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The ongoing battle against illicit trade: NAFDAC’s role in safeguarding public health

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At the forefront of safeguarding public health in Nigeria stands the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), a pivotal institution tasked with the vital responsibility of regulating a diverse array of consumables and medical products.

With a broad mandate, NAFDAC plays a critical role in ensuring the safety and efficacy of goods ranging from food and drugs to cosmetics, medical devices, bottled water, chemicals, and detergents.

Established with a comprehensive vision, NAFDAC’s unwavering commitment to quality assurance and regulatory oversight underscores its indispensable role in protecting the welfare of the Nigerian populace..

Over the years, NAFDAC’s pivotal role has been reinforced by legislative frameworks such as Decree 15 of 1993, amended by Decree 19 of 1999, and the current NAFDAC Act No1 Law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

These legal provisions empower the agency to enforce stringent regulations governing the importation, exportation, manufacture, advertisement, distribution, sale, and use of regulated products.

Under the leadership of Director General Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, NAFDAC has embarked on a commendable campaign to combat the pervasive menace of drug hawking and the unsafe practice of using calcium carbide to artificially ripen fruits. Despite concerted efforts, these illicit activities persist as a disturbingly common occurrence nationwide.

The recent flag-off of the NAFDAC media sensitisation workshop in Abuja shed light on the gravity of these issues, emphasising the imminent threat they pose to unsuspecting consumers. The proliferation of counterfeit drugs and chemically ripened fruits not only undermines public trust but also jeopardizes the health and well-being of countless individuals.

It is imperative that NAFDAC intensifies its efforts to curb these nefarious practices swiftly and decisively. Robust enforcement measures, enhanced surveillance, and public awareness campaigns are essential tools in this ongoing battle against unscrupulous traders who prioritize profit over public health.

As stakeholders in the nation’s health sector, we commend NAFDAC’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding the welfare of Nigerians. However, concerted action from all sectors of society is necessary to root out the illicit trade in counterfeit products and ensure that consumers can trust in the safety and integrity of the goods they purchase.

During the inauguration of the NAFDAC media awareness workshop in Abuja, the alarming realities of illicit trade and unethical practices among hawkers were brought to the forefront, underscoring the imminent threat posed to unsuspecting consumers. Urgent action is imperative to curb these hazardous activities and safeguard public health.

Amidst this challenge, commendable efforts have emerged, promising to swiftly identify, apprehend, and prosecute those involved. The Director General of NAFDAC has unequivocally pledged that these unscrupulous actors will face significant legal repercussions, including jail time.

Such decisive measures, if effectively implemented, will send a resounding message that the illicit trade of narcotics and distribution to criminal networks will not go unpunished.

Recent reports reveal that enforcement officers are conducting a coordinated nationwide operation to address these pressing concerns, signaling a proactive stance in combating these nefarious activities.

In the battle against the ominous “merchants of death,” as poignantly labeled by Adeyeye, we advocate for a multifaceted approach. It is imperative that enforcement officers are not just adequately trained and motivated but also strategically aligned in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, particularly the police.

Furthermore, NAFDAC must embark on sustained and comprehensive public enlightenment campaigns. These campaigns serve as a beacon of knowledge for the unaware, the trusting, and the unsuspecting consumers who may fall victim to the dangers posed by counterfeit, substandard, and expired drugs.

Consider this: Imagine living in Nigeria and earning a salary in US Dollars through premium domain investments, where one can potentially earn up to $17,000 (N27 Million). It’s an enticing prospect, but amidst such opportunities, the need for public awareness on drug safety becomes even more critical.

Consumers must be educated about the hazards associated with counterfeit and expired medications. They need to grasp the detrimental effects of exposing these drugs to sunlight, humidity, and adverse weather conditions exacerbated by climate change. It’s a reality that what was once intended to heal may now pose a grave threat to health, with the active ingredients degraded to the point of toxicity.

By empowering the public with this knowledge, NAFDAC can empower individuals to make informed choices about their health and well-being, ultimately contributing to a safer and healthier society.

Amidst the escalating poverty levels in the nation, which directly impacts the purchasing power of the average citizen, it’s imperative for the government to not only focus on punitive measures against offenders but also to proactively institute preventive actions. Such initiatives are crucial in saving countless lives from avoidable tragedies.

