Dora Nkem Akunyili – Nigeria

Linked with our presentation of NAFDAC, the National Administration for Food, Drug Administration and Control.

Goes with ‘Assuming Authority‘.

She’s been credited with saving millions of lives and with moving mountains with sheer dedication to duty. Undoubtedly the Nigerian woman of 2002, she is the most beloved and most popular public official in Nigeria today. Since taking over this important health sector, she has fought persistently with unsurpassed dedication to sanitize the pushing of fake medications and unclean food items. Nigerians were being poisoned by these fake foods and drugs and someone needed to do something seriously about it. (Read more of this long article on

Dora Nkem Akunyili – Nigeria

She said: “On why she chose pharmacy as a profession, she said it was destined. Her result in secondary school was the best ever in QRC, Nsukka. “When we were to take JAMB, I never thought of pharmacy but wanted a professional course where I could do a lot of chemistry and mathematics. They were my best subjects and I felt giving them up was like giving up my soul”. Nevertheless, she fell in love with the course. “I did not know that God was actually propelling me to what he really wants me to be and coincidentally, it is actually what I want to do”. (Read more of this long article about her on this day online).

Before Dr. Akunyili took over the running of NAFDAC, the agency had functioned merely as a toothless bulldog, but she has radically transformed it into a fierce fighting force. Her well-publicized war on drug abuse is fought relentlessly and the enemy is resisting with every dirty means available. NAFDAC has won several victories in cities most notorious for fake drugs: Onitsha, Aba, Port Harcourt, and Lagos.

She is a woman on a mission. With little or no political baggage and untained by the comic anarchy of Anambra State, she stayed the course. From Sapele to Sokoto and from Lagos to Lafia, she lifted and looked under every ant-infested wood. Her net closed in on the bad boys of drug distribution, and they felt the heat of what she was cooking. With her staff thoroughly incorruptible, every peddler of poison knew that Dora Akunyili would strike someday, somehow. To stop her, they would strike back and strike with vengeance. It was never if; it was when and where and how. (Read more about this long article on

Boxing Day, Friday, December 26, 2003, they came for her. They had her movement mapped out and covered. Like hunters of hedgehog, they closed in on her, a sitting duck in a moving motorcade. And they let her have a hail of bullets. The designated silver bullet missed her head by just one centimeter, according to her husband, Dr. John Chike Akunyili, an Enugu-based medical doctor.

NAFDAC has set ablaze several truckloads of fake drugs. I personally witnessed the destruction of five lorry-loads of fake drugs at Onitsha in 2001. Let no one be under the illusion that NAFDAC has an easy battle with fake drug dealers. The nabobs of iniquity, these peddlers of death, at first resorted to bribery. Some advanced millions of naira to halt Dora’s campaign, but failed to understand early enough the no-nonsense stuff she is made of. Truly, if she wanted to become the richest woman in Africa, the golden opportunity was there for her. Bribery failing, these corrupt dealers resorted to intimidation. They sent assassins to her lodge in Abuja, bombed her laboratory, and sent death messages to her family, but she is undaunted, fired on by her unequivocal reliance on God. (Read more on CNN US Africa online).

She was born in Makurdi, Benue State (Nigeria) on the 14th of July 1954 to Chief & Mrs. Paul Young Edemobi. She is a devout Catholic and is happily married to Dr. J.C. Akunyili, a Medical Practitioner and they are blessed with six children and a grand child. Her hobbies include reading and writing. Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili (OFR), the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), is an internationally renowned Pharmacist, Pharmacologist, Erudite Scholar, Seasoned Administrator, and a visionary leader.
Prior to her present appointment, she was a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Pharmacologist in the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Nsukka (U.N.N.), Enugu Campus.

