Cablegate: Nigeria: War On Nafdac: The Battle Against
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
121509Z Mar 04
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000547
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD SOCI TBIO PINR NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: WAR ON NAFDAC: THE BATTLE AGAINST
1. (U) Summary: Just three months after an attempted
assassination of Director General Dr. Dorothy Akunyili,
Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug
Administration and Control (NAFDAC) seems to be under
attack. Fires gutted the agency's Lagos office on
March 7, and less than 72 hours later, its Kaduna
laboratory burned down. Despite these attacks,
NAFDAC's management and staff remain focused on their
goal of significantly reducing the manufacture and
distribution of counterfeit drugs. Barring further
attacks on its personnel and facilities, the agency may
achieve some success. End summary.
2. (U) Fires gutted NAFDAC's Lagos office last Sunday,
just weeks after the agency restated its commitment to
reducing the proliferation of counterfeit drugs. The
fire affected key directorates of the agency's Lagos
operations, including the Ports Inspection Directorate
(PID), the Establishment Inspection Directorate (EID),
and the director general's office. According to one of
NAFDAC's senior staff, the agency lost records of its
port activities and raids. Parts of its Enforcement
Directorate and Administrative Department survived
intact, but hundreds of records were lost. The PID and
EID have been relocated, and the agency's director
general is now expected to work from Abuja.
3. (U) Even as investigations into the cause of the
fire began, NAFDAC's Kaduna laboratory, its largest,
burned down. According to news reports, fires started
simultaneously in the laboratory's three buildings
around 0300 on Wednesday, March 10, ultimately
destroying millions of dollars of equipment. Nigeria's
National Assembly responded by calling for 24-hour
surveillance of all NAFDAC facilities, and the agency's
senior staff advised personnel to keep a low profile,
particularly in light of speculations that a powerful
cartel may have been involved in the two incidents.
4. (U) The fires follow three reported attempts on the
life of NAFDAC Director General Dr. Dorothy Akunyili.
Late last December, gunmen allegedly attacked Dr.
Akunyili in her hometown, Agulu, in Anambra State.
Earlier incidents took place at her home in Abuja while
she was on official trips. The GON responded by
calling for increased security around Dr. Akunyili and
NAFDAC's staff and facilities nationwide. The GON
reportedly deployed security personnel, and NAFDAC
hired private security agencies at several of its
5. (U) Many observers believe NAFDAC's moderate success
in reducing the manufacture and distribution of
counterfeit drugs may have earned it very powerful
enemies. According to the Chairman of NAFDAC's
Governing Council, Dr. Andy Andem, the agency destroyed
substandard and fake products worth N6.07 billion ($45
million) in 72 exercises in the year to November.
Andem says the agency secured thirty convictions in
counterfeit drugs-related cases in 2003 and believes
another forty cases are pending in Nigerian courts.
NAFDAC routinely embarks on enlightenment campaigns to
educate the public about genuine products and expose
fake versions and their manufacturers, if the
identities of the latter are known. Such exposure may
not sit well with producers of counterfeit drugs.
6. (U) NAFDAC's regulation and control of the
manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of drugs has
improved significantly since Dr. Akunyili was appointed
in April 2001. In the three years since she took
office, Dr. Akunyili has reorganized NAFDAC's
operations and created directorates for registration
and regulatory affairs, laboratory services, narcotics
and controlled substances, ports inspections,
establishment, and enforcement. The new directorates
have given the agency a clearer focus and significantly
improved its success in the fight against counterfeit
drugs. NAFDAC staff believe three GON policies have
also helped: the ban on the importation of drugs and
other regulated products through land borders; the
designation of specific ports and airports through
which drugs and pharmaceutical raw materials can be
imported; and the requirement that all shipping
companies and the Nigerian Ports Authority release
shipping and cargo manifests to the agency's
7. (U) Comment: No security staff were present when
Econ staff visited NAFDAC's Lagos office. Senior
officials point out that although NAFDAC personnel
remain committed to reducing the manufacture and
distribution of counterfeit products, the agency
remains vulnerable to future attacks. Like many
unresolved fires at public offices like the Nigerian
National Petroleum Corporation and the Lagos High
Court, the fires at NAFDAC raised suspicions that
individuals acted to destroy incriminating evidence.
If so, they obviously succeeded, as critical case
records and data were lost. NAFDAC personnel say they
will continue to try to reduce the manufacture and
attacks on personnel and facilities and with Dr.
Akunyili's increased determination, the agency may have
some success. End comment.