Madu, a secondary school drop-out, gave comprehensive details of how for years he had successfully produced fake drugs in his secret illegal factory
A breakthrough has been recorded in the efforts to curb sale of counterfeit drugs when detectives acting on a tip-off recently bust a fake drug factory run by one Emeka Madu in Lagos.
Nabbed by operatives of Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) on December 13, 2018, Madu, a secondary school drop-out, gave comprehensive details of how for years he had successfully produced fake drugs in his secret illegal factory located at No. 2 Okunneye Street, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos State. Arrested with him were his workers identified as Eze Young, Chijoke Umunna, and Kingsley Obilo.
According to the police, Madu’s secret factory was discovered through an intelligence report received by the head of IRT, Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari. Detectives promptly deployed to the location caught him and his workers red-handed, busy producing some of the drugs.
The factory, part of an uncompleted building, harboured heavy-duty machine used in mixing, drying, tableting and packaging fake drugs before they are distributed to his chains of receivers. Also littered in the dirty environment were different types of chemicals most of which have been feasted on by rats. He alleged that those were the chemicals that he uses to produce anti-malaria tablets, antibiotics and analgesics.
Saturday Sun correspondent who was at the scene observed that the same uncompleted building used as his factory was where his family resides.
Some of the fake products discovered at the scene include Domiquine Chloroquine Phosphate, an anti-malaria drug, Cemtrim 480, a brand of Septrin and the popular painkiller, Paracetamol.
While the anti-malaria tablet’s pack has “Dominion Laboratories Ltd, Plot 21, Agbara Industrial layout, Ogun State” address and NAFDAC number 04-3844, the Septrin pack has “Clegs Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Plot 84 Eniola Estate, Agbara Industrial layout, Agbara, Ogun State” address with NAFDAC number O4-4083.
The addresses and NAFDAC numbers, according to Madu, were non-existent but were used to deceive his numerous buyers that the products are genuine.
High demand for my products
While taking the police round his secret factory, Madu, 47, who is a native of Ihite Uboma, Imo State stated that his products are in high demand, the reason his business is striving.
He said: “I have a plan to formally register the products because I discovered that it works better than most drugs produced by some of these pharmaceutical companies. I started this business four years ago when my business collapsed. I was into buying and selling bags at Balogun market, Lagos Island. As a father of five, the money I made was not enough to take care of my children, so naturally, family burden collapsed my business.
In my act of desperation, I met one Dozie who is now late, and he taught me how to package Paracetamol. Then he had a local equipment that can be used manually to produce the tablets. Then we were only putting it in a container and selling it to pharmacies and hospitals which were still counting drugs.
“I knew that I could make it big in the business, so I collected loan and sold off all my goods in the shop. I was able to procure the machine that could make it easier for me to produce different types of drugs in large quantity. I bought the blister N2.2million while the others are less than a million each. All these machines are worth about N5million.
“I also bought books that listed some of the chemicals needed to produce anti-malaria tablets which are in high demand. Luckily for me, my uncle Ngozi Echedirim has an uncompleted house in Ikotun and he asked me to occupy the house since I was having financial problems. I saw the building as a perfect location to situate my factory. It looks like a residential building and no one would suspect that I was producing drugs there.”
Mode of production
According to him, all the chemicals needed are available in Nigeria. “There are so many chemical shops at Ilasamaja and as long as you have your money they will sell any product to you. Initially, I was importing some of the products from China but with the current dollar rate, it was cheaper to buy from the big-time importers. They sell Paracetamol powder, Chloroquine Phosphate powder and Septrin powder in those shops. I will also buy preservatives, Cornstarch, binding agent and lactose. For instance, to make Paracetamol, I will mix the Paracetamol BP powder with cornstarch, preservatives, binding agent and Lapos with water and put it in the dryer. I will then put them in the tabletting machine to get the shape of a tablet.
“Next, I will put it in a blister machine which will arrange them in a sachet form before the final packaging in cartons or white containers. I’d just write any NAFDAC number and address on it. I choose a location in Agbara because most pharmaceutical companies in Lagos have their factories there.
“Initially when I started, I took a sample of my products to the laboratory in Oshodi where it was confirmed that everything is in order. I was careful because I do not want to kill people with my drugs.”
He claimed the process is so simple that his nine-year-old son can produce drugs without supervision. “This is now my family business, that’s why almost everyone in my house knows how to do it. They do not have a choice because this business has changed their lives. No woman wants to suffer, I believe that is why my wife is still with me and didn’t bother to report me to the police or NAFDAC. I do not waste money buying drugs for my family because I trust my product. You can see that all my children look healthy.”
Thriving market in Onitsha
Madu also claimed that 99 per cent of his customers are from Onitsha market, in Anambra State. “There is no market in Lagos because most of those big-time pharmaceutical companies are in Lagos and because they produce in large quantity, their prices are reasonable. Besides, information can easily leak to NAFDAC officials who settle some of these drug dealers if they can give them information to arrest us. Initially, I was selling to these small hospitals and chemists but the taskforce in Lagos is very strong that if you are caught, you will spend millions to regain freedom.
“Among my several customers are Dan and Joe who patronizes me once a week. They are based in Onitsha and every week, they buy at least 20 cartons of each product. Each delivery is about N180, 000 and they are expected to make at least 50% gain.
“For security reasons, I do not allow my customers to come here. All they do is to call me and I will take the product to them at the motor park. My workers are under oath, so I doubt if they are the ones who told the police about my factory.”
Begging for mercy, Madu claimed he was ready to pay security agencies any fine as long as they do not confiscate his machine or seal up his factory. “I know that what I am doing is wrong and I beg for mercy. I was planning to formally register the company when I make enough money to secure a good space for a factory. Apart from the environment which looks dirty, I can I assure you all products were manufactured according to NAFDAC standard.
“I am too old to go to school; all I need are pharmacists and laboratory technicians who will be working for me. I don’t need to read; all I need is money. I am lucky that no one has taken my brand name.
“I was desperate to change the fortunes of my family. In my quest to succeed, I have travelled to Abidjan in Ivory Coast where I was deported. It is only this business that has helped me survive. My children are in good schools and I have also employed so many. These drugs are not harmful to anyone. Please do not seal my factory,” he pleaded.
This is not the first time that Madu will be having a brush with the law. He said he has had his own fair share of arrests by security operatives. “I was arrested by NAFDAC officials at the airport. I normally import my products from China and mix it here. I paid a fine of N300, 000 and was released. I decided not to take that risk again and concentrated on buying from local markets. Other arrests were other security agencies and when I settle them, they will let me go.”
Please forgive my father
His children who were shedding tears during Madu’s arrest however pleaded with detectives to forgive and let their father go. His nine-year-old son, Samuel who obviously is not aware of the gravity of the crime of their father kept saying,” Please let my father go; we are ready to pay the police any amount that they want. He made a mistake and will not repeat again.”