Nafdac; Ensuring Sanity In Nigeria’s Agri-Food Value Chain.
Established in October 1992, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is the regulatory body that controls the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of Food, Drugs, Cosmetics, Medical Devices, Packaged Water, Chemicals and Detergents in Nigeria.
NAFDAC was inspired by a 1988 World Health Assembly resolution requesting countries to help in combatting the global health threat posed by counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and amidst growing concerns about the growing problem of fake and poorly-regulated drugs in Nigeria. In December 1992, NAFDAC’s first Governing Council was formed, chaired by Ambassador Tanimu Saulawa. In January 1993, supporting legislation was approved as legislative Decree No. 15 of 1993, and January 1, 1994 NAFDAC was officially established, as a “parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Health”. It replaced an earlier Federal Ministry of Health body, the Directorate of Food and Drug Administration and Control, which had been deemed ineffective, largely due to a lack of laws concerning fake drugs. The latest law that grants NAFDAC its legal authority is the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act Cap N1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004.
Structure and management
Over the years, NAFDAC has greatly evolved in structure and quality of services rendered to the public. At inception, the Agency had 9 Departments which became 12 and now there are 18 Directorates with 8 zonal Offices (6 geopolitical zones, Federal Capital Territory; FCT, and Lagos State Office), all headed by Directors. There are also offices in the 36 states of the Federation and 7 quality control laboratories around the country.
The governmental organization’s head office is located in Abuja while the operation office sits in Lagos. Leadership of the Agency’s overall functions which include administration and control of regulated products is directly under the Director General, who is currently Prof Moji Christianah Adeyeye. Adeyeye was handed the leadership mantle in November 2017 succeeding Mrs. Yetunde Oni, who had attained the 60 years retirement age. A Director General is appointed by the President based on the recommendation of the Health Minister. The appointment is for a 5-year term, with a possible reappointment for strictly one more term.
There are six offices in the Director-General’s Office supervised by Director Special Duties and Special Assistant. There is also a Lagos Liaison Office located at NAFDAC Administrative Office in Isolo, Lagos State manned by Special Assistant and two Technical Assistants in charge of Food & Stakeholders and Research & Special Projects.
The organization has a Governing Council currently chaired by Yusuf A. Suleiman who is appointed by the President on the Minister’s recommendation. Members of the Governing Council hold office for a four-year term and are eligible for reappointment for only one more 4-year tenure.
Regulatory role in the food sector
Majorly known for its oversight in the medical field, NAFDAC also stretches its arms to the food sector making certain that all food present in Nigeria is of the highest quality. This is achieved through vigorous regulatory activities including inspection of production facilities, sampling, laboratory evaluation, post marketing surveillance, enforcement etc. The regulator has a Directorate known as Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN) Directorate which ensures that food manufactured, imported, exported, distributed, sold, advertised and used in Nigeria meet the highest standard of food safety that is reasonably achievable. FSAN has put in place a framework to align with the Agency’s vision to remain among the top 18 Regulatory Agencies of the world.
The Directorate, also headed by a Director, is divided into seven divisions including Food Evaluation, Food Inspection, MSM & Agricultural Products, Food Safety/Codex/ Food Policy & Reg/National Food Safety Mgt Committee, Food Storage & Quick Service Restaurants, Packaged Water, and Bakery & Baked Products Division. In collaboration with the Laboratory Services (LS) Directorate, it carries out safety evaluation of all processed foods, food supplements, water, food additives and related products to ensure they meet the highest standards before pre-market authorization or use. The LS Directorate is the arm of the Agency that investigates and makes pronouncements on the quality, safety, efficacy and wholesomeness of regulated products both imported and locally manufactured.
FSAN also conducts Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspections of food and water establishments, quick service restaurants and bakeries. It ensures that regulations and policies governing the safety of food and food products are current and implemented to guarantee food safety. Besides implementation, it also assures that policies, standards and guidelines for novel foods, functional foods, supplements including genetically modified food and new food additives are developed. Further, FSAN conducts regulatory and research programs to address health risks associated with food borne ailment, physical, chemical, and biological contaminants in food and related products.
The regulator conducts industry outreach, consumer education and stakeholders meeting to provide information and for meaningful engagement. In addition, it shields consumers from unfair practices, through a fair and effective food, water and related products regulatory regime for foods made in Nigeria, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and International markets. It is the NAFDAC Directorate that promotes and coordinates the activities of International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).
NAFDAC has a directorate known as Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN) directorate which ensures that food manufactured, sold and used in Nigeria meets the highest standard of food safety that is reasonably achievable.
