Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has disclosed that its enforcement team working in collaboration with the government of the Republic of Benin destroyed five 40- feet containers of unregistered pharmaceuticals including tramadol in Cotonou, the capital of the Republic of Benin.
The agency put the street value of the destroyed drugs at an estimated at N95 billion.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, who disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, said the agency secured an order from Cotonou Court before destroying the consignment of the illegal drug last year, December 21 and 22.
Addressing journalists at the headquarters of NAFDAC, Adeyeye said that a team of NAFDAC officers (including Investigation and Enforcement Directorate officers), led by Prof Adebayo, the Director of Ports Inspection Directorate travelled to Cotonou where the destruction exercise of the five containers took place on 21st and 22nd December 2022.
This international landmark achievement (that had never been recorded in the history of the two countries and NAFDAC) did not come without the unflinching efforts of the staff of Ports Inspection Directorate in Apapa and Seme Border.
“The management and Governing Council of NAFDAC would like to recognise the support of the following partners in the fight against misuse and abuse of drugs: The Government of the Republic Benin, Nigerian Embassy in the Republic of Benin, Nigeria Customs Service, and Ghana Food and Drug Agency,” she said.
Adeyeye paid tribute to the gallant officers of Ports Inspection Directorate (Seme and Apapa) who refused to be compromised by ensuring that the Agency continue in her efforts at safeguarding the health of the nation.
While giving account of how the agency swooped on the illicit drug dealers, Adeyeye said that following an intelligence report from the Presidency in August 2018, NAFDAC informed the Director of Ports Inspection Directorate, Prof. Samson B. Adebayo on the intention of some unscrupulous importers to ship thirty-one (31) containers of unregistered pharmaceutical products including tramadol 200mg and above from India.
She said the containers were labelled building materials and for bonded terminal.
However, she said that the Director, Ports Inspection Directorate, working with his Intelligence and Monitoring Unit commenced the surveillance and monitoring of the reported containers from the ports of loading to the successive ports where they were transloaded along the sea routes.
According to NAFDAC Boss, the initial approach was to collaborate with the Nigeria Customs Service to track the movement of the containers.
She said 21 of the containers containing different classes of tramadol drug were eventually discharged at the Apapa port in Lagos.
“One container couldn’t be tracked because of a missing container number. Out of the 21 containers, only two had building materials. However, as the importers of the containers became aware that NAFDAC was tracking and monitoring the containers on arrival at the Apapa port and intercepting them, they decided to change their strategy by diverting the remaining away from the Nigerian port.
“Four containers never got to Nigeria but were discharged at transhipment in Malaysia. One container was transferred to the Cotonou port in the Republic of Benin while the remaining four were initially diverted to the Tema Port in Ghana but later diverted them to Cotonou having met resistance from Ghana Food and Drug Agency that NAFDAC already contacted for collaboration to stop the four (4) containers,” she said.
However, Adeyeye said as the importers of the containers became aware that NAFDAC was tracking and monitoring the containers on arrival at the Apapa port and intercepting them, they decided to change their strategy by diverting the remaining away from the Nigerian port. Four containers never got to Nigeria but were discharged at transhipment in Malaysia.
Adeyeye said it took about one year plus but that Ambassador Aluko stayed on the case until the court made the judgement that the containers could be destroyed in Benin.