Following the ongoing strike action embarked upon by the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) branch, almost three weeks ago, the agency may lose all the certifications it got from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other global bodies, The AUTHORITY has learnt.
It would be recalled that MHWUN NAFDAC branch began an indefinite strike on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, for many reasons including welfare. It would also be recalled that NAFDAC staff went on strike in 2014, 2015 and 2016 on the same issues.
NAFDAC achieved the ISO 9001 in June 2019, and also got the WHO High Maturity Level 3 in March, 2022.
With the Maturity Level 3 certification, it means that any product produced by NAFDAC will be recognized as meeting the WHO standard globally.
At a recent media briefing in Abuja, the Director General NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, disclosed that her agency had since commenced work to attain Maturity Level 4 status.
All these successes, our findings have shown, will go down to the drain due to the ongoing strike embarked upon by the workers of the agency.
Findings from a dependable top source at NAFDAC disclosed that before the WHO and other global bodies gave the ISO certification and the Maturity Level 3, three components were examined and considered before the approval.
The top source who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that the three components that were considered include one; staff retention and sustainability, two; staff welfare, three; there must be mentoring.
However, the source expressed concern that following the strike, all the three components can now be considered at zero.
The source explained that because of the prolonged strike: “The staff welfare is zero, staff retention and sustainability is zero and mentoring is zero.
“This strike has really shown that there is no welfare, no retention and sustainability.
“Today if the workers decide to write to the world regulatory bodies, they can withdraw all these approvals and certifications and NAFDAC will have to start from the scratch.”
Following this development, a reliable source at the Federal Ministry of Health disclosed that the management of the ministry is not satisfied with the actions taken by Director General of the NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, to resolve the issues so that the workers can go back to work.
The source who pleaded not to be named because she is not authorized to talk on the matter said that the ministry is worried that instead of making efforts to resolve the strike, the NAFDAC Director General decided to travel abroad.
“NAFDAC is a very sensitive agency. Many things in the country including safety of foods and drugs will get bad within this period due to the strike.
“We are concerned that instead of her working day and night to resolve the issues, she decided to stay away. The last time we were looking for her, we were told that she is outside the country. Who is she expecting to go and resolve the issues for her?
“In fact, we are not happy with her. She is lucky that the current minister is a patient person if not that could have cause her that position. But who knows what may happen in the days ahead if she did not sit up,” the source said.
However, speaking with our correspondent on telephone, the Chairman of the MHWUN, NAFDAC branch, Anzuka Peters, said that the union tried to ensure that the strike is averted but that the management was not willing to resolve the issues.
Responding to a question on some of the issues under contention, Peters said: “One of the reasons why we are on strike is that we have promotion areas of five years including 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and now 2022.
“Secondly is the issue of salaries. NAFDAC workers currently have no salary scale. They migrated us from Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) to Research and Allied Salary Structure (CONRASS) which is alien to NAFDAC. NAFDAC is not a research institute. “That makes many workers to loose over N100,000 to N200,000. Others N50,000 depending on one’s rank. The least some people lose is 30,000 naira. That problem has not been solved.
“The federal government said they are ready to implement our Consolidated NAFDAC salary structure but that there was no money.
“They therefore, advised us to go and look inward in our revenue whether we can get some allowances that will be in commensurate terms with the salary we are asking for.
“We sat and created regulatory allowance, hazard allowance which we increased from 10 per cent to 30 per cent and other allowances which we arrived at a conclusion and we all agreed. But the management seems not ready to implement any agreement.”
Responding on the possibility of losing the WHO certifications and the Maturity Level 3 due to the strike action, the NAFDAC Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, said that the WHO Team that conducted the assessment using its Global Benchmarking Tools that qualified NAFDAC for Maturity Level 3 commended the agency on the significant progress in the implementation of recommendations across the regulatory functions.
According to him: “Staff welfare was a key WHO-GBT used in assessing NAFDAC. The ML3 rating for Nigeria is for medicines regulation and vaccines.
“It’s impossible for the certification to be withdrawn over workers’ strike. Worker agitation for improved welfare is a global phenomenon. It’s a legitimate demand and management of NAFDAC is on top of the situation as negotiations with the union leaders are ongoing and they are making progress.
“Staff welfare has been paramount on the heart of the DG and she’s doing everything humanly possible to enhance the welfare of her staff whom she always commends for the milestones she has been able to achieve in the agency.”