Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Nigeria
Focus: Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations
Keywords: corruption, conflict of interest, getting the news out, building citizen support
Interviewer(s): Itumeleng Makgetla
Country of Reform: Nigeria
Location: Abuja, Nigeria
Date: Fri Sep 4 2009
Dora Akunyili describes the eight years she spent serving as the director general (DG) of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Recounting the circumstances of her appointment, Akunyili highlights the tensions surrounding her ascension to the position. From there, she identifies the major challenges present she encountered in trying to fulfill her responsibilities as DG, emphasizing the corruption and conflicts of interest that can impede any attempt to address food and drug related problems. She further talks of the many threats to her personal safety and family she faced in the course of her work, and goes on to provide information about the destruction of NAFDAC facilities by those she was targeting. Akunyili describes how, by gradually winning the bolstering confidence and trust of both the Nigerian people and government, creating extensive awareness about drug counterfeiting, and pursuing the counterfeiters with an unwavering dedication to the cause, she and her colleagues significantly reduced the problems of drug and food control that had had significant repercussions in Nigeria. Akunyili stresses the importance of never compromising one's ideals and 'selling out' to the very people one is looking to put behind bars, and concludes by emphasizing the importance of dedicated and honest leadership in the success of any effective institutional reform.
Full InterviewDownload MP3 (28 MB)
Dora Akunyili Interview
At the time of this interview, Dora Nkem Akunyili was the minister of the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication in Nigeria. Prior to this appointment in December 2008, she was the director general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for nearly eight years, taking office in April 2001. As director general, Akunyili was an integral part of the campaign that worked tirelessly and with significant success for the eradication of counterfeit drugs and unsafe food in Nigeria. A pharmacist before becoming a governmental administrator, Akunyili was a senior lecturer and a consultant pharmacologist in the College of Medicine at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) until her appointment as director general. She was also the zonal secretary of Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF) for four years. She has received international recognition and numerous accolades for her work in pharmacology, public health, and human rights, including a Grassroots Human Rights Campaigner Award by International Service in 2005.