Detection and elimination of substandard and unwholesome food
This is the crux of NAFDAC’s regulatory activities hence the Agency has been highly proactive and vigilant in this regard. It brings together almost all the technical Directorates, namely Investigation and Enforcement, Ports Inspection, Laboratory Services, Chemical Inspections, and Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. In its determined effort to combat substandard as well as unwholesome foods, the Agency has deployed multifaceted strategies. Some of the strategies include; reduction in number of registered imported products, encouraging local manufacturing and innovation, and overhaul of Pre-Shipment Clean Report of Inspection and Analysis of imported food products and other NAFDAC Regulated Products. Other similar measures include deployment of cutting-edge monitoring technologies, risk-based laboratory testing, public enlightenment on substandard foods, Inter-Agency, Inter-Professional Collaboration and Community Efforts and continuous Post-Marketing monitoring of quality of foods.
To act as a reference point to food manufacturers and be regarded as official government documents, in 2021, NAFDAC’s Governing Council gazetted some regulations including Cocoa and Cocoa Products Regulation, Food Additives Regulations, Food Fortification Regulations, Food Irradiation Regulations, among others.
Thanks to Adeyeye’s efforts, the agency managed to resume its activities at the Nigerian ports in 2018. This coupled with rigorous inspection and enforcement activities, has so far led to the seizure and destruction of substandard and unwholesome foods and other unregulated products worth US$9.69 million in exercises across the nation.
Community engagement and enlightenment
Public awareness campaign is one of the veritable regulatory mechanisms put in place by NAFDAC to promote and protect the health of the Nigerian population. NAFDAC continues to engage and enlighten the public on its activities about their health. In the past four years, the Agency has engaged eighteen media partners which include four television houses and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). As per the Director General’s mantra, “A well informed, sensitized and educated citizenry is the bedrock of effective regulation.”
The watchdog has incessantly sensitized the public on the dangers of using certain chemicals in food including using potassium bromate to bake bread, use of Azo-dyes in palm oil which causes cancer and using Sniper or formalin to preserve any type of food or to keep flies away from meat. It has also held workshops to educate on effects of trans fat, wrong use of pesticides and the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) arising from animal meat. Last year in commemoration of the 2021 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), NAFDAC organized a virtual stakeholders’ sensitization workshop to further create awareness about AMR and promote the responsible use of antimicrobials.
AMR is a threat to global health, food security and development. To this end, NAFDAC in her regulatory activities has put in place some important regulatory measures to curb the emergence and spread of AMR. The Agency has banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock and fish production and as mold inhibitors in animal food. It has also instituted road show campaigns and public enlightenment on the appropriate, and more importantly inappropriate use of antimicrobial agents to promote safe and judicious use of antibiotics.
Staff training and certifications
To ensure the efficiency of these consumer sensitization workshops and inspections, NAFDAC has prioritized staff training, and capacity development. This has seen no fewer than 3,600 staff being trained and retrained in the last four years. Similarly, staff are being encouraged to undertake academic programmes to improve their expertise on the job provided it does not interfere with their official assignments. With a transparent and quality-driven work environment that is expected of a regulatory agency, the NAFDAC boss affirms that staff are now well motivated, disciplined and more dedicated.
The Agency is deeply rooted in ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System (QMS) with all their processes procedure driven. NAFDAC, through partial support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and West African Health Organization (UNIDO/WAHO), commenced the implementation of QMS in April 2018. The implementation included training of over 2,241 staff of the Agency for various levels of QMS including but not limited to awareness, system development, internal auditing processes etc. Come 2019, it reaped the fruits of its labor by gaining the ‘ISO 9001:2015 certified’ title and has since worked towards upholding it. Through continual improvement and adherence to their mantra, “Customer focused: Agency minded”, it received recertification in both 2020 and 2021.
Smoothing the path for MSMEs
In support of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) the Agency in April 2021, instituted several activities which included a further review of guidelines and streamlined registration processes, to handle their peculiar difficulties. The aim was to remove critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic red tapes that hinder the smooth registration and regulatory activities of MSMEs. One of the policies put in place to encourage small businesses is the decentralization of the registration process to make it less cumbersome. The number of regulated products being registered at NAFDAC’s zonal office was also increased from 11 to over 80 different products.
To cut the cost of setting up a factory, the regulations permit companies manufacturing similar products to use one facility. The registration timeline of products has also been reduced to between 60 and 90 working days from the previous 120 days. Further, the regulator has digitized its registration processes affording clients continuous registration of their products. This may eliminate or reduce corruption and extortion, either by 3rd parties or the agency’s employees. To top it all, the revised policy has reduced registration tariffs for regulated products by 80% for MSMEs.
As an organization of government tasked with the onerous responsibility of safeguarding the health of the nation, NAFDAC is committed to leave no stone unturned in its drive to rid the country of the menace of unwholesome food, poorly packaged water and other substandard regulated products.