- Says $72 bn lost to counterfeiting
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Disturbed by the increasing spate of the production and sale of fake and counterfeit drugs, as well as processed foods and the adverse effects on the citizenry, the Senate has proposed life imprisonment for anyone convicted of the acts.
This provision is contained in a new bill, entitled: ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods,’ that is currently in the works in the upper legislative chamber.
At a public hearing organised on the bill by the Senate Committee on Health at the weekend, Senate President Bukola Saraki said once the bill is passed into law, anyone convicted of counterfeiting will be sentenced to life imprisonment and also pay a fine of N2 million.
Saraki also said beyond life imprisonment and fines, all assets, investments and properties of such convicts aquired through illegal acts of sale and production of counterfeit items would be lost to the federal government.
According to him, the ongoing amendment of the Act is meant to strengthen punitive measures against persons involved in such unwholesome practices.
“In 2008, thousands of Nigerian children started taking a teething medicine that contains toxic chemicals. By February 2009, over 90 Nigerian babies had died from consuming the mixture. This is despicable and to say the least unacceptable,” Saraki said.
Furthermore, he said amendment of the bill would guarantee food security, disease-free-society and simultaneously uphold the required standard for food processing and sale and production of fake drugs.
In his submission, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuosho, highlighted the adverse effects of fake drugs on the nation’s economy, recalling how the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported the loss of $32 billion to drug counterfeiting business and another $40 billion in 2006.
Against this background, Tejuosho said “there is need to enact new legislations or amend the weak or already existing ones to see that the lives of citizens of this nation are protected.”
He lamented the increasing spate of fake products in the Nigerian market, pointing out that “there are several fake products like fake cosmetics, fake registered appliances, fake spare sparts, fake brushes, fake designer shoes and the list is literally endless.”
He added: “The effect is far reaching because it is a matter of life and death. Some of the major causes of fake drugs and counterfeiting include corruption, inadequate technology for the protection of the identity of genuine drugs as well as lack of vigilance and advocacy by healthcare providers. Combating this menace requires serious efforts.”
Tejuosho added that about 50 per cent of drugs used by patients are purchased from privately owned pharmacies, patent medicine stores and street vendors which he said are usually invaded by agents of counterfeit drugs unlike the case in the public sector.
He also recalled the comment of the late former Director General of National Foods Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Dora Akunyili, that the negative impact of fake drugs on the society is more than that of either narcotic agents or the combined effects of malaria, HlV/AIDS and armed robbery.
“Made in Nigeria drugs were officially unaccepted in other West African countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, et cet era,” he recalled.