Hard time now awaits counterfeit drugs offenders in the country as the law review to proffer stiffer punishments for drug offenders is awaiting executive assent before passage to the National Assembly by 2014.
Speaking with BusinessDay, Paul Orhii, director general, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said the reason for the review of NAFDAC laws against offenders was not unconnected with the enormity of the offence which demands stiffer penalty than what the current laws stipulate.
While the new law review has sailed through the Federal Executive Council (FEC) slated for presentation to the National Assembly for consideration and subsequent passage into law, Orhii noted that the new law, when passed by the National Assembly, will provide stiffer punishments, confiscation of assets of offenders and if proved the counterfeit drug led to the death of the victim, the assets confiscated would be sold to settle the family of the victim.
According to the DG “It is paradoxical that we in Nigeria are at the receiving end of the effects of counterfeiters. We have very lenient laws which stipulate a fine of N500,000 or 15-year jail term upon conviction, compared to for instance, India and China, which have life term and death sentence respectively.
“What we have decided to do is to review the Nigerian law and package it using the best legal minds among the senior advocates of Nigeria (SAN), Nigeria Institute of Advance Legal Studies, federal ministries of justice and health for a review of the existing law.
“We also insert in the bill a clause that will make the offence not bailable and allow a reward for people who come forward to give positive information on those dealing with counterfeit drugs in the country.”
He argued that the law in the offing is in line with the law provided in China and India that makes it a criminal offence punishable by life term jail sentence and confiscation of assets of the offender.
Apart from international collaboration, Orhii said NAFDAC was working with other agencies and stakeholders to reduce counterfeit drugs in the country.
“The task of safeguarding the health of the nation cannot be done by NAFDAC alone but with the assistance of other agencies. The Agency has spent over N30million on public enlightenment and capacity building in the area of educating Nigerians on the dangers of counterfeit medicines to their health. The market is vast and we cannot do it alone. It is not about who takes the glory but how to safeguard the health of Nigerians,” Orhii added.
NAFDAC law review is coming at a time when operatives of the Federal Task Force on Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods laid siege on imported counterfeit medical products and other NAFDAC regulated products along Badagry Expressway.
Giving a breakdown of the seized items, Hashim Ubale Yusuf, director, narcotics and controlled substances revealed that a truckload of Substandard/ Spurious/Falsely Labelled/Falsified/counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products comprising of Labjoka tablets (Paracetamol 25mg+Caffeine 30mg) with batch number EX-013 was not registered with NAFDAC and is therefore considered an outright counterfeit.
“Others seized products include Relax Extra Tablets (Diclofenac Sodium 50mg+Caffeine 30mg and other excipients with batch number RE-103; Omepralab tablets (Omeprazole) with batch number EX-013; a truckload of unregistered wines(Grand Vin de Bordeaux Chateau, Chateau Roc de Minvielle and Chateau Meure Haut) smuggled through the border by Kike Ajibade.”
Yusuf thanked the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Custom Service, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, Consumer Protection Council, other stakeholders and reassured Nigerians that the high level of sanity achieved in the current effort at achieving zero tolerance to drug counterfeiting will be sustained.
By: Alexander Chiejina