Director of Special Duties, Dr Abubakar Jimoh in this special interview with the Publisher, Nigerian NewsDirect, Dr. SAMUEL IBIYEMI speaks on technological advancement, and ease of doing business of NAFDAC among others during the administration of current Director General Prof (Mrs) Mojisola Adeyeye Excerpts.
What are the achieve-ments of NAFDAC in the last two to three years?
Well, thank you for showing interest in what we are doing at NAFDAC. A lot has been achieved since Professor Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye came on board as the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. The very first thing she did was orientation so that she can align the NAFDAC mission and vision to sink in accordance with her own vision. Particularly, the very first thing she did was a structural reorganization, alignment and new directorate department were created. In addition to what we have, she brought on board seven directorates among six geopolitical zones including Federal Capital Territory (FCT). That is an innovation and it is something we have been yearning for quite long because it is getting heavy at the top level. So, she has come to expand the horizon level, gave contentment to staff and also a kind of hope that people will be able to reach the intending height of their career in public service.
A lot has been done in terms of the laboratory and also ensuring that they sustain the momentum in terms of international laboratory accreditation that NAFDAC has obtained because the accreditation is done for life. Every year, you have to qualify to sustain it and we are given the certification internationally because the laboratory is reference point of NAFDAC. Without the laboratory, there is no NAFDAC. That makes up the scientific toga that we were as a regulatory agency. So, without the laboratory, we are unable to make an accurate and valid scientific pronouncement on the quality, safety and efficacy of products that we regulate. So, the laboratory is very cardinal and pivotal to our regulatory process.
Are you privatizing the laboratory?
We are not privatizing the laboratory which has been the focus of the DG upgrading, refurbishing and equipping it more with the ultramodern facilities that can help us in proficiency. That has been the achievement of the DG and she is still on starting the process of the cost of the laboratory as the top of its agenda. So, the issue of ICT is very paramount especially in the regulatory process of NAFDAC. Everything has to be e-compliance, e-administration, e-governance and e-registration among others. So, the DG has decided that ICT is an area that is very weak in NAFDAC and has decided to revamp the website to make it more engaging and also make it loaded with the relevant information. So, right now, in the last one year, various divisions have been restructured and the works have improved and we are now in terms of public enlargement campaign information dissemination on social media platform where we have leverage and try to be more active.
What about the e-registration?
The e-registration has been there before she came up but she is fine-tuning it and also strengthening the process for us to be more effective and we are just coming from the Customs’ meeting where we need to work together especially with the e-platform in terms of products coming into the country so that we would have a harmonious working relationship which will become difficult for people to smuggle all kinds of things into the country.
Another major setback that confronted her immediately she came and which took almost five months of her tenure is the issue of drug addiction. You will recall that the BBC documentary that went viral about the use of tramadol, contained in cough syrup especially in the northern part of the country where youths are now hooked to drugs and also the use of cannabis. This is devastating our youth and decapitating them. So, we are already working in schools trying to understand the severity of the problem and also how to tackle it. Then, we are planning a massive public enlightenment which we want to use the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the champion of the sensitization campaign nationwide and this will soon be launched. Then, we institutionalized the quality management system because for everything we do, there has to be quality in terms of management system within the agency. All the department system has to be Quality Management System (QMS) compliant. This is expected to increase productivity, enhance efficiency and international best practices for NAFDAC as a regulator. Then, we are also working seriously in the fore-front of promoting the federal government’s agenda of diversifying the economy and also promoting the MSMEs. Hence, NAFDAC is one of the leading agencies in terms of ease of doing business in Nigeria. We are also carrying out so many reforms. Under the new DG, the registration process that used to be cumbersome has been decentralized and directorates were created to move powers and take certain decisions. So, looking back in her one year of assumption of office, we can say she has achieved a lot.
So, the issue of sniper thing is just a wakeup call again to action for Nigerians to join NAFDAC in what we have been doing because we cannot do it alone. There are so many issues that we need to contend with from drug abuse such as unregistered herbal medicine, food fortification etc. So, we are also talking about the wrong application of use of chemicals to ripen fruits, killing of sea animals which is carcinogenic and dangerous but we are on top of the situation and trying to see how we can collaborate with other agencies of government to ensure that the problem would be solved without taking head-long.
What is your take on the funding of mass certifi-cation scheme?
Yes, we have all started and we are asking other state governments to join us in encouraging teaching and general hospitals to leverage on it. NAFDAC cannot do it alone and we have set the pace for others to follow. So, we hope that with that such legislative backing, it further reinforces the need for people to key into that programme because we started in 2010. We are also expanding technology to track and trace tech in order to get the source of counterfeit products.
How do you capture unregistered drugs?
That is why we have the e-registration platform for them to fill and defaulter’s drug will be impounded and destroyed. Also, the return of NAFDAC officials to the nation’s sea ports has given us more opportunity to efficiently and effectively do the needful.