While applauding NAFDAC’s commendable efforts in combating the perilous trade of harmful drugs and the application of cancer-inducing carbides on fruits, a more holistic approach is warranted.

One such strategy involves strengthening collaborations with Customs Services and port officials to stem the influx of hazardous food, chemicals, and drugs into the country. Additionally, NAFDAC should continue leveraging modern information technology to effectively monitor and combat the criminal activities of offenders.

By adopting a comprehensive approach that emphasizes prevention, enforcement, and technology-driven solutions, NAFDAC can significantly enhance its capacity to safeguard public health and mitigate the risks posed by unsafe products.

In the quest to fortify its impact, NAFDAC must fortify its alliance with the media, transcending language barriers to disseminate crucial information in local dialects. This concerted effort ensures that the public is well-informed about NAFDAC’s patriotic crusade to safeguard lives from preventable tragedies.

Yet, amidst these collaborative endeavors, the onus lies on the Tinubu-led administration to afford NAFDAC the opportunity to propose enhanced funding. Such allocations would bolster the agency’s capabilities, facilitating the acquisition of essential chemicals and equipment for its laboratories, as well as enabling staff recruitment and training initiatives.

With these vital resources at its disposal, NAFDAC is poised to fulfill its mandate to the Nigerian people with unwavering efficiency and efficacy, ensuring the protection of public health and well-being across the nation.

Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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Editorial

Increasing access to community healthcare

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Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) decried the increasing threat to the right to health of millions of people across the world. The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has stated that 140 countries recognise health as a human right. Unfortunately, these countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure that their citizens are entitled to access health services. According to the global health agency, about 4.5 billion people, over half of the world’s population, were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in her message underscored the fact that health is not only a fundamental human right, but also central to peace and security. According to her, addressing health inequities requires intentional efforts. Considerations of vulnerable groups must be addressed. Their needs ought to be purposefully integrated into health programmes at all levels to accelerate progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

‘My health, my right,’ the global agency used the occasion to call for action to uphold the right to health amidst inaction, injustice and crises. The year’s theme, according to the organisers, was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

Moeti noted that many in the African region still need help with access to quality essential health services due largely to unfulfilled rights. She observed that this is further compounded by protracted and ongoing crises such as conflicts, climate change, food insecurity, disease outbreaks and epidemics.

Available figures show that the number of people aged 15 and over living with HIV is still high at an estimated 24.3 million in 2021 (3.4 percent of the total population) compared to 15.6 million in 2015. This underscores the continued transmission of HIV despite reductions in the incidence of people newly infected and the benefits of significantly expanded access to antiretrovirals. Moeti called on member states to uphold the progress towards fulfilling the right to health, agreed by all nations of the world in 1948 and enshrined in the WHO Constitution.

“The right to health is a universal right of all human beings, regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status,” Moeti stated.

Nigeria, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, has reiterated the ministry’s commitment to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians. The minister is of the view that the right to health is not just the ideal, it is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For millions of Nigerians, accessing quality healthcare is a challenge. However, the federal government has mapped out some initiatives to address the challenge. These include Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) and the Nigeria Health Sector Renewal and Investment Initiative and strategic partnerships through which the health ministry is ensuring access to health of Nigerians in remote communities across the country.

Unfortunately, the right to health for all Nigerians has not been enshrined in our laws. Therefore, we call on the federal and state lawmakers to make laws that will ensure the right to health of all Nigerians. We need laws that will ensure Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians.

Such laws will ensure that every Nigerian has access to quality health at all times. These include having access to potable water, clean air, quality nutrition and quality housing, decent working environment and freedom from discrimination.

While the laws that will enforce the right to health of all Nigerians are being awaited, the government must improve access to health by ensuring that quality healthcare services are provided at the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the 774 local government areas.

If the primary healthcare centres are functional, the nation’s disease burden would have been reduced by over 70 per cent. The government should provide free health services at the PHC level. For Nigeria to increase access to quality health for millions of Nigerians and ensure UHC, the health funding must be significantly increased.

Pathetically, it has become an eyesore that millions of Nigerians living at the grassroots don’t have access to quality healthcare services. This is a wakeup call to the various state Governors and their Chairpersons to reinvest in the health sector, especially the community people.

