There is no doubt that Dr. Paul Botwev Orhii means well for the Nigeria nation in the area of food and drug administration and control.
His efforts in these regards are daily crystallising at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, where he is leading a team of committed bureaucrats to revolutionise operations of the agency.
This positive revolution has been practically and quite significantly demonstrated in the agency’s fight against counterfeit drugs. Indeed, a number of technological innovations in this sphere by the Orhii leadership have forcefully repositioned NAFDAC as a progressive agent in the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts at transforming the nation.
In fact, such innovations as the TRUSCAN, black eye, mobile authentication service, radio frequency identification for detecting counterfeit medicines have upped the ante in the agency’s battle against the menace of fake drugs; and these innovations have enabled NAFDAC to gain global recognition as one of the top medicine regulatory agencies in the world and one that is at the front of fighting counterfeiting with the use of cutting-edge technology.
Indeed, it is on account of this that Nigeria (NAFDAC) is currently a member of the prestigious International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force, IMPACT, that is made up of 103 member states with Orhii as Vice Chairman. He had also been invited for the second year running by Council of Foreign Relations in the US to discuss the way forward about counterfeit medicines.
Notwithstanding these achievements, the leadership is not resting on its oars. Its restlessness to expand the frontiers of effective food and drug administration and control is tangibly remarkable. The leadership is making deliberate efforts to upgrade the agency’s laboratories to international and WHO standards to bolster fundamental experiments.
It has deepened efforts in pushing through international collaborations with other food and drug control agencies. For instance, it was from such collaborative efforts that NAFDAC leadership has been able to appraise the weakness in the law prescribing punishments for drug counterfeiters.
Whereas, in China the punishment for drug counterfeiting is capital punishment, the current law for punishment for manufacturing of fake dugs in Nigeria is 15 years jail term with the alternative being N500,000 fine.
It is thus understandable why the Orhii leadership is pushing for a review of the law (Decree No. 15 of 1993) which set up the agency to make the punishment life imprisonment as it is done in India, including confiscation of assets of the culprits. The passion and commitment to emplace this legal architecture underscore the disposition of a revolutionary and sharply focused leadership.
The NAFDAC DG had rationalized this in a recent interview. Read him: “…I would have wanted death penalty for fake drug dealers. Unfortunately, I had to come to terms with civil rights activists who believe that death penalty is no longer fashionable globally.
So, we have come to the middle term that, like it is done in India, we should sentence these people for life and confiscate their assets because we know that at the heart of counterfeiting lies the incentive to make huge profits.
“So, we want to take the incentive out by saying that if you engage in counterfeiting, you would lose your assets; that will discourage him or her from engaging in counterfeiting in the first place. Therefore, we are asking for life jail term, confiscation of assets and in situations where we can prove that the fake products caused death or severe bodily injuries to the victims, then some of the assets that are confiscated should be used to compensate the victims….”
To underscore the seriousness of the agency in combating the menace, it is also proposing to make the offence a non-bailable one so that once the offenders, who are powerful or well-connected, are caught and put out of circulation, they would not be able to interfere with and prolong the course of justice.
Already, the Federal Government has bought into the proposal of the agency, which will also help to outlaw sub-standard drug and food products.
Government decided at a meeting of the Economic Management Team, EMT, on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, to fine-tune details of the proposed review of provisions of the existing law and present it to National Assembly as an executive bill.
Although, three agencies-NAFDAC, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON and Consumer Protection Council, CPC- reportedly made presentations at the meeting, according to the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, there is no doubt that the proposal by NAFDAC, to wit: life jail for drug counterfeiters, if passed into law, is a novelty that will send a strong message to the world about the nation’s seriousness to combat the menace of counterfeit drug.
The era, when NAFDAC deployed propaganda and noise making in the media, was long over. The Orhii leadership, consequent upon stepping in the saddle on January 13, 2009, had realised that Nigerians were tired of rhetoric and had moved to quickly and quietly set off a process of revolutionising the battle against fake medicines, which is the agency’s core mandate.
Mr. SUFUYAN OJEIFO, a journalist, wrote from Abuja.
Today, the Russian-trained pharmacologist and physician, biomedical scientist must be dancing to the quiet rhythm of his soul-seeing the mileage NAFDAC has covered under his watch.
The result of the process has been quite evident. Indeed, the agency is not sparing efforts in tackling counterfeit drugs that have inundated the country. But, this is not also to conclude that it is perfectly on top of the situation. It needs all the encouragements it can get to expand the frontiers of attack and put an end to the menace. In the meantime, the Orhii leadership must be commended for its devotion to the enterprise.
The enitre NAFDAC leadership must also be commended. It should be recalled that the agency recently proposed to the Presidency a N200 billion Pharmaceutical Intervention Fund, PIF, which is intended to aid the re-animation of the local pharmaceutical industry. This is, no doubt, part of the revolution that is geared towards bringing about positive growth and transformation of the industry.
The plan will enable the industry to meet the local demands for drugs as well as for exports. Significantly, also, the PIF initiative, which now has the imprimatur of President Goodluck Jonathan, as reported, is expected to create around 250,000 jobs for pharmacists and other stakeholders in the emergent industry.
This is the visible transformation trajectory on which Orhii has taken NAFDAC in the last three years and he is still pressing on. It must be clearly stated that NAFDAC has not completely won the battle against counterfeit drug, but it has so far put up a huge challenge. This is to encourage the Orhii leadership to continue with the revolution.