The road to cemetery

The Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Moji Adeyeye, must have left many Nigerians aghast with the revelation that about 240 shops located at the Cemetery Road Market, Aba, Abia state. The closure of the shops followed the discovery of counterfeit drugs and other products sold by unscrupulous patent drug dealers and traders.

The raid which was caried out by the staff of the agency in the first two weeks of this month led to the confiscation of drugs and other products valued at more than N700m.

Prof. Moji Adeyeye, who disclosed this at a media briefing in Lagos, decried the increase in the number of counterfeiters in the country and charged citizens to be more careful of what they buy and consume, noting that most of these counterfeit products, which included beverages and consumables, had adverse and long-term health implications on the consumers

She said, “We have carried out raids in different parts of the country and we have seized goods worth millions of naira. The latest raid is the one that happened at Cemetery Road Market in Aba. NAFDAC intercepted counterfeiters engaged in the production of a variety of beverages, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic winesas well as consumables.

“This was achieved due to several weeks of intelligence gathering, and we were able to carry out a sting operation and burst the criminal activities in the market that had been going on for a long time and were now like a cartel.

“Some of the activities of the nefarious counterfeiters included the production of all kinds of wines from a wide variety of brands, ranging from Schnapps, Dry Gin, Hennessy, Four Cousins, Chelsea, London Dry Gin and Gordons. They also counterfeited non-alcoholic beverages like Eva wine and Coca-Cola products, among others.”

It is shocking enough that more than 240 shops were found to stock counterfeit drugs and other consumables in one location. However, it becomes less shocking when it is realised that the road to cemetery is usually swarming with merchants of death which the counterfeiters and marketers represent!

In recent times, the agency, under the watch of the current Director-General, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, has been up and running in its war against these criminal elements whose stock-in-trade is to manufacture (killer) substances and consumables that are dangerous to health of their fellow citizens. Her sustained war against these drug counterfeiters is a reminder of the battle waged by the former NAFDAC boss, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, against fake drug manufacturers and importers that nearly cost her life when her convoy came under heavy gunfire on December 26, 2003, on her way to Anambra state. She was fortunate that one of the bullets that pierced through the windscreen of her car located her headgear instead of her skull. But the amazon was undeterred. She stood her ground throughout her tenure and left an enduring legacy that has been difficult to match let alone surpass.

The war against manufacturers and importers of counterfeit drugs and beverages must be sustained at all costs. The operations of these criminals in our midst pose serious dangers to the rest of us. Because of the financial challenges many Nigerians are currently faced with, and even long before now, these patent medicine shops serve as the first points of call for their medical needs. An average Nigerian cannot easily afford to visit healthcare centres. Consequently, many have to resort to self-medication and these medicine shops are readily available to meet their demands.

The NAFDAC must be fully primed to tackle these merchants of death frontally. They are another class of terrorists tormenting Nigerians without as much as firing a shot. They do so by manufacturing and marketing illicit drugs and beverages that serve as the vehicles to convey their unsuspecting patrons to their early graves.

These merchants of death should not be treated with kid’s gloves. The extant sanctions on anyone convicted of counterfeiting drugs and beverages should be strengthened. Convicts should face death penalty that merchants of death deserve. The capacity of the existing staff of the agency should not only be strengthened but also more hands need to be engaged to contend with the increasing challenges the criminal elements pose to our society. They should be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to execute their functions.

We commend the resilience of the leadership and staff of the agency. The federal government should provide adequate security to them so that they can carry out their critical mandate without having to be looking over their shoulders.