Prof. Akunyili’s educational career started with her passing the First School Leaving Certificate with Distinction in 1966, and the West African School Certificate (W.A.S.C.) with Grade I Distinction in 1973 (both in Nigeria), which earned her the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship respectively. It is remarkable that throughout her high school career, Dora Akunyili was always first in her class – a record that has never been broken in the school to date. She got her B.Pharm (Hons) in 1978 and P.hD in 1985, both at University of Nigeria Nsukka (U.N.N.). Prof. Akunyili won the best student award in the school of Pharmacy in her very first year in the school and the Vice Chancellor’s Postgraduate and Research Leadership prize in Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences for 1984/85 and 1985/86 academic Sessions. She was promoted to the rank of a Professor in October, 2000 by the same University. (Read on NAFDAG Nigeria).

Dr. Dora Akunyili and her family were driving down a rural road in Nigeria three years ago when snipers opened fire on her car. ” The back windscreen was shattered,” she says. ” A bullet pierced through my head scarf and grazed my scalp.” Akunyili had been targeted by a drug gang–but not the kind that sells heroin or cocaine. These drug dealers traffic in counterfeit medicine–ineffective at best, deadly at worst–and as director general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Akunyili’s job aims to put them out of business. (Read more on Time Magazine Archive).

Dora Akunyili, director general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has led her agency on a persistent fight to root out both internal corruption and low standards for food and drugs. Before she took over NAFDAC, adulterated or contaminated drugs and foods were rampant in Nigeria. Amid her crusades against fake and substandard products, Akunyili has made powerful enemies but continues with determination.

“My coming here and not doing the work is greater than any sin in the 10 commandments,” Akunyili said following an assassination attempt in December 26, 2003. “I just leave it to God and put in the effort that is humanly possible. I refuse to be intimidated.”

Akunyili said that her determination to root out fake drugs stems in part from the death of her sister, who died because she did not receive the proper insulin. Her fervor also stems from her extensive pharmacy training that began at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Even with her extensive professional demands, Akunyili still finds time to pass along her own training through supervision of six postgraduate students in Nsukka. Akunyili has won many awards for dedication to duty and demonstrated that public institutions can work, including a Transparency International prize for her integrity. “The forces of darkness have risen up against us to distract us, to intimidate us, and to return us to the status quo ante, but I have made up my mind not to fail God,” she said. “I am on the side of righteousness. God is with me I have no reason to be afraid.” (Read more on Cross Roads).

She says also: “The forces of darkness have risen up against us to distract us, to intimidate us, and to return us to the status quo ante, but I have made up my mind not to fail God, who has elevated me to this position. He is my sustenance and my defender. It does not matter what they do, they must fail. When they gather against me, because it is not of God, they shall fail for my sake. I am on the side of righteousness. God is with me I have no reason to be afraid”.

Nevertheless the Fedreal Government, she said, has strengthened her security and accorded her utmost support. Encouraged by the support of her staff and the newly constituted board of NAFDAC, she continued, “I am very happy at the calibre of chairman and members that were appointed for my board and their support these last few weeks has been tremendous,” she declared. She is bent on seeing to the end of the cause. Probably, it is only then that she can afford the luxury of a vaccation. For now, her hobby is work.

Among her numerous awards are:

Merit Award winner, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Enugu branch;

Member, New York Academy of Sciences ( 1997);

Pharmacological Society of Canada’s Award for the 12th International Congress of Pharmacology, Montreal, Canada (1994);

Family Health International, USA Congress Award for the 10th International Conference on AIDS Yokohama, Japan (1994);

Pfizer Travel Fellowship for the 54th International Pharmaceutical Federation Conference, Portugal (1994),

Commonwealth Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award;

Vice Chancellor’s Postgraduate and Research Leadership Prize;

Kingsway Prize for the best pharmacy student (first year professional);

Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship;

Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship

One of the six Nigerian lady pharmacists honored at The Hague by the International Pharmaceutical Federation in 1998;

Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR).


Daily Sun of May 11, 2006;

All May 4, 2006;

a n d ntwork;

all April 28, 2006;

Nigerian Tribune May 1, 2006;

a n d network April 13, 2006.

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