In continuation of its zero tolerance campaign against counterfeiting in the country, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has called for a review of existing laws on spurious, substandard and falsified drugs to include life imprisonment and confiscation of offenders’ assets.
Dr Paul Orhii, NAFDAC’s director general (now former) vowed that the agency would never compromise on its decision to penalise any manufacturer involved in production of counterfeit drugs and food at the expense of the Nigerian people.
Speaking on the theme, “Exceeding Industry Baseline”, at the opening ceremony of the annual NAFDAC SummEx (Summit & Exhibition) which held recently at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, Orhii explained that drug counterfeiting had become a major concern in Africa.
Enumerating reasons certain importers of fake products seem to target Nigeria, the NAFDAC boss said that only 30 per cent of the drugs used in Nigeria are manufactured locally, thereby creating a 70 per cent vacuum which the importers take advantage of.
Among other things, Orhii cited Nigeria’s huge population and porous land borders as the main reasons counterfeiters still focus on Nigeria.
“This is why we are advocating life jail term without an option of fine, confiscation of assets, and reward for individuals who expose those involved in the crime, in line with what is obtainable in India and China,” he said.
While explaining that counterfeiting was not restricted to Nigeria, Orhii remarked that NAFDAC had succeeded in convincing the Chinese and Indian governments to introduce death and life jail sentences for offenders.
According to him, such move was necessary as most of the counterfeited, unwholesome and substandard products finding their ways into Nigeria had their origin from those countries.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria which is at the receiving end has the most lenient law which imposes 5-15 years jail term or an option of a N500,000 fine for those convicted of the crime,” he lamented.
Dr. Paul Orhii however said that Nigeria had a cause to rejoice, following the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s declaration that counterfeiting of antimalarial drugs had reduced drastically from 20 per cent in 2008 to an all-time 3.6 per cent in 2015.
“This is made possible with the aid of two globally recognised innovations – Truscan and Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) technology- which were put in place by NAFDAC to check counterfeiting.
“Health is an index of development. I congratulate all the staff for making this possible. The nation should be grateful to you for this achievement,” he stressed.
Dr. Orhii was also quick to add that the agency now has “Small Business Support Desk” to assist upcoming entrepreneurs.
“One does not need to have a big outfit in order to meet NAFDAC’s specifications. Depending on what one is manufacturing, you can have one room that meets NAFDAC’S requirements.
“We give discounts and sometimes full discounts for registration and inspection if we see that the product is good but that the producer is financially incapacitated,” he explained.
Earlier in her welcome address, Ms Christiana Obiazikwor, the agency’s public relations officer, remarked that the three-day exhibition and summit is an annual platform that offers a forum for effective and sustained engagement by stakeholders in the food, drugs and allied sectors.
“It serves as convergence for all stakeholders to learn, share and showcase innovations, ideas and experiences, as well as review policies and set an agenda for the future,” she said.
In attendance at the occasion were Pharm. Regina Ezenwa, a Fellow of the PSN; Mr Chris Ejiofor, a legal luminary; Eugene Olewuenyi, corporate planning and development manager of M&B Nig. Plc; Pharm. (Mrs) Elizabeth Awagu, special assistant to NAFDAC director general and Dr. Monica Hemben-Eimunjeze, NAFDAC’s director of registration and regulatory affairs.