Nigeria: Drugs, Products Regulatory Agencies Get N49 Billion in 3 Years

12 November 2018

Nigeria has spent nearly N50 billion in the last three years to fight illicit drugs, as well as substandard products and food in the country.

But drug abuse and trafficking continue to rise even as fake and substandard products find their way into the country, Daily Trust's investigation shows.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), and the National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are the key federal agencies responsible for drugs, food, and products regulations.

Analysis of their budgetary allocations revealed that the three agencies were allocated N49.206 billion between 2016 and 2018.

NAFDAC was allocated N15.263 billion in three years. It got N5.317 billion in 2018, N4.626 billion in 2017, and N10.634 billion in 2016.

NDLEA got a total of N26.818 billion during the three years under review thus: N9.695 billion (2018), N8.641 billion (2017), and N8.482 billion (2016).

On the other hand, the SON's total allocation in the last three years was N7.125. The agency got N2.767 billion in 2018, N2.286 in 2017, and N2.072 billion in 2016.

What the agencies do

NDLEA is charged with eliminating the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs. It was established by Decree Number 48 of January 1990. It tries to eradicate cannabis by destroying plantings. The agency also targets the deaders of narcotics and money laundering organizations.

SON, on the other hand, was established by the SON Act 2015, and is charged with the preparation of standards relating to products, measurements, materials and processes among others, and their promotion at the national, regional and international levels; certification of industrial products; assistance in the production of quality goods; improvement of measurement accuracy and circulation of information relating to standards.

NAFDAC was established in 1992 to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, packaged water, chemicals, and detergents.

Impact of fake drugs, products

A consultant psychiatrist, Bayo Aduwo, said over half a million bottles of codeine are consumed by Nigerians daily, with about 300,000 of such bottles sold in the north alone. These include over 500,000 bottles of codeine, as well as tramadol, rohypnol, marijuana, and other opioids.

Africa records at least 100,000 deaths, arising from fake drug-related ailments annually, as counterfeits drugs account for 17 percent of the generic drugs in supply in Nigeria, according to the Financial Services Advisory Leader and Chief Economist, Project Blue, PWC Nigeria, Andrew Nevin.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the proliferation of fake and substandard drugs in Nigeria has affected the credibility of the health care system, which can result to harmful effects on consumers leading to illness, disabilities and even death.

In the West African sub-region, approximately 60 percent of drug manufacturing takes place in Nigeria. There are more than 150 pharma formulation manufacturing facilities as the pharma industry is growing at 13 percent yearly, with an estimated market size of $1.8 billion.

Another effect of sub-standard products can be seen from the recurring incidents of collapse buildings, domestic fires, auto crashes, among others, which were blamed on counterfeited goods, ranging from textiles, household equipment, furniture, telecommunications equipment and vehicle spare parts to used or second-hand items, fake drugs or even food items like poultry, rice, and palm oil.

The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) said between 2011 and 2015, no fewer than 5,288 road crashes across the federation were caused by either worn-out or sub-standard tyres.

FRSC Corps Marshall, Boboye Oyeyemi said control of tyres coming into the country is made difficult as there are no longer tyre-manufacturing companies in the country, re-boring/patching of worn-out tyres instead of purchasing new ones," he said.

Fight against fake drugs, products so far

Despite this gory picture, there are still some success stories as NAFDAC said, it had destroyed counterfeit drugs worth N29 billion in the last three years.

Abubakar Jimoh, director of special duties said in December 2016 alone, fake drugs worth N9.6 billion were destroyed in Port Harcourt, Rivers, in an operation carried out in conjunction with the Nigeria Customs Service.

He said N29 billion would have been made from sales if the drugs had succeeded in flooding the Nigerian markets.

"Counterfeit drugs, as far as we are concerned, have no value; but those engaged in this dastardly act would have made N29 billion in the last three years," he said.

The NDLEA said it arrested 34,499 persons in connection with drug-related offences across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT between 2012 and 2015.

The anti-drug agency said it seized 1,578,723 narcotic drugs during the four-year period under review.

Katsina 2,173, while Plateau and Ekiti states are third and fourth with 1,342 and 1,088 cases respectively.

In 2012 alone, 8,052 cases were recorded by the agency, 8,843 (2013), 8,826 (2014) and 8,778 (2015).

Geopolitically, the northwest, (8,939 cases), southwest (6,999 cases), northcentral (5,574 cases), south-south (5,545 cases), southeast (4,230 cases), and northeast (3,212 cases).

The SON said it was working to eliminate fake products in the country. One of such efforts was the arrest of two Chinese nationals, Taolung Shen and Xu Jing Yau, who were said to have dealt in substandard tyres worth over N5 billion last year.

The suspects were arrested while trying to repackage the tyres as new, with rebranded new expiry dates. The Chinese adorn the tyres with new labels and shiny linings to create the impression of being new and healthy, the SON said.

The arrest of the Chinese came months after the agency destroyed electrical cables and bulbs valued at over N450 million for failure to pass the agency's scrutiny.

The way out

One of the ways of eliminating this menace is the strengthening of punitive measures. NAFDAC, for instance, had advocated for the passage of the bill which seeks life jail term, confiscation of assets and compensation of victims on conviction, which has not been passed by the Senate.

Analysts say that with nearly $1 trillion in drug sales yearly, the penalty for counterfeiting is punishable by imprisonment for between three months to five years or alternatively a fine of N100, 000 is imposed. This is grossly inadequate a punishment, they say.

Other measures are financing the agencies to acquire competent manpower, adequate logistics, and equipment to work.

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