Most of the health institutions and healthcare facilities are in a dilapidated stage at the rural communities and there is no motivation for health personnel in terms of incentives, knowledge acquisition such as training and retaining of staff, the equipment in various hospitals and clinics are outdated. The federal government in partnership with international donors should reenergise in the health system for the betterment of the masses.

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Editorial

Urgent action needed to stem rising violence in Nigeria

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In a recent high-level meeting convened by Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, alarming statistics were revealed: in just eight weeks, Nigeria has witnessed a staggering 537 cases of murder.

This revelation, coupled with 141 incidents of terrorism/secessionist attacks, 26 cases of armed robbery, 214 instances of kidnapping, and 39 cases of unlawful possession of firearms, paints a dire picture of our nation’s security landscape.

The gravity of these figures cannot be overstated. Each number represents a life lost, a family shattered, and a community in mourning. It is a stark reminder of the pervasive threat to the safety and well-being of every Nigerian citizen.

As a nation, we must confront this crisis with unwavering resolve and urgency. The current measures in place to address this surge in violence are woefully inadequate. It is evident that mere rhetoric and half-hearted efforts will not suffice in stemming the tide of bloodshed that plagues our country.

Furthermore, cooperation and collaboration between the government, security forces, and communities are paramount in the fight against crime and insurgency. Only through a united front can we hope to achieve lasting peace and stability in our nation.

As a society, we cannot afford to be complacent in the face of such staggering violence. The lives of our fellow citizens are at.

Kayode Egbetokun, recently unveiled the stark reality of our nation’s security predicament – a harrowing tally of 537 murder cases, 141 acts of terrorism/secessionist violence, and a myriad of other criminal atrocities.

Yet, amidst the chaos, glimmers of hope emerge – 3,685 suspects apprehended, 401 kidnapped victims rescued. These are the valiant efforts of our law enforcement, battling against a rising tide of criminality that threatens to engulf our nation.

But behind these statistics lies a deeper malaise – the scourge of economic hardship driving desperate souls into the arms of crime. In the crucible of survival, patriotism wanes, and criminality becomes an industry unto itself.

As the specter of insecurity looms large, the response from our governments remains tragically predictable – hollow promises, ineffectual rhetoric. The blood of innocents flows freely, cries for help drowned out by the deafening silence of those tasked with our protection.

It is a damning indictment of our society’s fabric when the guardians of law and order are themselves shackled by inadequacy.

With a mere 300,000 officers to police a population of 200 million, our forces are stretched thin, unable to meet the demands of a nation in turmoil.

The expectations are clear – to enforce justice, safeguard lives, and stem the tide of criminality. Yet, the reality falls short. The wheels of justice grind slowly, convictions dwindle, and offenders roam free.

In this crucible of despair, the call for divine intervention rings loud. But it is not divine providence we seek, but rather a concerted effort from our leaders to confront the scourge of insecurity head-on.

For it is only through effective policing that the foundation of our nation can be secured. The safety of our citizens is non-negotiable, and it is incumbent upon our governments to rise to the challenge. The time for platitudes is over.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has highlighted a concerning trend of cases where offenders are not convicted due to gaps between the Ministry of Justice and the police. This failure to prosecute perpetrators undermines national security by allowing them to evade accountability for their actions.

The lack of consequences for criminal behavior fosters a culture of impunity and reinforces the belief that crime is a profitable endeavor. This is evident in the brazen acts of banditry, criminality among herdsmen, Boko Haram insurgency, and other criminal activities across Nigeria.

To address this issue, governments at all levels must prioritize the deployment of skilled and professional legal practitioners in the criminal justice system.

Additionally, we propose that governments at all levels should allow private legal practitioners who are inclined towards criminal prosecution to collaborate with the state in prosecuting criminal cases.

This collaboration could take the form of private consultancy, engagement on a private basis, or through pro bono services. We believe that this approach could potentially help alleviate the burden on the state by reducing the backlog of criminal cases pending in courts, particularly those related to awaiting trial and others.

The time for action is now. Law enforcement agencies must be empowered with the necessary resources and support to effectively combat crime and ensure the safety of all Nigerians. Additionally, there must be a concerted effort to address the root causes of violence, including poverty, unemployment, and social inequality.

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