Akunyili


no country has been developed by outsiders. International relationships are simply not defined by sentimentalities but by cold, calculated self-interest. This is a lesson that African leaders refuse to learn. Outsiders might help, but it is the citizens of a country led by an intelligent leader with vision that develop nations.
Femi Akomolafe

Map of Ghana's Jubilee Field

Back in December the Vanguard published an editorial recording a conversation between Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information for Nigeria, and Venezuela’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell. There is much in Mr. Arrundell’s words that Ghanaians should take to heart.

Lessons from Venezuela
Dec. 4, 2009

VENEZUELAN Ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell, could not have offered his advice on Nigeria’s management of its petroleum resources at a better time. The anchor of government’s argument is that higher prices would draw foreign investors to the down stream sector of the industry.

Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information had solicited Venezuelan investments for our refineries.
Mr. Arrundell’s response was without diplomatese. He launched a profound lecture on Nigeria’s oil and gas.

“In Venezuela, since 1999, we’ve never had a raise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank. What I pay for with N12, 000 here (Nigeria), in Venezuela I’ll pay N400. What is happening is simple. Our President (Hugo Chavez) decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to Venezuelans. If you don’t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of foreigners.

“You have to have your own country. The oil is your country’s. Sorry I am telling you this. I am giving you the experience of Venezuela. We have 12 refineries in the United States, 18,000 gas stations in the West Coast. All we are doing is in the hands of Venezuelans.

“Before 1999, we had three or four foreign companies working with us. That time they were taking 80 per cent, and giving us 20. Now, we have 90 per cent, and giving them 10. But now, we have 22 countries working with us in that condition.

It is the Venezuelan condition. You know why? It is because 60 per cent of the income goes to social programmes. That’s why we have 22,000 medical doctors assisting the people in the community. The people don’t go to the hospital; doctors go to their houses. This is because the money is handled by Venezuelans. How come

Nigeria that has more technical manpower than Venezuela, with 150 million people, and very intellectual people all around, not been able to get it right? The question is: If you are not handling your resources, how are you going to handle the country?

“So, it is important that Nigeria takes control of her resources. We have no illiterate people. We have over 17 new universities totally free. I graduated from the university without paying one cent, and take three meals every day, because we have the resources. We want the resources of the Nigerian people for the
Nigerians. It is enough! It is enough, Minister!

Femi Akomolafe (his blog) adds some words of advice:

There are, however, some fundamental truths that we must begin to tell ourselves. First and foremost is the belief that we can continue to depend on other people’s (especially Western) charities for our development. I have said several times that no country has been developed by outsiders. International relationships are simply not defined by sentimentalities but by cold, calculated self-interest. This is a lesson that African leaders refuse to learn. Outsiders might help, but it is the citizens of a country led by an intelligent leader with vision that develop nations.

And as I have recounted several times in this very column, our five hundred or so years of “relationship” with the West has been to our utter detriment. We have nothing but slavery, colonialism, and the more pernicious neo-colonialism (aka imperialism) to show for it. We can also throw in the disease of rabid racism that still pervades the Western world.

And yet African leaders continue to parrot the same inanities about partnering with “developmental partners!”

In Ghana:

In the name of “investment,” the Western multinationals will bring in ancient equipment (tax free) to come and set up shop to extract our resources. To attract their “investments,” they are given tax breaks and other packages that made them pay their expatriate staff out-of-this-world salaries and emoluments. They will employ the brute force of our compatriots whilst their planes and helicopters are waiting to ship out our gold and diamonds in their raw state. For this they pay us a pittance in royalty and employ the best PR outfits who will dazzle us with enough razzmatazz to make us dizzy. A few years down the road, the mines are depleted, our land and environment polluted, and our people’s lives wretched. The wily Westerner is already outta the country.

This is the very sad story that keeps repeating itself year in year out and like mindless children, we seem not to learn any lesson. Since the overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah’s government in 1966, no government in Ghana has deemed it fit and proper to build a gold or diamond factory in order to add some value to them.

This has been our sad story and yet our leaders have stubbornly refused to learn a thing.

There is a law in this country against causing financial loss to the state and it is high time we start to use it seriously and effectively. How on earth can officials of our country, paid from the treasury of mother Ghana, and in this age and time, sign agreements with foreigners to cart away our crude oil unrefined for twenty years! What on earth informed that reckless decision? Who said that slavery is over? And please, what crime is that if not the criminal cause of financial loss to the state of Ghana?

There is a state-owned oil refinery at Tema that is in perennial struggle to get crude oil from Nigeria, and yet some unconscionable Ghanaians appended their signature to ship our oil to foreign refineries unrefined!

