The disclosure that 80 percent of the equipment of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has not been working, is disturbing. The Director-General of the agency, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, made the disclosure when she received members of the Senate Committee on Health, who were visiting federal health institutions in Lagos.
Adeyeye also said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) scored the agency zero the last time it visited its laboratory in Yaba. Besides, she revealed that NAFDAC was understaffed and had a debt of N400 million.
We commend Adeyeye for her forth- rightness and decry the obsolete nature of NAFDAC’s equipment. It is sad that the agency could not deliver on its mandate due to poor state of its equipment, understaffing and huge debt. Adeyeye’s revelation is indeed an eye-opener to the agency’s challenges.
The Federal Government should urgently address the problems of the agency so that it can effectively perform its functions. There is the need to repair NADFAC’s equipment or buy new ones if necessary. There is no way the agency can carry out its responsibilities effectively with obsolete equipment, lack of funds and shortage of personnel.
We recall that the agency is responsible for regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, chemicals and packaged water in the country. It is also its duty to conduct appropriate tests and ensure compliance with standard specifications designed and approved by the council for the effective control of quality of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices and others.
The agency undertakes appropriate investigation into the production premises and raw materials for food, drugs and cosmetics, among others, and establish quality assurance system, including certification of the production sites of the regulated products.
It is lamentable that the poor state of the agency’s equipment cannot enable it to check illicit and counterfeit pharmaceuticals, foods and beverages. The current head of the agency should be empowered to be able to discharge its functions effectively.
For the agency to combat the scourge of fake drugs and unwholesome food products, it must be strengthened. We remember the exploits of the agency in combating fake drugs and unwholesome food products during the era of its former DG, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili. Nigerians will prefer a return to that golden era of the agency when the country was hailed for its strides in the war against fake drugs and unsafe food products.
The sale of beans contaminated with sniper, a pesticide, should worry the agency, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Government. For safety of food and drug products, NAFDAC must be adequately equipped and funded. This is one agency that should not be toyed with. If the Federal Government is desirous to win the war against fake drugs and adulterated food products, it must do the needful now.
There is no doubt that the circulation of fake and substandard drugs and food products is on the increase in the country. It will be recalled that NAFDAC in June this year destroyed fake and substandard drugs worth N650 million in Kaduna. The drugs included antibiotics, anti-malarial, anti-hypertensive, anti-cancer, herbal remedies and controlled substances.
According to the WHO, roughly one-third of the world’s population lacks access to even the most basic essential medicines. The global health agency also says that this figure may climb to nearly half the population in the poorest parts of Asia and Africa.
It estimates that 10 percent of medicines in low and middle income countries (Nigeria inclusive) are either fake or substandard. Also, a new study suggests that this number may even be close to 19 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.
Therefore, we call on the Federal Government to revamp NAFDAC’s obsolete equipment to enable it perform its functions effectively. Government should adequately fund the agency.