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Of NAFDAC, Orhii and in-house dissenters




THE National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control’s (NAFDAC) internal cohesion and inner peace have once again come under serious test, no thanks to the activities of some elements purported to have an axe to grind with its irrepressible Director General, Dr. Paul Orhii, seemingly for the pursuit of enlightened self interests.

The development naturally may be shocking to many given its novelty – no staffer of the agency has had any cause to go public with perceived acts of injustice in the six years Dr. Orhii has been on its driver’s seat, not to talk of publicly rubbishing his integrity. The English playwright, William Shakespeare, effusively captured the inscrutability of the human nature in one of his popular quotes: “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.”

This is the context I situate the group that recently mobilised some youths to march to the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abuja to demand the resignation of its chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Larmode. Mr. Olusegun Mogbojuri, NAFDAC’s erstwhile Director of Accounts and Finance had petitioned the anti-graft agency alleging acts of impropriety against his boss. On the surface, such an action is within the ambit of any organisation’s operational framework. NAFDAC is, therefore, not an exception. However, the petition is coming against the backdrop of the fact that the petitioner is being redeployed from the head office to the agency’s training school in Kaduna as its director.

In principle, Nigeria needs anti-corruption crusaders to give fillip to the ethical agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to rid the country of corruption in all its ramifications. However, the country does not need emergency anti-corruption crusaders deploying selective perception for self-serving agenda. Mr. Mogbojuri, in the method deployed to prosecute his cause, exposes himself to serious ethical and professional scrutiny.

For instance, why did he wait until now and after his redeployment to blow the lid off the alleged unsavoury developments in NAFDAC when the man against whom he petitioned has been at the helms of affairs since 2009? Again, why did he have to force the hands of Mr. Lamorde, the EFCC boss, who apparently ignored his petition for lack of merit?

If Mr. Mogbojuri’s main reason for petitioning against Dr. Orhii is his deployment from the head office to a low profile one in Kaduna, his action should be condemned by all discerning Nigerians. By his action, he is ready to pull down an institution as great as NAFDAC and thus in the process strip it of its all important credibility necessary to command the respect and even the awe of Nigerians, international community and the social vermin that drug traffickers and adulterators have become.

Anywhere in the world, periodic redeployment of organisation’s staff is an organic part of its modus operandi. The NAFDAC is a well-structured organisation with layers of authority. In its directorate, Dr. Paul Orhii as the Director General is the Chief Executive Officer. In the agency’s scheme of things, he reserves the right to undertake strategic staff redeployment to enhance organisational efficiency.

It, therefore, smacks of insolence for any member of staff, no matter how highly placed, to resist such redeployment. When a staffer resists redeployment at all cost, in order to remain permanently at a particular duty post, it raises suspicion in that department. It makes it more compelling for such a member of staff to be re-assigned by the authorities.

Such unconscionable act is being addressed by NAFDAC as a corporate entity in a concerted effort. Two things are clear from this concerted organic action. First, the entire body of the agency’s work force has passed a vote of confidence on their DG, Dr. Orhii – he still has their trust. And secondly, the intended objective of whipping up anti-Orhii sentiments with a view to causing unnecessary friction within the organisation has failed.

Part of the statement issued by NAFDAC read: “NAFDAC is aware of orchestrated plot to throw mud at it by certain interests whose trade in unwholesome food and counterfeit drugs had been affected by proactive actions of Dr. Orhii towards ensuring that unwholesome food and counterfeit drugs become history in Nigeria. We are, therefore, not surprise that these allegations are coming up from a director, who is already disgruntled and finding ways of hitting back at the agency and (its) chief executive.

“We wish to state categorically that these allegations are baseless, false, misleading and frivolous because nothing of such happened under the watch of Dr. Paul Orhii as Director General of NAFDAC.

“It is (a) curious paradox that the so called Director of Finance and Accounts who has been superintending over contract awards, payments and other due processes since 2010 would now turn around to make such false and disparaging allegations against the chief executive just when he was redeployed to another directorate…”

The local chapter of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) of the agency, reacting to the development, dismissed the allegations as frivolous and baseless. NAFDAC’s Director, Special Duties, Abubakar Jimoh, also rising to the defence of his boss, asserted that Mogbojuri’s action could “derail the focused administration in its quest to safeguard the health of the nation.”

I am aware a coalition of groups, African Arise for Change Network on the War Against Corruption in Nigeria, has alerted that saboteurs have planned to overwhelm anti-corruption agencies by sending them on wild goose chase through petitions that have no substance. Is this the sentinel in a long list that would be thrown in the way of these agencies to distract the anti-corruption fight? Are proceeds from counterfeit drug barons now being deployed on rent-a-crowd stratagem to call for leadership change at Federal Government agencies, including those fighting graft? What implications will this have on the zero tolerance of the hard fighting Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government against corruption? Frivolous petitions would only serve to distract the focus of the anti-corruption bodies, waste valuable man-hour, dissipate resources and kill interest in pursuing future cases.

These agencies could also lose public sympathy as they will then be accused of being used for witch-hunting. This, apparently, is the expected outcome among those kicking up the dust. One must emphasise that without prejudice to the need to crush corruption, there must be concerted national effort to discourage the hit jobs being undertaken by disgruntled elements.

Sadly, wrecking the integrity of NAFDAC for personal score could boomerang on the economy of Nigeria as foreign nations could use the petition as a basis for measuring the efficiency of the agency as a regulator. A direct consequence would be the loss of confidence in the wholesomeness of the consumable goods from our small and medium scale enterprises, which will in turn frustrate ongoing efforts to diversify the economy.

Dr. Orhii must refuse to be distracted this time around. He has proved to be a survivalist. If past efforts at rubbishing him only make him stronger, draw positive attention to him locally and internationally, this current effort will pass away this same way. Nigerians appreciate his good work in NAFDAC, and even the federal authorities are not unmindful of his positive strives in the agency.

• Martins F.O. Ikhilae, a Lagos-based public affairs analyst, wrote via and can be reached on 08023405821 (SMS only)

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  • benny agafa