is also responsible for for regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, chemicals and packaged water.

The establishment of NAFDAC was facilitated following the deaths in 1989 of over 150 children as a result of intake of paracetamol syrup containing diethylene glycol. More so, the problem of fake drugs had become so severe that neighbouring countries officially banned the sale of drugs, foods and beverages made in Nigeria.

In December 1992, NAFDAC’s first governing council was formed. The council was chaired by Tanimu Saulawa. In January 1993, supporting legislation was approved as legislative Decree No. 15 of 1993. On January 1, 1994 NAFDAC was officially established as a “parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Health”, replacing an earlier Federal Ministry of Health body, the Directorate of Food and Drug Administration and Control, which had been deemed ineffective, partially because of lack of laws concerning fake drugs.

Ever since then, public opinion has singled out Akunyuli as the amazon that towered over NAFDAC like a colossus, raiding factory after factory, store after store in successful attempts to rid Nigeria of fake and adulterated drugs.

Akunyuli’s brazen confrontation against the powers dealing in fake drugs and beverages pitched her against them leading to an assassination attempt, which miraculously she survived.

On the day she left office, having served her statutory five years, Dora, as she was better known, broke down in tears. She was aware of the rot in the system, and also knew that whoever that would fight the rot, must be determined and incorruptible. She was also aware that such qualities were rare in Nigeria, hence her pronounced tears.

And like was speculated, the activities of the agency dwindled drastically after her departure from office. The gusto with which raids were carried out and controlled also reduced. The fake drug and beverage market returned to statusquo, and it became business as usual once again.

So when President Buhari approved Adeyeye’s appointment, Nigerians looked forward to returned uhuru in the fight against fake drugs and beverages in the Nigerian market.

Adeyeye’s appointment was contained in a statement by Assistant Director (Press), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mohammed Nakorji.

The statement read, “The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the appointment of Prof. Moji Christianah Adeyeye, as the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.

“​Moji Christiana Adeyeye is a seasoned pharmacist with a proven track record of accomplishments in Nigeria and abroad.

“She is also a professor of Pharmaceuticals, Manufacturing Science and Drug Product Evaluation, College of Pharmacy, Roosevelt University, USA amongst others.

Lending its voice to the appointment of the technocrat, the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) commended President Buhari for taking the right step in the right direction.

The council’s Director of Health Dr. Ezeokoye Paschal, who made the commendtion on behalf of the President, Garba Muhammad said Prof. Adeyeye’s appointment represents the yearnings of the Nigerian people, stressing that the leadership of the agency by a renowned technocrat and seasoned Professor of Pharmacy would help to eradicate the fake and substandard drugs and foods in the country.

“The National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) commends the Federal government for taking the right step in the right direction in putting a square peg in a square hole by appointing a technocrat, a renowned and seasoned Professor of Pharmacy, Moji Christianah Adeyeye, to head NAFDAC,” the Council said.

Akunyili took over the agency in April 2001, eight years after it was established in 1993 by the military junta, and gave it a shape that defined administration and achievement. This was attested to by her successor, Mr. Paul Orhii, who came on board in 2009.

Hear him: “By 2001, the situation had worsened and more than 40 per cent of medicines in the distribution chain was fake. People were buying corn, starch and chalk thinking that they were buying antibiotics.

With the effort of my predecessor, Prof. Dora Akunyuli, the incident of counterfeit medicine drastically reduced in 2005 to 15.7 per cent. That was a significant feat; from 40 per cent to 15.7 per cent and that was the last evaluation.

“The other evaluation that was done was in 2008… That time it was discovered that Nigeria has the worse situation among all the countries that were evaluated. Sixty-four per cent or thereabout of the anti-malaria drugs that were in circulation in the country at that time in 2008 were either fake or sub-standard.

“What we did was to expand on those things Prof. Akunyili started that worked so well in helping to reduce the situation of counterfeit medicine to 15.7 per cent from more than 40 per cent.”

Akunyili has remained the only DG in the agency that stepped out on her own while the others were either sacked or ‘removed’.

Her successor, Paul Orhii was sacked in 2016, having served a full first term. He was replaced with Mrs. Yetunde Oni, who served only 18 months before she was purportedly retired.

In September, 2017, the government approved the appointment of Mr. Ademola Andrew Magbojuri as the new Acting Director General of the agency. Magbojuri’s ascendancy lasted only a little above one month.

The way it is, Adeyeye becomes the first substantive DG since Paul Orhii, and it is hoped that her coming will bring back the days of yore when Prof. Dora Akunyili performed the yeoman’s job of cleansing and rebranding an institution.

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