•Nigerians raise the alarm, task regulatory, security bodies to check menace
Recently, a video of an obviously adulterated margarine that was shared by an anonymous woman went viral on the social media in Nigeria.
In the four-and-half-minute video, the woman revealed how the margarine did not melt, even though some quantity was scooped into a pot of boiling water.
The author of the video regretted that her two children had almost finished eating the margarine before the sham was discovered. She claimed that she bought the product from a popular supermarket in Abuja. After boiling the ‘margarine’ for about 15 minutes, it failed to dissolve.
The incidence of recurrent fire outbreak in homes and offices due to electrical faults has raised concerns over the quality of wires and other electrical appliances in circulation. The same thing plays out in motor spare parts markets, where second-hand, used parts are now preferred to new ones. It is worse in the drug business. Stories of how drugs purchased above the counter have compounded people’s ailments are everywhere.
Many Nigerians would remember, at the peak of the Christmas celebrations in 2016, how some questionable characters flooded the country with what was suspected to be ‘plastic rice’ imported from Asia. The perpetrators feasted on the season during which demand for and consumption of rice would increase tremendously.
Today, for almost every item in the market, there is the original and fake variant displayed side by side. With impunity, the seller advises the buyer to decide on which to go for, depending on his choice and purse.
Lives are being lost daily, and varying degrees of injury, including permanent disabilities, inflicted on patrons of these fake products and goods.
Concerned Nigerians have been urging the regulatory bodies to routinely gather intelligence through market surveys, consultation with consumers’ rights protection bodies and the general public against products that cannot stand the test of time.
Nigerians are apparently worried over the upsetting rate at which fake and sub-standard products are making their way into the market and to the final consumers. Its consequences are simply unquantifiable, economically and health-wise.
While the majority of citizens are grumbling over the ugly trend, a few, the counterfeiters, are smiling to the bank, at the expense of human life. So long as business is booming for the unscrupulous elements, they are hardly bothered about the pains inflicted on unsuspecting buyers through the fake products they churn out daily.
Investigation revealed that the practice of counterfeiters has been hampering the sale and use of genuine goods and products across Nigeria.
Virtually every original product has counterfeiters working hard, day and night, to produce a facsimile and sell at cheaper prices. Some of them handle the process so professionally that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate the fake from the original. There are other categories of people whose business is to manufacture sub-standard goods from their hideouts. Some traders, it was learnt, solely make their money from importing unwholesome products. Tampering with the manufacturing and expiry dates is also common among dubious distributors and retailers. These agents of doom are present in every part of Nigeria, from Lagos to Aba, Sokoto to Sagamu.
Whatever product you could think of is sold to the public as fake or sub-standard. They include beverages, fruit juice, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, drugs, tyres and auto parts, sachet and table water, packaged raw food of any kind, cooking gas cylinders, electronics, building materials, body and hair creams, keys and padlocks, confectioneries and a host of others.
Many have claimed that Nigeria remains a dumping ground for all sorts goods because of the absence of encouragement for local production and manufacturing by successive governments, which pushes many businessmen to import from China and other parts of Asia, the known centre for fake, cheap and sub-standard products.
Another factor that makes fake products thrive in Nigeria, according to a chartered accountant, Mr. Cyprian Nwuya, is the fact that many cannot afford the high cost of original quality products.
The accountant charged businessmen to embrace high standards and sound business ethics, and to also transact business with an impeccable character.
On his part, a Lagos-based stockbroker, Mr. Tosin Oluwaseun, said Nigeria’s land borders, airport and sea terminals have been very porous to the extent that foreigners are also trying their luck in the nefarious activities to further pollute the system while they repatriate the proceeds to their own countries.
“Despite all the noise being made by all the regulatory bodies, there is still a surge in production and importation of fake products. Our security agencies also need to improve on their job, by ensuring that there is no compromise at all at the entry points, so that importers of fake products can be tamed,” he said.
Oluwaseun urged those mounting the gateways to the country, such as Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Department of State Services, Directorate of Military Intelligence and others to diligently do their jobs.
It came as a shock to many Nigerians when the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), with the aid of a whistleblower, discovered a warehouse in Satellite Town, Lagos, where two Chinese citizens were about rebranding used and sub-standard tyres. They had connived with some Nigerians to bring the tyres into the country.
A businessman and pastor in a Pentecostal church in Lagos, Mr. Rotimi Okunade, said after the exit of the late Prof. Dora Akunyili as director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the war against substandard drugs has not recorded appreciable success.
“Standards Organisation of Nigeria and others need to sensitise Nigerians, the consuming public, through more education and campaigns, in the interest of the people,” the pastor said.
In a chat, coordinator of SON, Lagos office, Mr. Ugbaja Joseph, said the organisation was working round the clock to ensure that markets across the country were rid of unwholesome products.
He said: “Some of the mandates of SON are to set standards and get rid of sub-standard products from the market, ensuring that the makers meet the quality requirements of our standard.”
On why the war against counterfeiters and other promoters of fake products appears slow, Joseph said it was a gradual process that would continue indefinitely.
When asked why the “dirty business” was booming in Nigeria, he responded: “With the present condition of our economy, people want to cut corners. That is one of the reasons they engage in such acts. Sometimes, too, they want to maximise profit at the expense of people’s health. It is our duty to protect genuine manufacturers from counterfeiters so that they will continue to be in business.
“Some cof the challenges we encounter in clamping down on perpetrators are that Nigerians are not good at complaining to the appropriate authorities. But if you buy a product and you are short-changed, you are supposed to complain to SON and then we take it up from there. We are like quality policemen. We also get some information on our own but we can’t be everywhere at the same time.”
He assured Nigerians that any information that is given to the organisation would be treated in strict confidence in order not to endanger the lives of those who volunteer to give the information.
Joseph lamented that the influx of substandard products was having a huge toll on the economy, pointing out that Nigeria was losing billions of naira through the work of counterfeiters and importers of fake products. He said the importation of such goods hinders the people who are supposed to locally produce them and create employment.
A dealer in cosmetics at Idumota Market, Lagos Island, Uchenna Chukwunoso, said it was rather unfortunate that counterfeiting of goods continues to thrive, despite the heavy presence of several regulatory and security bodies in the country. He lamented that the counterfeiters were causing him to lose hundreds of thousands naira weekly.
He called on the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, NAFDAC, SON and other regulatory agencies to step up their game by sanitising the market and preventing avoidable deaths.
The businessman wants unscrupulous businessmen who specialise in importing fake goods to be punished, no matter their influence in the country. He said doing so would serve as deterrent to others in the ignoble business.