Ports weighed down by influx of fake drugs


The nation’s ports have become the hub of fake drug imports as Nigeria’s threat to ban imports from the countries of origin has not yielded positive result, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports



Since 2003, India, China, Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia have turned Nigeria into a market for dumping fake drugs.


One of the largest exporters of substandard pharmaceutical products to Nigeria is India. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has said that at least 70 per cent of the fake drugs in circulation are imported into the country as various inspections introduced to stop it have failed. Imports


For instance, findings revealed that some pharmaceutical products worth $508 million were imported from India alone in two years, while $205.4 million and $302,6 million drugs were shipped to the country between 2018 and 2019 respectively.


The International Trade Statistics (ITS’) trade portal on pharmaceutical products’ importation to Nigeria also explained that $187.7 million drugs were ferried from China, stressing that the country took delivery of $94.6 million and $93,1 million of the products during the period. It was learnt that some of the fake drugs contain nothing but chalk, milk in capsules and inactive ingredients.



The Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, had said that the country still depended on imported drugs to satisfy the essential medical needs of its growing population, while the local drug manufacturing facilities remained underutilised because of fake pharmaceutical products.


He said: “We are making Nigeria a dumping ground for the rest of African countries who are positioning themselves with the opportunity provided by African free trade.”


For instance, in 2020 alone, 133 containers of imported unregistered pharmaceutical products were seized at the Lagos Port Complex by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).


It was learnt that the pharmaceutical products were falsely declared in order to evade National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)’s examination. Also, NAFDAC and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) had partnered to seize over N2 trillion worth of tramadol, while unwholesome foods and other regulated products worth over N4 billion were seized and destroyed in exercises across the nation within one year.


Tricks It was gathered that manufacturers in India have rebranded Tramadol to Tafrodol in order to evade detection by Nigeria Customs Service officials at the seaports and borders. Worried by the unethical practice, NAFDAC said that it would no longer be business as usual for both clearing agents and importers operating at the nation’s ports, saying that the era of fraudulent activities has come to an end with a view to safeguarding the health of the Nigerian populace and the economy.


Director General of the agency, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, blamed the uncontrolled influx of fake, substandard and unregistered products on the absence of NAFDAC at the nation’s ports from 2011 on the order of the then minister of finance. She said in Abuja at a forum that the disturbing development where agents and, possibly with the connivance of importers, engage in falsification of NAFDAC documents, would not be tolerated nor treated with kid gloves any longer.


Measures She added that NAFDAC had also gone further to ensure that the Clean Report of Inspection and Analysis (CRIA) scheme was strengthened for the purpose of establishing the quality and safety of regulated products before they are shipped from China and India to Nigeria.


She added that the agency had gone a step further to ensure the availability of Ports Inspection Data Capture and Risk Management System (PIDCARMS) as a full online processing portal for the clearance of goods at the ports.


The director general disclosed that the Agency had also commenced the new phase of the CRIA scheme, prevented the export of over 40 pharmaceutical and food products that failed laboratory analysis into Nigeria, while a large consignment of over 200 containers of fake and substandard pharmaceuticals that were intended to be cleared from the nations’ ports and borders were disallowed.


According to her, these products could have been consumed by Nigerians with adverse health implications, but were intercepted with collaborative efforts of the Nigeria Customs Service, other security and sister agencies. The growing concern with regards to the influx of unregistered products, she further said, had brought to light the increasing need to continually improve compliance among ports traders  and to also ensure that all stakeholders within the port community work to achieve a safe and healthy society.


Solution She vowed to continue to strengthen the scheme to better improve services to Nigeria Importers and ensure that only safe and quality regulated products are available for distribution.


The Resident Media Consultant to NAFDAC, Sayo Akintola, quoted Adeyeye as saying: ‘’We shall take all legal means as an agency set up by the law of Nigeria to prosecute any erring stakeholder.”


Adeyeye added that NAFDAC had deployed various improvements in its processes that would ensure auto verification of documents presented to the agency during clearing, place in the hand of stakeholders the ability to verify the true status of clearance of regulated products.


She reiterated her commitment to the modernisation of NAFDAC’s processes and institutionalisation of international best practices in the way activities are conducted in the agency.


Last line


Government should allow NAFDAC to inspect pharmaceutical products at the port of destination before they are cleared in order to protect consumers.




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