The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has said that individuals convicted of producing and selling counterfeit and fake drugs as well as unwholesome processed foods may be jailed for life.
Saraki, who spoke at the public hearing on a Bill for an Act to Amend the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods Act, added that such convicts could be fined up to two million naira.
He further said that upon conviction, assets acquired by such persons would be forfeited to the Federal Government.
According to him, the amendment of the law is aimed at strengthening punishments for persons involved in such unwholesome practices.
“In 2008, thousands of Nigerian children started taking a teething medicine that contained toxic chemicals.
“By February 2009 over 90 Nigerian babies had died from consuming the mixture. This is despicable, and to say the least, unacceptable,’’ he said.
The president of the Senate stressed that the amendment of the law would provide Nigerians food security, disease free society and required standards for soil sciences.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Olanrewaju Tejuoso, said the Senate had continued to give opportunity to Nigerians to contribute their quota to matters of national importance, particularly health.
He said that the World Health Organisation had reported that about 32 billion dollars was lost to drug counterfeiting business in 2004 and 40 billion dollars in 2006.
“There is need to enact new legislation or amend the weak or already existing ones to see that the lives of the citizens of this nation are protected,’’ he said.
Tejuoso said that the increased level of fake products in the Nigerian market was alarming.
He added that “there are several fake products like fake cosmetics, fake registered appliances, fake spare-parts, fake brushes, fake designer shoes and the list is literally endless.
“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 the healthcare providers.
“Combating this menace requires serious efforts,’’ he said.
According to him, about 50 per cent of drugs bought from private places, such as pharmacies, patent medicine stores and street vendors, are more susceptible to counterfeiting unlike those from the public health sector.
“According to late Dora Akunyili of blessed memory, the negative impact of fake drugs from the society is more than that of either narcotic agents but the combined effects of malaria, HIV/AIDS and armed robbery,’’ he said.