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President Tinubu must come to NAFDAC's aid

NAFDAC

NAFDAC

By Isa Isawade

There are serious concerns that some highly placed manufacturers of banned products in Nigeria such as sachet and pet bottled alcoholic drinks in connivance with some compromised federal lawmakers are bent on frustrating the efforts of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) toward ridding the country of dangerous substances.

NAFDAC, with effect from February 1st, 2024, commenced enforcement of the ban on manufacture, importation, and sales of alcohol packaged in sachets and pet bottles.

Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director General, NAFDAC, said the ban was necessary to protect the health and welfare of children, youths, and other vulnerable groups.

She said that the Minister of Health placed the ban in 2018 but in order to also protect the interest of the manufacturers, a 5-year period of grace was allowed before its implementation.

“We tried to protect the market, and that was why we agreed to a five-year moratorium for the manufacturers to phase out alcoholic drinks in sachets and pet bottles in December 2018,” Prof. Adeyeye said.

She added that it was “a ministerial directive and not unilaterally made by NAFDAC, and the expiration of those five years has come.”

Adeyeye lamented that despite the agreement on the ban on alcohol in sachets and pet bottles, it was shocking to NAFDAC that the campaign from manufacturers was mounting.

The DG said her agency was not against the production of alcoholic drinks but alcohol in sachets and pet bottles, to ward off children from unnecessary access.

According to her, “The World Health Organisation had a resolution in 2010, in which Nigeria was a co-signer, that each country will have alcohol that is less reachable and less accessible to the youth, and nothing has been done about that until now.

“It is very unfortunate we are where we are now because the children who are used to taking alcohol will also become vulnerable to drug abuse.”

She added that as a result of the alcohol in sachets, about 30 per cent of underage children consume it.

She said “It is a response to the growing concerns about the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption, particularly among the youth who are the primary consumers of these sachet and small bottle alcoholic beverages.

“Children who drink alcohol are more likely to use drugs, get bad grades, suffer injury or death, engage in risky sexual activity, make bad decisions, and have health problems.”

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However, in a twist of event, the same manufacturers who had agreed with NAFDAC on the 5-year moratorium to enable them exhaust their stocks came round to stage protests as soon as the agency announced enforcement.

A few days later, rather than give necessary support to the agency in its efforts to protect the health of the nation, the House of Representatives rushed to a plenary session and passed a resolution asking NAFDAC to suspend the ban!

The House adduced as part of its reasons for ordering the suspension the timing which it said was inappropriate “given the fact that the economy is struggling, unemployment rate is staggering, and inflation rate is soaring while the poverty level is on the increase with paucity of forex to do business”.

But discerning observers have kept asking whether allowing access to what has been gradually destroying the lives of our most productive population is a solution to the economic hardship and the inflation the House has given as its reasons.

An elder statesman who felt concerned that the wheel of progress NAFDAC has been making is being put on the reverse by a connivance between unscrupulous manufacturers and some selfish federal legislators.

He lamented: “Legislators who might have been bribed are trying to impose their will. This is inimical to the well-being of Nigerians.

“NAFDAC needs Ministerial support in its efforts to do what is right. But the Ministers also await Presidential backing! It is terrible that the system does not offer robust and prompt backing to those doing the right thing. I pray the press will intervene.

Another concerned Nigerian who is a notable entrepreneur bemoaned the unhelpful constant policy reversal that has become the hallmark of governance in Nigeria and told a pathetic story of underhand dealings among the so-called manufacturers and the lawmakers championing their unpatriotic cause.

According to him, “It is this type of inconsistency in our policies and laws that worry entrepreneurs and investors the most. A few weeks ago, NAFDAC also announced a ban on the importation of syringes which hit me personally in the gut. At one of the meetings I had at NAFDAC headquarters in Isolo, a Director intimately involved with the process, told me that the instructions to ban syringes were gleaned from the same press release every other citizen read in the newspapers and that there wasn’t an official document or Memorandum from the Ministry of Health mandating a ban!

“The Director said the same crude machination had been employed when a former Minister of Health banned the importation of codeine on a whim, a few years ago. NAFDAC simply resumed granting companies the right to import Codeine when a new Minister had come into power!

“The Director had advised me to band together with other pharmaceutical companies— and approach the Senate or House of Representatives to demand hearings and a temporary injunction!

“The Director said we should be prepared to “pay the piper” and that assuredly we would get results! He then shared a couple of phone numbers of two committee members that were approachable, claiming they were the ones who were going to reverse the alcohol in sachet ban in the future.

“Well, the future is now. Nigeria, I hail thee, my own dear native land!”

Other Nigerians who are watching the unfolding events with bated breath are simply calling on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to write his name in gold by giving all the presidential and ministerial interventions and backing the agency needs to rescue Nigeria and Nigerians from the claws of the heartless cartels and their legislative collaborators.

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