That NAFDAC-media partnership for innovation
THE Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr Paul Orhii, is unarguably one of the nation’s high profiled public servants. He achieved this pre-eminence status through an uncommon commitment to the high-risk national assignment of Nigeria’s anti-drug counterfeiting czar from his assumption of office in 2009.
Dr. Orhii had come up with an action plan embedding the various strategies to fight counterfeit drugs and sub-standard food items/other NAFDAC-regulated products nationwide; periodically evaluate these strategies; and intervene in a most positive way possible through series of innovation initiatives.
Orhii’s intellectualised approach coupled with his competence has permanently changed the nation’s drug and food production, distribution and consumption scenario for the better for Nigerians and altered the negative perception of the world on the country. It is no wonder that the nation and former President Goodluck Jonathan endorsed the NAFDAC boss for a second term on December 30, 2014.
Twenty-one months into his second term, Dr. Orhii is once again fundamentally changing the face of the nation’s drug and food production template for the better through series of innovation strategies that will both consolidate the gains of past achievements and address fresh challenges. One of such latest strategies is robust partnership with the nation’s media, which he once described as “a strong pillar of support and partner”.
The agency’s partnership with the media is a strong statement on Dr. Orhii’s deep thought process. Specifically, the media play a pivotal role in the shaping and reshaping of the society. Behavioural norms of the people – perceptions, attitudes, etc – can be strengthened or re-orientated through an effective deployment of the media. This perspective is well captured by former President Abraham Lincoln in this quote: “With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.”
Orhii-driven NAFDAC has promoted good health in Nigeria by discouraging wrong conducts on the part of drug manufacturers, importers and distributors. Structures have been laid, facilities developed, and capacity built. What might be missing is putting in place the mechanisms for all the stakeholders to be well informed of the activities of the agency.
NAFDAC is bridging this gap through the promotion of media practitioners’ tours of its facilities nationwide. Just recently, a team of seasoned media practitioners in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones of the nation undertook such tour, aimed at acquainting the journalists with the agency’s operational structures and administrative capacities.
The development is NAFDAC’s strategic move to educate-the-educators in an attempt to make them better purveyors of the right information to the public.
Established in 1993 by Decree 15 of 1993 as amended by Decree 19 of 1999, which is now the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act Cap N1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, the agency is mandated to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, chemicals, detergents, medical devices and packaged water, etc.
It is obvious the agency would need the support of the nation’s media to succeed in the discharge of this onerous responsibility. To effectively utilise and harness the enormous benefits derivable from associating with the media, there is an inescapable need to adequately avail the practitioners with the full disclosure of the agency’s mode of operations. Dr. Orhii has not failed in this responsibility. I believe the agency has in place one of the nation’s best media-friendly template for robust interaction.
Complementing the media partnership are other innovation initiatives geared towards the same goal. They include the ‘Catching them Young Initiative’, which is built into the template of the NAFDAC Consumer Safety Club in secondary schools across the nation. It is aimed at imparting the culture of quality in the young students who, are in turn expected to propagate the value against fake drugs to their families and the general public.
There is also the agency’s partnership with NGOs, foundations, musicians, actors and actresses and youth corpers, who are branded the agency’s ambassadors or soldiers, all in an effort towards enlarging the partnership coast in its anti-drug abuse/trafficking sensitisation efforts.
In particular, the formal enlisting of corpers to be soldiers and ambassadors for a clean and safe Nigerian society in terms of delivering on wholesome foods and drugs is seen by the NAFDAC boss as “a landmark and remarkable achievement”. Why? According to Dr. Orhii, “youth coppers are found almost in every nook and cranny of the country and have the spread and reach to mark one-on-one contact with consumers in households, towns and cities of the country”.
I will not conclude this piece without mentioning Dr. Paul B. Orhii’s unparalleled deployment of cutting edge technologies in the agency’s anti-counterfeit drugs war. By the achievements made through this development using cost-benefit analysis, one would see the strategy as the most successful of all the innovation initiatives of the agency.
The deployment of Black Eye, which has the capacity to screen multiple drug samples at the same time to confirm their genuineness or otherwise; Radio Frequency Identification system (RFID) that can track and trace regulated foods and medicines and also prevent the forgery of sensitive documents; the Mobile Authentication Service (MAS), the world’s first anti-counterfeiting contraption which uses the SMS platform to confirm the true status of a drug, TruScan analyzer, a handy tool for detecting fake drug, and Deep Infra-red technology, has been confirmed to have reduced counterfeit anti-malaria drugs in circulation in Nigeria from 19.6 per cent in 2012 to 3.6 per cent in 2015.
Indeed, NAFDAC is winning the war against counterfeit drugs and sub-standard food, including other regulated products of the agency. However, with the partnership with the nation’s media, there is no hiding place for these merchants of death.
•Ikhilae, a Lagos-based public affairs analyst, wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org.