•Detectives raid underground tunnel at Onitsha market, recover fake polish worth N30m
From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
It’s a two-storey building at the bank of the River Niger at Onitsha Marine Modern Market. To many, the building could easily pass for one of the numerous plazas at the extension of the Onitsha main market where assorted wears are sold.
But unknown to many, beneath the building lies a tunnel where some mean-minded businessmen store their numerous fake products. From there, the items are supplied to their contacts, who then sell such to unsuspecting members of the public.
Last week, the bubble burst for the syndicate when detectives from the Anambra State Police Command stormed the area in the wee hours of the morning. They unearthed the tunnel where cartons and bags of fake Kiwi Polish were stashed away in their thousands.
The operation, Daily Sun learnt, was carefully planned after diligent investigation, following a complaint lodged by the sole distributor of Kiwi Shoe Polish products in Nigeria, Chief Sam Anyanwutaku. He had noted that the fakers had flooded the market with the polish packaged in look-alike Kiwi cans. He noted that many Nigerians were unaware the only genuine Kiwi brand is by S.C. Johnson and Sons Inc.
Though the owner of the fake products identified as Ebube is presently on the run, traders within the area abandoned their businesses for several hours and kept watching, as the police, with the assistance of hired labourers, evacuated the products in hired trucks.
The newly posted Commissioner of Police in Anambra, Garba Umar, who also came to the scene with other senior officers of the command, said, considering the closeness of the warehouse to the River Niger, the owners of the illicit business might be using speed boats to offload the cartons of polish and other goods at odd hours in order to beat the security agencies.
The police boss, who was obviously startled at the ingenuity of those behind the construction of the large tunnel underneath the two-storey shopping mall, told journalists at the scene: “A formal complaint was lodged by someone, who has the franchise of Kiwi shoe polish, and we followed due process in the operation and this place was identified. We discovered a large consignment of the fake products in an underground warehouse adjacent to the River Niger. The suspect must have evacuated the products from the sea, as there is a tunnel that faces the River Niger. This is also an eye opener to all of us because we are trying to mop up and find ways, which we can stop crime and criminality. It could be any other thing more dangerous than Kiwi shoe polish. We are going to strategise and look at the other side of other crimes and see the possibility where we can uproot this kind of criminality in its entirety.
The CP noted that a new synergy would be adopted in checkmating crime even through the waters.
“We are seeing polish and it’s possible some people might also be importing other illegal items through the river. We have to beef up security along the waterways by equipping the Marine Police and the Navy who have a synergy with us. We will go after the suspects and the owner of the warehouse. I invite Anambra people to cooperate with us to make our society crime free.”
While noting that importation of adulterated products was a big problem, he assured that the police would not rest on their oars until the sources of the importation were identified and blocked.
He noted that adulterated products were injurious to life and urged citizens to report any incident of such to the police.
Also speaking, the Franchise owner and sole agent of Kiwi in Nigeria, Chief Sam Anyanwutaku, regretted that the importation of the fake Kiwi polish had been on for a long time, adding that he had to report to the police when the information on the latest importation reached his company.
He noted that the battle to eliminate the distribution of the fake shoe polish had been on for many years, adding that those behind such business were obstinate even when such confiscated products had been burnt publicly on several occasions
“We have lost hundreds of millions of dollars to these fakers while the consumers have been cheated too because many of them buy it thinking that they bought the genuine product. We have the name of this importer, who is now on the run, and the police have assured us that they were still investigating the matter so as to apprehend him. We have discovered over two container loads of this fake products valued at over N30 million. I thank the police and members of the press for their efforts in this regard,” Anyanwutaku said.
Chairman of the Marine Modern Market, Onitsha, Mr. Louis Onyeabor (Uzommili), absolved the market union of any complicity in the crime. He said the market was only into clothing materials and had a standing policy against adulterated products.
The confiscated products were later taken to the state police headquarters in Awka, as exhibits while investigations continue.