From a reporters point of view Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “the world makes way for a man who knows”. This saying has been perpetually ringing around the globe decades ago since it was made by that literary man of letters. Nevertheless, that saying comes to mind whenever the name of Dr. Paul Orhii is mentioned in the national discourse.
This is truly a man who knows and the world has truly made way for him wherever he has gone and is still making way for him as Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). This is a man who came from humble beginnings in the rural country of Benue State. Dr Paul Orhii went through the arduous travails of institutionalized education to become a man who has combined an inherent zeal and enthusiasm to better the self via self-development with resilient industry. Dr Paul Orhii, a progressive individual with a pragmatic philosophy towards life brought that work ethic to bear when he was appointed into the hallowed and beleaguered position of Director General of NAFDAC upon the expiration of the tenure of the erstwhile D.G. This is no other person but the late Dr Dora Akunyili who left shoes only a mythical giant could fill in lieu of her outstanding stewardship as a reformer. Dr Paul though diminutive has risen to fill those shoes.
It is apparent that only a few agencies in our country Nigeria have ever enjoyed continuity in lieu of the popularized trend where an incoming administration overhauls and embarks on a total paradigm shift from the previously established policies, projects and programmes of its forebears. This shredding and discarding of already established policies, programmes and projects of a previous administration is carried out by an incoming administration for various reasons; the most obviously salient is in order to eliminate any means by which the erstwhile administration will get any accolades or meritorious service medals for a job well done. So what we now have is the Egyptian principle of “erasing all records of a past pharaoh from every obelisk in the land”—Let none have a name but me in the halls of history.
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Nevertheless, NAFDAC will go down in history as the first agency in Nigeria that experienced a smooth transition and exchange of batons from one administration to the next with the attendant seamless continuation of all programmes, policies and projects of the past administration upon the assumption of Dr. Paul Orhii into the office of D.G. Dr. Paul Orhii has cast aside all selfish interests and has focused all his energy into catapulting NAFDAC from the amiable heights it was placed by his predecessor, to loftier heights as the premier drug regulatory agency in Africa and into the top 10 food and drug regulatory agencies in the world. It should nevertheless be noted that it has not been so popularized that NAFDAC is now ranked among the top 20 food and drug regulatory agencies in the world under the stewardship of Dr. Paul Orhii—well, it goes to show that good news doesn’t go as far as bad news.
The Story of NAFDAC cannot be told without a lingering bitter taste in the mouth of the story teller. This is true because irrespective of all the accolades hauled upon NAFDAC both locally and internationally in addition to all the landmark achievements of the agency, NAFDAC has been perpetually besieged by the drug cartels who wouldn’t blink to put Nigerians in harm’s way to get their bloodstained pot of gold—the cash money. The agency has daily confrontations with various drug cartels that see NAFDAC as the only road block to their ill-conceived schemes of flooding the Nigerian market with counterfeit and substandard food amd drugs. Nevertheless, NAFDAC has always come out victorious irrespective of bruises and cuts sustained on the battlefield to keep Nigerians safe and healthy. These organized crime cartels are resilient and resourceful in their bid to outwit and destroy the various systems used by the agency to cripple their smuggling and counterfeiting trade via advanced technology systems. An instance of such can be seen in the case of NAFDAC versus Biodun Ilesanmi, a trader who was arraigned before the Federal High Court, Lagos for willfully obstructing NAFDAC officials who were on lawful inspection duty at the popular Mile 12 Market.
Ilesanmi is obviously a member of the ruthless cartels and sought to prevent members of the agency’s Federal Task Force on Counterfeit, Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods from ascertaining the genuineness of food products sold in the market. This is an act that is blatantly in contravention of Section 2 (1)(a) and is punishable under 11 (2) of the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap C34, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Ilesanmi sure chose a worng day to mess with the wrong agency as his offence is also an offence in violation of Section 25 of NAFDAC Act, Cap N1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Even though he pleaded not guilty in court, we all know his game is up and should be booking space at the infamous Kirikiri Prison. This is not where the harassment stops as it will be recalled that NAFDAC officials were attacked by hoodlums and traders this month at various locations in Lagos during a raid in relation to suspected fake and unregistered vegetable oil in circulation. As if that was not enough, a female staff of the Agency and mobile policeman attached to one of the teams were physically assaulted at the instigation of the accused. This is just one of the many incidences of confrontations with agents under the patronage and sponsorship of clandestine drug smuggling and counterfeiting cartels. But be not afraid as NAFDAC under Dr. Paul Orhii has remained resilient and incorrigible in the face of these enemies of the Nigerian people.
One of the most catchy attributes of the man Paul Orhii is his tech savvy disposition—an attribute that is a scarce among people of his generation. Dr Paul Orhii is a man who is well aware of the significance of ICT systems and solutions to any results driven organization in the 21st century and this has given birth to his positioning of NAFDAC in the forefront of e-solutions for drug verification and authentication such as the innovative Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) which has been widely acclaimed by Nigerians. In addition to the ICT solutions for improving the regulatory mandate of the agency, NAFDAC has a series of television, radio, print, online and non-legacy media advertising for ensuring that the populace continue to be kept abreast with live information and, education on issues concerning food and drug safety. All these multi-media faces of NAFDAC were instituted by Dr. Paul Orhii in lieu of his appreciation of the imperative of electronic and internet media technologies as priceless tools for information dissemination and social interaction.
Somebody once said “if it doesn’t make money it doesn’t make sense”. This is also true in the narrative of NAFDAC’s achievements under the stewardship of Dr. Paul Orhii. The story of NAFDAC under the current D.G will never make sense if NAFDAC has not made any improvements on revenue generation for the tax payers—Nigerians. Thus, it is interesting to know that from a previous internally generated revenue of N2.5billion upon his assumption of office, Dr Paul initiated modalities and processes which have birthed an increment of revenue over the course of four years. This is an awesome feat considering that three years ago the agency accrued more than N6 billion, and this figure moved up to about N7 billion in 2014 with a projection of a revenue of N9 billion for the year 2015. These figures will make Sherlock smile.
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In the area of staff capacity building, the agency under the current D.G has scored an ‘A’ in the training and retraining of staff to meet up to global standardization benchmarks for excellence and productivity. This is in line with the vision of Dr Paul Orhii to position NAFDAC as the leading regulatory agency in Nigeria and into the top 10 drug and food regulatory agencies in the world—this can only be achieved with a world class human resource base. We all know, soldiers cannot excel without robust barracks and this is why the agency under Dr Paul has also transformed its infrastructural orientation with the pooling of resources to build laboratories and facilities in places where they hitherto had none. The enforcement office in Apapa falls into the category of such projects that have created conducive work environment for staff. The agency’s laboratory that was destroyed by an inferno in 2004 was rebuilt as well as the rehabilitation of structures that have become dilapidated in other locations. Furthermore, the drug laboratory in Yaba was designated as the Centre of Excellence in Africa after it was so refurbished from its dilapidated state. The upgrade to these facilities with staff training has earned the agency several international accreditations and recognition.
Dr Orhii will also leave an enduring legacy by his pioneering decision to secure land in the FCT for the construction of the agency’s national headquarters in order to reinforce public confidence and enhance the esteem of the organization. All these modalities instituted under the patronage of Dr. Paul Orhii has helped in making Nigerian made drugs widely acceptable in the domestic amd sub-regional markets with the reinforced confidence of the public on the authenticity and quality of made-in-Nigeria food and drug products under the watchful eye of NAFDAC. All these will show that the man knows his way and has forged ahead to make a way for us to thread with confidence—the cap goes off for the man: Paul Orhii.
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