The recent certification of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as Maturity Level 3 regulatory agency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) came as a huge boost to the efforts of all stakeholders in the health sector towards bolstering the healthcare delivery system in Nigeria.
The development is an attestation to the fact that Nigeria can break new grounds with regards to health innovations, if the right steps are taken. According to NAFDAC, the attainment of 868 recommendations came with the approval to produce vaccines locally and many other positives for the Nigerian healthcare space.
It is interesting to know that the feat has placed Nigeria on a higher pedestal among nations eligible for inclusion in WHO’s list of prequalified regulatory authorities to be accorded global recognition for meeting international standards in drug manufacturing. Also, on the African continent, Nigeria can now stand with the three countries of Ghana, Tanzania and Egypt, as the few effective regulatory systems in the region.
Announcing the cheering news to journalists at a press conference in Abuja, the visibly elated Director General of NAFDAC, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, attributed the landmark achievement to years of assiduous efforts and collaboration among stakeholders within the health sector. She specially recognised the role of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), saying the feat would not have been aactualised without PCN’s unwavering commitment to regulation of pharmacists and pharmaceuticals in the country. This again underscores the importance of collaboration among stakeholders in the healthcare sector. It is the only way to birth more transformative solutions to the myriads of challenges hampering effective healthcare delivery in the country.
It is also noteworthy that the NAFDAC boss further explained that WHO certification is an indication that Nigeria has improved in clinical trials, international standard guidelines and procedures, regulatory inspection, laboratory listings, market control, and other regulatory operations. It is our belief that if these positive indices are sustained and consolidated, Nigeria will soon be able to produce medicines and vaccines that will not only serve the needs of the populace but will also thrive in the international market.
It would be recalled that the country was almost overwhelmed by the outbreak of contagious diseases, starting with the Ebola virus and culminating in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is certainly true, as many analysts have observed, that if the country had been properly harnessing its human and natural resources in the medical and pharmaceutical fields, finding a solution to the outbreaks would not have been so difficult. Nevertheless, this feat by NAFDAC comes with a massive ray of hope that serves as a pointer to imminent brighter days for the country’s health sector.
This notable achievement is also a major boost for the image of Nigeria, in general, and NAFDAC, in particular. Henceforth, any food or drug product endorsed by the agency has a better chance of commanding global recognition. Moreover, the development has further broadened the vaccine production capacity of the African continent, which currently boasts of less than ten vaccine manufacturing countries and relies on UNICEF for supplies to the tune of 1.5 billion doses.
As we applaud the NAFDAC DG and her team for their hard work and tenacity in achieving the Maturity Level 3 status and striving to meet the Level 4, we urge the agency not to rest on its oars in the pursuit of operational excellence. Additionally, this elevated status also places a greater burden on NAFDAC to be more scrupulous in its screening, approval and inspection processes, so that the greater confidence reposed in it will not be jeopardised by dishonest and opportunistic individuals. To whom much is given, much is also expected.
We also call on the federal government and all other stakeholders in the health sector to, as a matter of urgency, offer greater support to NAFDAC to enable the agency to attain the highest possible capacity in its regulatory activities, as well as in drugs and vaccines manufacturing certification level. This will undoubtedly position Nigeria as a major hub in health-related concerns.