The new director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Ifedayo Adetifa, has formally taken over from his predecessor, Chikwe Ihekweazu.
A clinical epidemiologist, Mr Adetifa was officially handed the baton at the NCDC headquarters on Monday by Mr Ihekweazu, who recently joined the World Health Organization (WHO) as an assistant director-general of health emergency intelligence and head of the Berlin-based WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence.
The handover ceremony was attended by the health minister, Osagie Ehanire, according to a statement by the NCDC’s head of communication, Yahya Disu.
Honour for Ihekweazu
“The ceremony was also an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable transformation journey of NCDC in implementing its five-year strategic plan for national health security in line with its mandate to lead the preparedness, detection, and response to public health emergencies,” the statement reads in part.
Mr Ihekweazu, an epidemiologist, became the first substantive head of the disease agency in November 2018 following the signing of the NCDC Act into law.
As NCDC director-general, Mr Ihekweazu led the response to large outbreaks of infectious diseases such as yellow fever, Lassa fever and monkeypox.
Since the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, Mr Ihekweazu also led Nigeria’s public health response to the pandemic through the NCDC.
Mr Adetifa’s appointment has, however, been met with relief as many believe that he has what it takes to fill the vacuum his predecessor’s exit could create.
“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead our young agency”, Mr Ihekweazu reportedly said of his successor during the handover, according to the release.
“Dr Atetifa is a proven leader with strong epidemiology, academic and research background as well as the ability to bring people together,” he added.
Mr Adetifa received his undergraduate medical training at the University of Ilorin and completed his residency training in pediatrics at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. He then proceeded to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he obtained an MSc in Epidemiology. He also has a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Amsterdam.
He has a background in academia and research and has been working as an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for the past seven years. He also worked as a professor at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme.
Adetifa sets agenda
While accepting the baton of leadership from the outgoing NCDC director-general, Mr Adetifa revealed his future plans for the agency.
“I must congratulate Dr Ihekweazu and the NCDC Team for the incredible work they have done so far, for Chikwe’s exemplary leadership, and for the smooth transition process. For several years now, I have closely followed the activities of the agency without any inkling that I would ever be the one to lead it. My focus in the next few weeks is to work with colleagues and partners to understand their work better so we can collectively build on the gains made so far, in line with the NCDC mandate”, he said.
The handover ceremony was also an opportunity to reflect on NCDC’s contribution to health security and nation building.
The guests at the event included representatives of the National Assembly, heads of government institutions, Country heads of United Nations agencies, members of the diplomatic corps, other health security partners including the private sector.
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