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Dora Akunyili is the Director General of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). She is known around the world, and particularly admired as a hero in Africa for her toughness and courage in her successful fight to rid Nigeria of counterfeit drugs. Her sister died due to fake drugs. Her office has been burned down, her laboratories vandalised, and her house broken into. She has even been shot at. When she started her job, about 80% of the drugs on the Nigerian market were fake. She has reduced that to 10%, which she still calls unacceptable.

NAFDAC has more information on her including the lengthy list of her awards.

She continues her courageous fight. More details about her biography and efforts are here:

Dora Akunyili’s battle against counterfeit food and medicines in Nigeria is removing dangerous fakes and saving lives. Although the struggle has nearly cost her own life, she is determined to fight on.

Dora Akunyili, director general of the Nigerian National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has been shot at, attacked, seen her office burned down, her laboratories vandalised and had her house broken into. She has been intimidated, harassed and blackmailed and her staff have been beaten up. Just last month, in an investigation at a market, her investigators and police were attacked and six cars were destroyed. But none of this has stopped her fight against counterfeit drugs.

Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)

Her worst day came on December 26 2003. Driving near her village, she was shot at from another car. A nearby bus driver was killed, and she narrowly survived: “The bullet scraped my back and burned my scalp like a hot water bottle.” The gunmen were later brought to trial and proven to have links with drug counterfeiters.

Since her appointment to NAFDAC in 2001, Akunyili – who has a PhD in pharmacology and still supervises graduate students at the College of Medicine – has tackled the threat of counterfeit drugs head on. When she started, about 80% of drugs in the market were fake, companies such as Boehringer, Merck and Sandoz had all withdrawn from the country, and local manufacturers were closing down because they could no longer compete. Worse, she says, the counterfeits were causing illness and disease: “People were dying like rats. My own sister died thanks to counterfeit insulin and that hit me. All families in Nigeria have experienced the effects of counterfeits.”

Akunyili was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo after developing a name for her honesty: in 1999, she was given £12,000 by her then employer for surgery in London, but when the surgery proved unnecessary she returned the money to the chief executive. He told her: “I did not know there were Nigerians with integrity.” Her reputation spread and one Sunday, out of the blue, she had a phone call from the president who said he wanted someone to clean up NAFDAC, the agency which regulates and controls the import, sale and advertising of all drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, processed food and drinks for Nigeria’s 131 million people. After initial confusion (“I thought it was a con-man”) she went to a meeting the following Tuesday and was given the job, even though “some ministers and politicians were very much against me because they wanted their own people”. Like many of the counterfeiters she fights, she comes from the Igbo tribe.

Today, the piracy rate for pharmaceuticals has come down to 10%, a figure that Akunyili says is “still unacceptable”. Although she says the campaign has “succeeded much more than we ever expected,” she thinks it is “realistic” to reduce the rate to single figures. The death rate in hospitals has fallen, multinationals are returning and 24 new drugs manufacturing outfits have been established. In the four-and-a-half years to September 2005, N10 billion ($80.5 million) worth of fake drugs and substandard products were destroyed and some 50 people convicted of fake drugs-related crimes in court. And, says Akunyili, the counterfeiters are on the run: “The hunter has become the hunted.”

NAFDAC’s extraordinary success in challenging the counterfeiting problem has come about more through determination and patience than through spectacular ideas. “Knowledge of the problem is half the solution,” says Akunyili, who introduced a NAFDAC number for all drugs and food products so that consumers know they are buying an authentic product. Advertising encourages them to check the number and expiry date. This simple measure saw the number of products without a NAFDAC number drop by 80% between 2002 and 2004.

The Agency has also focused on stopping counterfeits coming into the country. Since many come from India and China, the Agency now analyzes goods in those countries before they are exported. It works with importers and banks, and staff go to markets to buy samples and test them. NAFDAC also undertakes systematic surveillance at all entry points to the country. Factories producing drugs must be certified; market stalls are subject to inspection; hawkers on buses will be thrown off. Bakeries have been closed down for using potassium bromate as a bread improver while makers of fake vegetable oil and packaged water have been raided. Above all, Akunyili has made it clear that she will not tolerate any corruption within NAFDAC.

NAFDAC’s achievements have also brought personal recognition for Akunyili: last year she was the sole recipient of the Grassroot Human Rights Campaigner Award from the Human Rights Defence organization in London and was also presented with the 2005 industrial award by the International Pharmaceutical Federation in Cairo, Egypt. Her CV lists a further 260 awards and recognitions given to her in Nigeria and overseas.

NAFDAC’s work demonstrates how developing countries can tackle counterfeiters. But, says Akunyili, further work needs to be done. In particular, the law needs to be strengthened as drugs counterfeiting remains more attractive to criminals than gun running or cocaine dealing. Recent efforts have also focused on addressing the problem throughout the west Africa region: many counterfeiters who were driven out of Nigeria initially fled to Congo. A forum of west African drugs authorities was held in Abuja three months ago to ensure that “counterfeiters will not find a safe haven anywhere”.