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Orhii at 50, determined to take NAFDAC to higher level

Dr Orhii who is currently the Director General of the National Food for Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), was born on the May 9 1960,…

Dr Orhii who is currently the Director General of the National Food for Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), was born on the May 9 1960, in Lessel, Ushongo Local Government of Benue State. He attended St Francis College, Oturkpo and came out with a distinction in the West African School Certificate Examination. He was then admitted in the University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria to read medicine. But Orhii would be one of the 23 students awarded scholarships to study medicine in Russia. He graduated from the Stavropol State Medical Institute in 1989 and immediately proceeded to pursue a Ph.D in Chrono-Neuro-psychopharmacology.

His Ph.D abstract won a travel award to the Third International Congress of Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry in Tokyo, Japan in 1991.

When Orhii was appointed the Director General of the NAFDAC on 8th January, 2009, his biggest task was how to convince Nigerians that he was qualified to head the sensitive agency. His appointment drew criticisms from a large section of the country, especially, professional bodies in the pharmacy profession and the pharmaceutical industries.

 Some critics went as far as accusing the then powerful Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, of nepotism, for influencing the appointment of Orhii, who was considered unqualified to head the agency-in the light that the erstwhile director general, Professor Dora Akunyili, was a pharmacist and had achieved tremendous reduction in incidences of fake drugs and trafficking.  

Prior to his appointment, there were speculations that it was Aondoakaa who hired  Orhii to serve as the “expert witness” to the Federal and Kano State governments in the ongoing lawsuit against Pfizer, the US pharmaceutical giant, over the company’s Trovan drug trials in Kano.”  

Some of the allegations were that “Aondoakaa, who oversees all prosecutions of fake drug criminals, is set to take over NAFDAC the same way he took over the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”  So clearly, Orhii had a daunting task to surmount.

But Abubakar Jimoh, Deputy Director, Public Relations and Protocol, NAFDAC, argued: “Before January 8, 2009 when he was appointed Director General of the National Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the name Dr Paul Botwev Orhii was not familiar in the pharmaceutical, food, beverage and allied industries. Yet he had gained prominence among Nigerians based in the USA as a brilliant scholar, seasoned researcher and consummate pharmacotoxicological legal expert.”

NAFDAC had been established since 1993 but it was when Akunyili was appointed its director general that it was brought to limelight. Through public enlightenment campaigns and clamping down heavily on drug traffickers, she had achieved great success in the fight against drug counterfeiting, reducing it from 40% to 16% in the over nine years that she headed NAFDAC.

Jimoh said that given this background, when Orhii was appointed the DG, he decided to build and improve on the legacies of the former DG. “Dr Orhii believes that there is need to intensify the campaign so that Nigeria can attain less than one per cent fake drugs prevalence like in some developed countries.”

The introduction of Truscan, a cutting edge technological instrument to test for quality drugs on the spot, efforts at amending laws in order to enact stiffer penalties for offenders and collaboration with India and China to fight drug counterfeiting, among others are considered some achievements of Orhii at NAFDAC.

So far, his critics have remained quiet and Nigerians are waiting to see if he will vindicate himself, especially as he will be celebrating the golden age of 50 with Nigeria.

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