Odein Ajumogobia, Foreign Affairs Minister
By Collins Edomaruse in New Delhi
In a radical move to stamp out the menace of counterfeited pharmaceutical products, India has approved life imprisonment for any of her businessmen involved in the production and distribution of fake drugs in Nigeria.
The new action plan aimed at arresting the seemingly intractable incidence of fake and counterfeit drugs in Nigeria is contained in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by both countries on March 16, this year, in New Delhi, India.
The MoU also makes it mandatory for the Indian government to confiscate the equipment used by any convict in producing the products, while he would also stand the risk of forfeiting his property to the authorities.
THISDAY investigation in New Delhi revealed that the agreement was signed by India's Joint Secretary in the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Arun Jha, and Nigeria’s Director-General (DG) of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii.
It was also gathered that the agreement was signed in the presence of India’s Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, and his Nigerian counterpart, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), after both parties had discussed ways to strengthen economic and bilateral ties.
Speaking to THISDAY on phone Tuesday, one of the joint secretaries at the country’s Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Gurgit Singh, said: “We do not support corruption. We do not support bad business practices. Any Indian, who is caught in the business of counterfeiting any of our fast-moving pharmaceutical products in Nigeria, should be prosecuted.”
Singh also said as a deliberate policy of the government to prove that the country was serious with the new initiative to stamp out the trend, added: “India is not only interested in actions that will eradicate the menace, she will also pay for the cost of prosecuting any suspect of the counterfeited product traced to India or to any Indian firm.”
Expatiating on the policy thrust, he said the MoU also contained a N300,000 compensation payable to any informant that gives the agency any tip-off that would uncover the source and producers of counterfeited products.
According to him, the Indian government had equally agreed to collaborate with NAFDAC in capacity building training programme, provide funding for the training of medical engineers, as well as the Nigerian government in investigation of suspects.
Addressing African journalists, also Tuesday in his office, Krishna said his country had placed on the table, a $5.4 billion credit package for African countries to access over a five-year period, starting from 2009.
He said the package was designed to give an impetus to infrastructure development, including railways, information technology, power generation, physical connectivity, crop diversification and capacity building in agriculture.
He said the African continent “figures prominently on the foreign policy radar of India” and expressed happiness that the relationship between the continent and his country “has blossomed into multi-faceted association where each one of us contributes significantly”.
The minister also said: “Indian partnership with Africa has been consultative and responsive. We have created a three-tier engagement with Africa: at pan-African, regional and bilateral levels. We have been guided by the wishes and priorities of our African friends in working together in institutional capacity building, human resource development, science and technological cooperation, enhancing agricultural productivity and food security, development of infrastructure, and in other areas.”
Since democratic rule returned in Nigeria in 1999, the country's trade volume with India has increased substantially, surging from $293.71 million to $8 billion in the 2009/2010 fiscal year.