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Published On: Tue, Aug 4th, 2015

NAFDAC: The Persecution of St. Paul – By Philip Agbese


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My inbox was inundated with news alert about the visit by the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr Paul Orhii to the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Although the headlines heralding the content of the email newsletters were diverse, the message they conveyed is uniform in giving the impression that the anti-graft agency has clamped down on Dr Orhii. This would be contrary to the later portions of these same stories that offered detailed explanation about how NAFDAC has issued a statement to the effect that its helmsman voluntarily visited the EFCC to clarify misconceptions that have been traced to infighting within the agency.

“The visit was at the personal volition of the DG to explain the situation regarding allegations of corruption by a former Director of Finance and Accounts of the agency, Mr. Ademola Mogbojuri. Since last week, some officers who were mentioned in the allegations have been going to the EFCC to shed light and clear the air on the mindless accusations.” Was the way the official NAFDAC statement described the visit.

But, in what should send alarm bells ringing in our collective consciousness, the story has taken on additional layers of distortion in the telling. This distortion will likely get amplified when the story makes the round among those who have lesser resources and capacity to analyse what transpired at the agency.

 

First, we are back to those sad days when investigation is equated with conviction. Note that in this case, we are not even talking about investigation but about a chief executive officer, who have either voluntarily or by invitation reported to shed further light on allegations made about his office and the agency he oversees. This same mind set was at the root of our years of motion without movement under in past years when we thought the nation is tackling corruption head on: we get all the media hype, satisfy our sadistic urges and when the closing bell goes there would be no arraignment not to talk of getting convictions because we have collectively agreed to inflate the true import of processes.

 

Secondly, the media frenzy that trailed the visit of Orhii to the EFCC office on Mondayclearly confirms what the agency has been harping on that there is a cartel in the drug and food business whose members are hell bent on tarnishing his image hiding under the newly declared war against corruption by President Muhammad Buhari’s to assassinate his character and person while at the same time handing NAFDAC to a pliant person who would do their biddings at will. If this attempt is allowed to succeed it is a matter of time before the cabal in different sectors shove out the leaderships that stand in their path by hiding under the anti-corruption crusade to clear the way for the cartels.

 

Furthermore, we have as a people gotten to the stage where we should be more circumspect. Mogbojuri was in charge of the finances of NAFDAC during all the period detailed in his petition but he conveniently omitted to mention what roles he played in the transactions just as he was mute on what kept him on the post until the reorganisation that peeved him. We should be asking if this whistle-blower would have journeyed down his present trajectory if the status quo had remained. He has also not responded to the position officially hinted at by the agency that the petition was the handwork of drug counterfeiting cabal that is bent on hamstringing its operations.

 

We collectively stand the risk of jeopardy if this new trend continues or is allowed to thrive. Its concept is simple and to the point. Those who should be clamped down by regulators cook up accusations against the public officials with the responsibility of oversight, the official is distracted with having to respond to frivolous petitions and pronto the mafias have a field day as they operate without restraints.

 

That is what appears to be going down at NAFDAC, but to set the records straight Orhii was only invited to explain and as a man with nothing to hide in his cupboard he spent just a couple of hours with the commission to offer his response to what would eventually turn out to be a frivolous petition. As some of the news reports acknowledged, Orhii would soon be able to put this distraction behind him after he looks his detractor, Ademola Mogbojuri, in the face and set the record straight since EFCC has hinted at such interface between both parties.

 

A man who returned home to Nigeria with his international reputation and connections to better the lots of citizenry, the man who has brought further improvement to the image of NAFDAC by building upon what he met on the ground, could not possibly be engaged in what is now being insinuated. The building of world class laboratories to test our food, drugs before administration on citizenry. Under Orhi we now have made in Nigeria drugs competing with other drugs in the market. Today, our local bottle water now rates higher than international brand as a result of Orhii’s insistence on standard and nothing less.  Jobs are being created on daily basis through his initiatives and these could be the first casualties of this charade is allowed to progress without forensic interrogation of the motives behind some actions.

 

Allowing this diversion of the EFCC into a vendetta machine to happen will obviously place Nigeria million miles away from where we are today both in the progress made in the anti-corruption fight and building of systems in public institutions. In this case, the cartel have one of their own, in the person of Ademola Mogbojuri, who has been dancing to their tune and is ever ready to play their games as far as it satisfies his pockets and private businesses. Nigerians have become wise than before and will not accept this vilification. Let the cartel use the next few months to transit to legitimate businesses and leave Paul Orhii alone to serve Nigerians.

 

One must also give kudos to the new EFCC under Mr Ibrahim Lamorde for repositioning the commission for its responsibilities. He must, however, ensure that the agency is not taken on wild goose chase by those seeking to recruit it to fight their personal and selfish battles. Procedures should be implemented for when it is discovered that petitions are malicious, without facts and lack merit. For instance, in the NAFDAC scenario, EFCC should spare a thought for the kind of pecuniary interests that could make a man go to this length to resist an internal re-organisation that actually made him the head of one of NAFDAC’s subsidiaries. This should be an incentive to draw the line between prosecution and persecution.

Comrade Philip Agbese is Executive Secretary, Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency, Abuja.

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