From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
A 41-year-old man, Innocent Oparah, has been sentenced to three years imprisonment with an option of N200,000 fine for endangering lives of innocent consumers through the circulation of fake drugs.
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) who secured the judgement at the Federal High Court, Kano, Kano State, frowned at the option of fine, stating that it was not commiserate with the gravity of the offence, thus suggesting a stiffer penalty for such offences.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health, Dr. Tanko Sununu, had sponsored a bill at the National Assembly demanding for more punitive measures against those involved in illicit and falsified drugs.
A statement by the Resident Media Consultant of NAFDAC, Sayo Akintola, indicated that NAFDAC secured the conviction at the Federal High Court, Kano, presided over by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Mark with charge No FHC/KN /51/2019.
He recalled that the convict was arrested on 20th October, 2018, with some drug products, and paracetamol label that was changed to Quinine and Nivaquine.
He explained: “NAFDAC officials in collaboration with members of National Association of Patent and Proprietary Medicine Dealers (NAPPMED), had upon intelligence information swooped on Sabon Gari market in Kano where the convict was picked up.
“Four boys were found in his shop changing the labels of paracetamol with that of Quinine, and the boys confessed that it was Innocent a.k.a. Inno that owns the products. The boys called Innocent on phone, and he later came and met them at the shop where he accepted ownership of the products.
“Analysts found the two drugs unsafe for human use, as the content of the Quinine Sulphate was lower than the expected and the manufacturer’s address was not indicated on the product label.
“Similarly, the analysis report of Nivaquine Chloroquine 100Mmg tablet was not satisfactory as the friability test was out of specification and tablet breaking. Also, percentage content of Chloroquine was lower than expected and the manufacturer’s address was also incomplete, and the Quinine and Nivaquine were both not registered by NAFDAC.”
Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, commended the judiciary for the judgement which she said, will serve as deterrent to other criminally minded fake drug peddlers.
She reiterated her call for a review of the law and punishment to discourage Nigerians from going into the illicit business that is capable of compromising the health of the people.
She noted with dismay that the provisions of the law for drug offenders in the country prescribed weak penalty, thus underscoring the need for review of such law that will prescribe stiffer penalty for drug counterfeiters in the country.
Prof. Adeyeye, however, appealed to the 9th National Assembly to pass the submitted bill before the end of their tenure since it’s a security related issue. “Fake and illicit drugs kill people, and the penalty the offenders usually get is so insignificant when compared to the gravity of the offense committed.
“Getting judgment of months, two or three-years imprisonment is not enough. We must do everything possible to get a law in place that will recommend stiffer penalty for these drug counterfeiters. Food and drugs are too important in human life to be compromised in standard.”
She pledged that NAFDAC would continue to ensure that those dealing in fake and illicit drugs in the country would not go unpunished, adding that the agency was more determined and committed than ever by putting necessary measures in place to save lives of the citizens.
She, however, commended members of NAPPMED for the intelligence that culminated in the arrest and prosecution of the convict.
She urged other members of the public to emulate the group by providing vital information that would lead to the arrest of the merchants of death in the country.