Why `My pikin` producers want me in jail – NAFDAC DG
You have spent four months here at the top management of NAFDAC. How would you describe your experience so far? The past four months have been very challenging and rewarding. Challenging in the sense that we still have very many people out there who want to make huge profits at the expense of Nigerians’ lives, so, they will stop at nothing, even if it means bringing fake, counterfeit and outrightly inactive drugs to the market to sell. But also rewarding in the sense that Nigerians have been very cooperative. This is the only country in the world that I know where people thank you for doing your job. The job that you are paid to do, they still thank you for doing it. The Nigerian media has been very helpful in publicising what we are doing at NAFDAC.
What’s happening at the ports, what is NAFDAC doing to check the influx of fake drugs and other products?
Nigeria’s borders are extremely porous, we have vast borders.Nigeria is big and so we have so many borders that are not adequately policed. Even the few that we are able to man are poorly manned due to the shortage of staff and funds to appropriately man them. So it’s a big challenge and what we have decided to do now is what even the Americans are doing. America has discovered that it is more difficult to start tracking down these products when they are in your markets. So they have decided to go to the source, the stations where they are manufactured. They have stationed their staff in countries that produce most of their regulatory products and that is what we are trying to do now. We want to station our staff in countries like China, India that manufacture most of the products that we consume here in Nigeria. Those staff will gather information about the companies and their products and even give us advance notice about the products before they arrive at our shores. We could even have them track down the ships that are carrying these products so we know where to target, which borders to wait for these ships so that we can inspect them.
What kind of intelligence are you going to deploy? Are you going to use the normal intelligence or spying or what…?
No, no! Not spying on those products but they will be there on ground so they will know better about these companies. We will regularly do Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) of the facilities so we will have our staff to go there. We are working with the Americans who are favourably disposed to this approach because they have better staff who are more experienced. They have staff who are more equipped and better funded in these places so what we are asking from them is to share the information they gather about products that are intended for Nigerian markets with us. So far, they are favourably disposed. For instance, I intend to negotiate a similar information sharing arrangement with the Argentine agencies, with the Brazilian agencies, with the European Union agencies and with the Japanese regulatory agencies about the products.
When you say things like this, they are very beautiful to hear but we understand that within NAFDAC we have staff members who collaborate with some of these people who bring in fake products?
Well, corruption is something that is endemic all over the world, but especially, in African countries here, corruption has been one of our biggest problems. But even in advanced countries, people are corrupt, so you have to find a way to checkmate the people; otherwise, most people are corrupt all over the world. NAFDAC does not recruit its staff from heaven so we expect some bad eggs to be among us but once we discover them, we try to deal with them.
But have you discovered them since you came?
Not yet. I have not caught anybody right now. I am still surveying the situation.
But did your predecessor fire anybody for collaborating with the marketers of fake drugs? Anything like that in the handover notes?
I did not see any particular people fired, there were allegations made against some people.Some people were accused, we investigated and there was no evidence whatsoever to corroborate the allegations against the staff. Some of them had been suspended for more than six months. When I came in and we did detailed investigations for more than six months and we found nothing, we gave them the benefit of the doubt. Realising that we do a very difficult job, we are dealing with people who are determined, so they will go to any length, some of them will even try to kill you so they will stop at nothing, including blackmailing some of our staff. So when I don’t have concrete evidence, I give my staff the benefit of the doubt.
You talked of gangs, we call them gangs because your predecessor had a running battle with them. What has been your experience with them since you came? Have they come with heavy Ghana must-go to say Mr. DG we want you to take it easy with us, or have you traced them to their hideouts?
So far, nobody has threatened me and there have not been any inducements. Maybe they don’t know that I am here, but so far, we are chasing them around even right now. We are trying to purchase equipment that will enable us to detect within seconds.