Late Professor Dora Akunyili was a former director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and was once the Information and Communications minister of Nigeria from 2008 – 2010. She was especially known for her fight against counterfeit drugs and unsafe food alongside a team of female inspectors and pharmacists. They also ensured the prosecution of fake drug importers. She once publicly burned fake drugs worth more than $150m.
A BBC reporter – Olenka Frenkiel noted that “Before Akunyili took the job, deaths were commonplace in Nigeria. At least 41% of the drugs in circulation were thought to be counterfeit. And this, she says, was a conservative estimate. Some reports suggested as much as 80% of medicine in the country was fake. During that year, a survey of 600 samples of drugs in Nigeria suggested that the proportion had fallen to 16.7%. It is just one indicator, but it suggested that late Dora made some success.”
She got over eight hundred local and international awards/recognitions; some of them posthumous. She also presented over twenty research papers at various scientific and scholarly conferences, being a scientist herself. While serving at NAFDAC, she oversaw six graduate students at the College of Medicine, UNN.
Although her safety was threatened because of her unending war against health ills, she had a life filled with success and recognition for her honest work and improvement to the development of Nigeria’s health sector. She was born in Markudi, Benue State and was married in Agulu, Anambra State. Her exceptional results from secondary school earned her the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship. She has a first degree in Pharmacy and PhD from UNN in 1978 and 1985 respectively. She was also a Post-Doctorate Fellow of the University of London and a Fellow of the West African Post-Graduate College of Pharmacists.
Her working career began in 1971 as a Hospital Pharmacist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu. In 1982 after this, she got into academics as a Graduate Assistant (Research Fellow) at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UNN till 1986. She transferred across various boards making her mark.
Asides from her role with NAFDAC, she also served as the Supervisor for Agriculture and Member of the Caretaker Committee for the Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State for two years from 1994. She served effortlessly as a member of prestigious health committees across Nigeria and over different periods of time. She was married to Dr. J.C Akunyili till her death. They had six children. She loved reading and writing.
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