NAFDAC: Promoting robust scientific education
As a technology driven agency, NAFDAC has seven hi-tech laboratories equipped strategically spread across the nation’s six geopolitical zones. Each of the seven major facilities houses laboratories for different purposes. There is a cosmetic laboratory for testing baby powder, toilet soap, creams etc; food registration Laboratory with Fume Chamber for analysing fumes from organic solvents; Food Compliance Laboratory with Ion Exchange Chromatography (IEC); Medical Devices Laboratory for testing condoms, syringes, hand gloves, diapers etc; Farm Control Laboratory; Instrument Laboratory; Pharmaci-Chemical Laboratory for analysing herbal products; Pharmaceutical Control Laboratory; Pharmacognosy Laboratory; Microbiology Laboratory; Pesticide Formulation Laboratory for checking the kind of pesticide used on food and analysing the fertiliser farmers use; Water Laboratory; Alcoholic Beverage Laboratory etc. The biggest of the laboratories is the Zonal Laboratory in Agulu, Anambra State, which was commissioned on October 15, 2010 by former President Goodluck Jonathan. The spacious facility has 10 different laboratories. All the laboratories have well-trained personnel to make them work efficiently.
Five of these facilities have got international accreditation, mainly from the USA. They include the Mycotoxin and Pesticide Residues laboratories located at Oshodi in Lagos; and the Central Drug Control Laboratory in Yaba, Lagos. The other two are Food Compliance Laboratory with Ion Exchange Chromatography (IEC and High Performance Liquid Chromatography Laboratory (HPLC) located within Oshodi used for analyzing vitamins.
The Mycotoxin and Pesticide Residues laboratories were accredited by the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation in November 2013, when they obtained the ISO 17025 certification. Again in January 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) presented an international accreditation known as ISO/IEC 17025: 2005 to the Central Drug Control Laboratory, Yaba for quality monitoring of pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.
The accreditation project, which was supervised by United Nations Industrial Development (UNIDO), helped launched the two laboratories into the league of internationally recognized and respected laboratories, a development that has given global acceptance to NAFDAC regulated products tested and certified. What this means in simple terms is that all products analyzed for export purposes by the two laboratories would carry a special ISO logo, thus making the commodities accepted all over the world.
Again in January 2015, the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) presented an international accreditation known as ISO/IEC 17025: 2005 to the Yaba, Lagos Central Drug Control Laboratory of NAFDAC for quality monitoring of pharmaceutical products in Nigeria. It is the first government-owned laboratory to attain such accreditation, which gives it the capacity to test both locally manufactured and imported pharmaceutical products. During the presentation of the certificate in Lagos by Mission Director, USAID Nigeria, Mr. Michael Harvey, he described the accreditation as one critical milestone that re-established Nigeria as an original super producers and distributors of pharmaceutical products.
What is quite revealing here is that the regulatory agency is well placed to take up this added responsibility of mentoring the critical manpower needed in food and drug administration and control in Nigeria. The agency’s modern facilities have become very handy for a nation bereft of the needed facilities in its higher institutions of learning. We have Dr. Paul Orhii to thank for his foresight and innovativeness. Under his watch, NAFDAC spearheaded global efforts in the use of technologies to fight counterfeiting. For this, TRUSCAN, Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) and Radio Frequency Identification etc, were introduced and deployed in the fight against counterfeit drugs in the country. Now, he is directing his energy to giving relevant knowledge to our teeming population of students in laboratory science, medical and pharmaceutical sciences, and even biological and micro biological sciences that will drive the processes needed to make Nigeria Africa’s hub for food and drug production and distribution.
Interestingly, the authorities of the nation’s participating higher institutions have attested to the value added to knowledge of the students during their industrial training at the agency’s facilities. They described the knowledge as priceless. They also reported the students exhibited remarkable improvement in their understanding of practical laboratory analyses, which invariably are typical of science-oriented disciplines where commitment, interest, suitable research environment as well as modernized facilities are required to bring about the necessary impressive results.
NAFDAC’s Deputy Director in NAFDAC and Head of the agency’s South-East zonal laboratories in Agulu, Mr. Charles Nwachukwu, disclosed while playing host to a team of media executives that the agency’s new role was consistent with the sustainability policy of his boss, Dr. Orhii, who he said had shown remarkable zeal in not only sustaining the legacies of his predecessor, but also building on them to assure its continuing relevance to the nation.
He maintained that the agency’s current leadership zeal for sustainability had kept its workforce happy and productive, adding that the staff were happy to be part of the lofty process of safeguarding the health of the nation, and whose policies and facilities are geared towards creating a better, healthier and stronger Nigeria. For Mr. Nwachukwu, in NAFDAC “there is no Nigerian factor, we are business-minded, we have our goals and the agency’s leadership is bent on achieving these goals. Indeed, these laboratories built and located across the country have certainly become a beehive of activities.”
There is no doubt that the training and education the students have received will make them more ready to face the challenges of future working life and make them more confident in themselves. There is no doubt the nation would be better for it.
I dare say NAFDAC’s inputs into Nigeria’s socio-economic and industrial advancement cannot be underestimated. Science, they say, is the bedrock of modern society. For NAFDAC to be living up to expectations in training the present and future manpower in the area of food and drug administration and control, Nigeria’s continuing economic diversification and growth are assured.
More importantly, NAFDAC is saving for the nation its hard earned foreign currencies that could have gone into overseas training for our youth students.
• Ikhilae, a Lagos-based public affairs analyst, wrote via email@example.com