NAFDAC under consideration for OPCW status
Winifred Bosa, Lagos
FOLLOWING massive investment in the laboratory of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria has been chosen to be considered for Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) laboratory designation.
What it means is that all chemicals that are associated with weapons of destruction, both biological and chemical, can be tested in the NAFDAC laboratory.
According to a press release by Sayo Akintola , Resident Media Consultant, NAFDAC, Nigeria and Kenya are the only two countries in Africa so chosen for consideration by the global body.
This came to the fore when experts from the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited the NAFDAC’s central laboratory in Oshodi, Lagos for inspection and assessment of facilities to be deployed for the global assignment.
Officials of OPCW based in The Hague, Netherlands, came with some experts on laboratory assessment from the Finnish Institute of Verification of Chemical Weapons Convention, (FERIVIN) based in the University of Helsinki.
Leader of the team, Dr. Roman Warchol, expressed satisfaction with the facilities provided by NAFDAC, saying they were comparable to whatever could be found anywhere in the advanced economy of the world.
He said they came to Nigeria to assess the NAFDAC’s laboratory and see the level of competency, the equipment available for the possible designation of the laboratory. ”I’m very happy and satisfied with what Ive seen here”, said the OPCW top official.
The ostensibly elated Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, explained that ”we have been on this for about four years. Except for the COVID-19 period which really affected activities” .
She said, ”we are going on proficiency testing and we have gone from ‘Participation’ to ‘Very Good’ which is the highest level in the OPCW’s assessment”.
The NAFDAC boss said she was excited because the experts from Hague and Helsinki were overwhelmed with the agency’s facilities, adding that they were highly impressed by the competency of NAFDAC staff and the level of understanding.
‘’We did all our presentations. There was little or no questions. All we are now discussing is level of improvement, areas that we should improve to make it a bigger say.
They were overwhelmed by the commitment of the agency and the National Authority for Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention (NAC&BWC) in Nigeria, and the federal government to the project, she enthused.
Prof Adeyeye further explained: ”we are not at war, yes, but we are not only to be testing for Nigeria. We are not only going to be testing the samples that will be used in Nigeria. In Africa, we are only two sites, Nigeria and Kenya that are being considered for this. We will cover the West Africa and some parts of Africa and the world.
“Wherever there are skirmishes or the use of weapons, it might not only be war situation, NAFDAC could be invited to draw sample(s) and then test for the possibility of using harmful chemicals that could be lethal to people.”
In line with her mandate and to effectively cover regulations and control of industrial and laboratory chemical, Prof Adeyeye said NAFDAC undertakes the monitoring and control of chemicals through the Directorates of Chemical Evaluation & Research, Narcotics and Control Substances, and Laboratory Services (Food & Chemicals).
Going down the memory lane, she disclosed that on 23rd February, 2018, the then Chairman, National Authority for the Prohibition of Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention (NAC&BWC), along with his delegate, visited the NAFDAC Central Laboratory, Oshodi, to assess the facility on ground for participation in OPCW testing of materials associated with chemical weapons. In October 2018, we participated in the CCACT-097.
The agency has now improved to the score of Very Good in our last participation CCACT-15 in October 2022.
She further disclosed that the Nigerian Federal Government through NAC&BWC provided an intervention fund in February 2020 valued at about N735m to provide various equipment for the laboratory, stressing that through internally generated revenue, more equipment pieces were added. Since then, the Agency had used her IGR to add more equipment pieces.
She said that the agency will also expand the laboratory space for OPCW in the new building to be constructed soon.
”The assistance and contribution of the United Kingdom in assessing and improving the technical competence of laboratory in OPCW member states in Africa and Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC) GRULAC regions which we benefited has helped since 2021 to improve our performance and technical capacity”, she said, adding that NAFDAC staff have participated in the mentorship programme by Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention VERIFIN Helsinki.
Prof Adeyeye said this was done virtually until their physical training in February 2023. According to her, these efforts helped to improve technical ability of staff and their reporting techniques.
Due to importance of the OPCW project to the agency and the efforts of the international partners, she said the oversight office was moved in January 2023 to Director General Office to underscore the importance for the country.
”We are highly indebted to the International Cooperation and Assistance Division, OPCW for facilitating the Memorandum of Understanding and implementing the assistance,” she said, adding that the national authority has been proactive at endorsing NAFDAC’s application for CCACT-testing.
Prof. Adeyeye however, assured everyone of the resolve of the to strive to obtain the OPCW- Designated status in no distant future.