A Federal High Court in Kano has sentenced a 41-year-old man, Innocent Oparah, to three years jail term for endangering the lives of innocent consumers through the circulation of fake drugs.
Oparah was charged to court for labelling paracetamol as Quinine Sulphate & Nivaquine (Chloroquine) tablets at D222 Sabon Gari Market, Kano.
The court was presided over by Justice Ibrahim Mark in the case with charge No FHC/KN /51/2019.
In a statement signed by the Resident Media Consultant of the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control, Sayo Akintola, on Sunday, Oparah was on Friday sentenced to three years with an option of a N200,000 fine.
Count one stated, “that you, Innocent Okparah on or about October 20, 2018, at the above address within the jurisdiction of this honorable court was found in possession of fake drugs, thereby, committed an offence contrary to section 1(a) of the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (miscellaneous provisions) Act, Cap C34, LEN 2004 and punishable under section 3 (1) (a) of the same Act.’’
The statement made available to The PUNCH read in part, “Innocent Oparah was also prosecuted for illegally labelling Quinine Sulphate and Nivaquine Chloroquine 100mg in a manner that was false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 5 (a) of the Food and Drugs Act, Cap F32, LFN 2004 and punishable under section 17 of the same Act.
“The convict was arrested on October 20, 2018 with some drug products and Paracetamol label that was changed to Quinine and Nivaquine.
“In collaboration with the members of National Association of Patent & Proprietary Medicine Dealers, officers of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control had, upon intelligence information, swooped on the Sabon Gari market in Kano where the convict was picked up.
“Four boys were met at his shop changing labels of paracetamol with that of quinine and the boys confessed that it was Innocent a.k.a. INNO that owned the products.
“The boys called Innocent Oparah on phone, and he later came and met them at the shop where he accepted ownership of the products.
“The analyst found the two drugs unsatisfactory for human use as the content of the Quinine Sulphate was lower than expected and the manufacturer’s address was not indicated on the product label. The analysis report of Nivaquine Chloroquine 100Mmg tablet was not satisfactory as the friability test was out of specification and tablet breaking, also percentage content of chloroquine was lower than expected and the manufacturer’s address was incomplete. The Quinine and Nivaquine are not registered by NAFDAC.
“The presiding judge noted that innocent’s action was inimical to the general wellbeing of the people of Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health, Dr. Tanko Sununu sponsored a bill at the National Assembly demanding more punitive punishments for those involved in illicit and falsified drugs.
Commending the judiciary for the judgment meant to serve as a deterrent to other criminally minded fake drug peddlers, Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, reiterated her call for a review of the law to discourage Nigerians from going into the illicit business that is capable of compromising the health of the people.
She noted with dismay that the provision of the law for drug offenders in the country prescribed weak penalties underscoring the need for a review of such law for that which prescribes stiffer penalties for drug counterfeiters in the country to serve as a deterrent to others.
Adeyeye, however, appealed to the 9th National Assembly to pass the bill before the end of their tenure since it’s a security-related issue.
“Fake and illicit drugs kill people and the judgment the offenders usually get is so insignificant when compared to the level of the offence committed. Getting judgment of months or two or three years imprisonment is not enough. We must do everything possible to get a law in place that will recommend a stiffer penalty for drug counterfeiters,” Adeyeye said.
According to her, food and drugs were too important in human life to compromise standards.
She pledged that NAFDAC would continue to ensure that those dealing in fake and illicit drugs in the country would not go unpunished.
She said the agency was more determined and committed than ever to putting necessary measures in place to save the lives of the citizens.
She, however, commended members of NAPPMED for giving the agency intelligence that culminated in the arrest and prosecution of the convict as she urged other members of the public to emulate the group by providing NAFDAC with vital information that may lead to the arrest of the merchants of death in the country.