The battle to rid the society especially Anambra state of fake and substandard products is ongoing as relevant stakeholders from both the government and private sectors have come together to fight the scourge. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU reports.
Nigeria, like other countries of the world, is grappling with the effects of fake and counterfeit products in the markets.
From the north to south, the experience is the same at homes, offices and institutions. People are dying, getting sick, losing their jobs just as businesses are closing down due to increasing fake and adulterated products nationwide.
While innovative people articulate ideas into business plans, labour to produce, manufacture or ship the original products or services into the markets, some sit elsewhere labouring to reproduce them with substandard materials usually rebranded or transformed to look similar or identical with existing ones.
The pirates are too many and busy given the speed in which they rush and destroy reputations of renowned brands across all sectors and industries including alcohol, optical media (CDs and DVDs), books, jewelry, automotive parts, websites, pharmaceuticals, water, cosmetics, leather goods, footwear, clothing and packaged goods.
NAFDAC once bemoaned situation
Hence in August 2021, the director general, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Christiana Mojisola Adeyeye in a statement signed by its resident media consultant, Olusayo Akintola said the agency in March this year destroyed unwholesome products including expired food items, falsely labelled medicines, processed foods and cosmetics worth over N 5 billion in five months.
According to the reports, the products were destroyed across five geopolitical zones of Nigeria included products worth N1,429,580,683.00 seized during their operations in the South-south, South-east regions at N613,300,290.00 and at North-west at N515,732.587 worth of products for North- east, and N2,482,600,290 worth products at South-west.
The agency while calling for stiffer penalties to be meted on peddlers of counterfeit and unwholesome drugs, implored the National Assembly to pass the Counterfeit Medical Product Bill into law with a view to curbing the menace in the country. Aside NAFDAC, other government agencies like Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and security agencies have similar or diverse pathetic stories to tell.
Fighting the scourge
Perhaps, this prompted the formation of Anti-Piracy Society of Nigeria (APSON), a non-governmental organisation whose vision and mission were to rid the society of counterfeit and pirated products and activities are inimical to originality.
The director general of APSON, Mr Frank Uduonu, while inaugurating and inducting 115 officers of the organisation in Awka, the Anambra state capital recently regretted when he said that, “In the society of ours where meritocracy has become the order of the day and the challenges of economic quagmire is rite, people tend to cut corners and pursue negative practices to make ends meet.”
Uduonu, who blamed increasing rise of fake products on certificate-driven education maintained further that, “The foundation in which Nigeria’s education is built which is certificate-driven has occasioned the quest for materialism and swept under the carpet the need to possess the requisite genuine skills which drives industrialisation and usher in self-pride, integrity and the pursuit of goals that exemplify hard work and epitomises integrity of purpose.”
On how APSON intends to win the war, the DG said, “From February 2022, we would embark on sensistisation campaigns, creation of awareness and social campaign programmes against piracy, counterfeiting and plagiarism in Anambra state. We shall go school by school, market by markets, community centres, social media and others to educate people on impact of counterfeit products, how to identify and stop them.”
He further called on government, NGOs, civil society organisations, security agencies, political office holders, private sector, the academia, professionals, artisans and the media to join hands with him to fight what he called the monster of piracy and circulation of fake and counterfeit products.
To that extent, APSON in partnership with a group of software developers led by Mr Chijioke Chika and Mr Dimson Uchendu, launched Tarbt, an Internet application capable of detecting and tracking fake products down to consumers end.
Uchendu, while presenting Tarbt App said consumers need not to purchase any product first before they would find out their originality. He added that with the App, pirates would be rendered jobless; therefore charged all to download it from the Google as it is readily available and easy to operate by both manufacturers and consumers.
Clergies like Rev Fr Martin Anusi of Fides Communications who chaired the occasion and Bishop John Egwuonwu of Efeta Gospel Mission commended the move by APSON to redeem Nigeria from piracy and circulation of unhealthy pirated products in the country.
Egwuonwu, who recalled how Pirates made life unbearable and later killed a relative of his that was a talented musician, called for support to the NGO and the government with a view to rid the society of the menace of counterfeit drugs and their agents.
Fr Anusi, who is also a media guru, pledged the support of the fourth estate of the realm in curbing the menace of fake and substandard products in the markets.
Contributing, Mr Alih Barnabas, the chief executive officer, Aliban de great Industry Ltd, pledged the support of manufacturers to the organisation as it would, according to him, lessen their sufferings.
According to him, “All the manufacturers in Anambra state are happy because we have been suffering in the hands of pirates. With this NGO and the App, we won’t suffer to use our initiatives to make a product without enjoying it. Before, we kept on making and suffering while unknown persons feed fat on our sweat. Therefore, we would support you to win this war,” he stated.
Also speaking, the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Anambra State, Mr Adeoye Irelewuyi, represented by ACC PM Akpotobo, said he would help to fast-track their inauguration in Cross Rivers state because their job, he said, is seriously needed to return the glory of Nigeria.
“The Inauguration has changed your status. You should be brutal but don’t engage in physical combat with anyone. Kindly report any infraction to the appropriate security agencies. Be faithful, smart and fear not. Don’t allow them to lure you with bribes. Your work cuts across all sectors. Piracy is everywhere. People go into production of fake driver’s license, numbers plate, tyres and others. These have killed many. Help us to stop them before they stop us,” Irelewuyi added.
In their respective contributions, the representatives of Anambra state commands of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mr Evalustus Obi, and the state police commissioner, Echeng Echeng charged APSON officers to be at an alert while carrying out their duties as they assured of their respective support to make their job easier.
Earlier, the zonal Police Public Relations Officer for Zone 13 (ZPPRO), Ms Nkiru Nwode, while welcoming them to the zone said that, “You are not sent to go out and fight. Just use your discretion. Always watch yourself as you go out to fight fake products. Some are feeding on what you are against. The mission is not what you can do alone. Always seek assistance from relevant security agencies for the smooth running of your affairs. We would support you to rid Nigeria of fake and counterfeit products,” she said.