The Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mojisola Adeyeye, has said the removal of its agency officials from the ports led to the influx of substandard drugs into the country.
According to the DG, between 2011 and 2018, NAFDAC was removed from ports thereby resulting in massive importation of drugs, as ‘cabals’ took over.
Mrs Adeyeye stated this while defending the 2022 budgetary allocation to her agency before the House Committee on Health Services on Thursday.
In 2011, the federal government ordered NAFDAC and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to vacate the ports, as part of efforts to decongest them.
However, the agency was asked to return to the ports in 2018.
At the budget defence session, Mrs Adeyeye stated that NAFDAC ought to be inspecting commodities that fall within its mandate. She noted that the absence of the agency led to ‘cabals’ taking advantage of the situation to flood Nigeria with substandard goods.
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Adeyeye, disclosed this while defending the agency’s 2022 budget before the House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Services, led by Tanko Sununu
She said: “This is what we sleep with and wake up with in terms of making sure that the health of our people is safe guarded.
“From 2011 to May 16, 2018, NAFDAC was removed from the ports and we are supposed to be controlling and regulating what is imported and what is exported.
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“For seven years we were absent and cabals were formed. We cannot undo the cabals over night.
“That is why it has been extremely challenging for the last three and half years.
“The federal task force is domiciled in NAFDAC, we are putting alot of money on enforcement.
“We have a multiprone approach to mitigating substandard and falsified medicines. Some of the ones that have NAFDAC numbers are falsified.
”For example, we gave NAFDAC number for three products and from a pharmacy outlet, we found out that a product was thickened and we had to go to the place.
“It is a medium size company and we found out that they have cloned our NAFDAC number for 3 products to 7 products. That is how much we have to run after ourselves.
“But we have ten thousand drug products and about 80 to 90 percent of what you see are NAFDAC regulated, but some of them are not. Let us look at our porous borders.
“We are surrounded by about five or six countries and there is no guard in terms of regulation of the borders.
“We need staff. We have 2118 staff now and we need more staff at the borders.
“We don’t have enough men and women to guard our borders. But what are we doing? We went right into the heart of the problem which is China and India.
“Before now, there were loopholes in terms of testing the products that comes into our market. We have decreased that significantly.
“Over 95 percent of the fake products coming into our country are from India and China. I read them the riot act and we have got so much success in terms of things coming in.
“But that is one way when coming in through the port, but the borders is another valid entry point.
”We have tidied our CRIA (Clean Report Inspection Analyst) in India and China.
“We went there, gave them what we need for the Laboratories because before now, they will tell you that they can test anything when they don’t even have the equipment.
“We have done that and have success. But we still have alot of work to do.”
She said NAFDAC needs more staff at the borders while lamenting the porous nature of Nigeria’s border corridor.
“We have 2,118 staff now. We need more staff at the borders. We do not have enough men and women to guard our borders,” the DG added.
Asked by the Chairman of the committee when last the agency conducted post-marketing surveillance study nationwide, Adeyeye said it was in 2012, a response that was not palatable to the committee.
Speaking on the issue raised by the DG, the Chairman of the Committee, Tanko Sununu (APC, Kebbi), tasked the agency to do more market surveillance in a bid to rid markets of substandard drugs.
Mr Sununu said the agency should develop multiple approaches to market surveillance.
“2012 is too far. If you are not going to be on guard, that is not good. When you do doing marketing survey, you have the right to enter any pharmacy, pick any product and subject it to study.
“You know your source from there because he knows where he is getting the supply. I think if we are waiting from 2012 till now which is about 8 years now, that is not good enough.
”We all agree that we can work outside, but we should be vigilant locally especially for those that can come through our porous borders.
“We should be able to go and study one because you have the batch number and everything you need.
“So, from your study, you can declare the product unsafe and we can work with that. If we have a multiple approach, the canal you are saying will know that the country is ready to checkmate them.
“If we are slow about it and allow it to be sold, then there is a serious issue. I think NAFDAC should get ready to do that,” Sununu said.