It was a moment of glory for Nigeria last night in the Republic of Niger as the country honoured Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili.
The former NAFDAC Director General received the International Active Woman Trophy (TIFAA NIGER) at an impressive ceremony in the Nigerien capital Niamey as part of this year’s celebration of the International Day of Women. Akunyili was honoured for her role in supporting the welfare of women through her relentless war against fake medicines during her days as DG of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) from the April 2001 to December 2008.
The trophy was presented to the woman popularly called The Amazon by the Incubation, Entrepreneurship and Leadership Promotion Centre (CIPEL) in collaboration with the Niger Republic Ministry of Women Promotion.
Sponsored by the First Lady of Niger, Dr. Issoufou Malika, the event also enjoyed the high patronage of the Nigerien Prime Minister Brigi Rafini. It has been held every March 8 since 2010 and is designed to pay tribute to women and to men who support to the best of their ability the welfare of women.
In her acceptance speech delivered during the ceremony held at Palais des Congres Niamey, Akunyili thanked the people of the Republic of Niger for finding her worthy of being honoured.
“I have been privileged to receive many awards from Africa and other parts of the world but this Pioneer Trophy is among those I regard as being special.”
According to her, “For one, this award is coming from outside my country, where my work in promoting the welfare of women through my war against fake medicines had the greatest impact. The second reason why I especially cherish this award is that it is coming more than four years after I left office as Director General of NAFDAC – the position I used to intensely fight against fake medicines not only in Nigeria but also across West Africa.”
Akunyili said she had to fight fake medicines with all her might and at the risk of death during her days at NAFDAC because “I could not stand a situation where thousands of innocent women, children and also men were dying from the deadly effects of fake medicines and I said that this evil must stop.”
Explaining how her drug war eventually crossed Nigeria’s borders, the renowned pharmacist said: “When Nigeria became very hot for the fake medicine dealers, they started running away to other West African countries, including the Republic of Niger, thereby worsening the problems of fake medicines in those countries. I decided to pursue them across the borders by inviting all West African Drug Regulators to a conference in Abuja, Nigeria, from March 15 to 17, 2006. During that meeting, a body known as the West African Drug Regulatory Authorities Network (WADRAN) was formed to oversee the fight against fake medicines throughout West Africa. To the glory of God, I was elected the first Chairperson of WADRAN, with NAFDAC as the secretariat.”
Akunyili (shown in picture) said that for her to be honoured years after leaving office proves that the people of the Republic of Niger continue to appreciate whatever little she was able to achieve in her fight against fake medicines. “This is very good because when we appreciate what people have done, it will encourage them to do more, and by doing more, we all can contribute towards fast-tracking the development of our various countries and our dear continent, Africa,” she said.
The former minister promised to work harder to promote the welfare of women throughout Africa.
Other recipients of the trophy are to come from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco and Togo.
News Express reports that Akunyili, 58, has received over half a million awards from various parts of the world but most of them from her country, Nigeria. Her international recognitions include Icon of Excellence Award from the African Cultural Institute, Integrity Award 2003 from Transparency International, as well as award from the Government of Italy in 2011.