Friday, 21 November 2014

How NAFDAC sealed six illegal food production facilities

By: Chioma Umeha

Last week’s crack down of six organized illegal food production facilities at the Cemetery or Eziukwu Market in Aba, Abia State, and arrest of 14 persons by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) sends a warning signal to job seekers, landlords or property owners. This latest breakthrough by NAFDAC led to the closure six organized illegal food production facilities and arrest of 14 persons, mainly young persons, who were working there, where different brands of food products-among which were popular brands of Custard Powder were being counterfeited. The incident shows that parents and guardians should be wary of where their wards work, just as landlords are to be cautious of persons and companies they let the properties to as well as the kind of business done in their premises. 

The Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, has already assured that his agency was going to collaborate with Lisabi Mills (Nigeria) Ltd, whose flagship product, Gold’s Custard has been a subject of faking and counterfeiting, to flush out the fake products from the market, urging consumers to cooperate with them. Orhii spoke last Friday, during the parade of the 14 arrested persons and samples of the fake different brands of counterfeit food products including, Custard Powder, in the company’s corporate head office, Oshodi, Lagos. The NAFDAC boss noted that the new strategy of the agency to fish out those who deal in counterfeit and substandard regulated products has begun to yield results with the successful discovery of the organized illegal food production facilities. He therefore warned stakeholders and general public to demonstrate positive attitude and collaborate with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in the fight against counterfeit regulated products. 

Orhii stressed the importance of stakeholders and general public, especially the market unions, to to work closely with NAFDAC in this fight. “We have extended our hand of collaboration to all our stakeholders in this regard. I also would like to call on the general public, especially the market unions to work closely with NAFDAC in this fight,” he said. According to him, the latest breakthrough was made possible through collaboration with Lisabi Mills (Nigeria) Ltd, who reported that their flagship product, Gold’s Custard has been a subject of faking and counterfeiting with losses of several millions of Naira monthly. This is apart from the attendant injuries these counterfeit products cause on unsuspecting Nigerians who use them, Orhii said. Following a directive from his office, the DG said the Federal Taskforce immediately swung into action in close collaboration with Lisabi to investigate the case and bring the culprits to book. Through investigations, “it was discovered that different brands of food products among which were popular brands of Custard Powder were being counterfeited and sold in the markets. Further investigation led us to the Cemetery or Eziukwu Market in Aba, Abia State where an organized illegal food production facility was located,” the NAFDAC DG said. 

The DG further said that surveillance activities were carried out in April and May this year, adding; “reports of the surveillance activities were worrisome and needed prompt intervention.” “For example, truckloads of the fake Gold’s custard were seeing being dispatched, the streets and close within the market have no names and numbers, and a building serving as a manufacturing premise was identified and has an American Flag hoisted on it to distract attention,” he said. Giving details of the agency’s operation, last Friday, Orhii said: “Yesterday, the Federal Taskforce struck. The operation which lasted for about two hours started by 1:30 pm and ended by 3:45 pm leading to the closure of six illegal manufacturing factories located on the first floor of the three storey building inside the market and arrest of fourteen suspects was made.”  

Those arrested are: Akabueze Emmanuel, Ngozi Moughalu Cecilia, Chisom Ikem, James Ndobueze, Chika Emmanuel, Chinyere Nsofor, Victoria Chibueze, Nnenna Onuwa, Oluchi Ukpai, Onuoha Chidinma, Nnnena Chukwu, Ogechi Chukwu, Anurika Iloanya and  Nwadike Emmanuel The items discovered were: bags of uncertified industrial corn starch, gas cylinders, sealers, generating sets, promotional items such as notebooks, weighing scales, spoons among others. Other items are finished products of popular brands of Custard Powder which include: Gold’s Custard Powder    , 100 buckets x 2kg; Gold’s Custard Powder, 16 cartons x 2kg; Gold’s Custard Powder, 200 x 500g; Gold’s Custard Powder, 50 x 80g, Gold’s Custard Powder Sachet’s , five bags x 24 x 18 and Egg Banana custard, 2kg x 100. 

The DG further said that the operation suffered some hitches prior to its success. His words: “The operation was not without few incidences as attempts were made by the mob around the scene to cause confusion that will lead to breakdown of law and order, which may eventually result in the failure of the operation, but for the mature conduct of all members of the combined team.” He reiterated his stand on zero tolerance to counterfeiting in line with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda. Orhii pledged to ensure appropriate enforcement of the breach of the agency’s regulatory provisions, including, demolishing of any building that is used as a manufacturing or warehousing facility for counterfeit products. 

“We will not relent in this effort till we bring the level of counterfeit products to the barest minimum in this country,” he said. Reacting, the Managing Director, Lisabi Mills (Nigeria) Ltd, Mr. Shex Ladipo, commended NAFDAC efforts in the fight  against fake drugs.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 27, 2013.

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