In a sweeping crackdown on the illegal production and sale of adulterated beverages, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) successfully intercepted counterfeiters operating in Eziukwu Market, Aba, Abia State. The operation, carried out in collaboration with other security agencies, revealed a sophisticated network of criminals engaged in the production of fake wines, soft drinks, and consumables.
Following weeks of intelligence gathering and data collation, NAFDAC, acting on an informed tip-off, conducted a sting operation in Eziukwu Market, also known as Cemetery Market, uncovering a cartel that had been operating for an extended period. The criminals, who operated with impunity, posed a significant threat to anyone challenging their nefarious activities.
The illicit operations included the production of counterfeit products under various brand names, such as Seaman Schnapps, Henessy, Four Cousins, Carlo Rossi, Jenney, Chelsea London Dry Gin, Schnapp Dry Gin, McDowells, Black Labels, Gordons, Martell, Campari, Smirnoff ice, Eva Non-Alcoholic Drink, Evra Non-Alcoholic Drink, Cartel, and others. Additionally, the counterfeiters engaged in date revalidation for expired products such as Peak milk, Powdered milk, Ketchups, Yoghurt, Coca Cola products, and the packaging of fake and substandard products.
The extensive operation resulted in the raid of over 240 shops-turned-factories, where harmful products were being produced and marketed. These facilities were found to be using unhygienic water sources, harmful chemicals, saccharin, coloring agents, dirty recycled bottles, and cloned packaging materials from reputable brands.
During the operation, over 1,500 cartons of fake and substandard products were destroyed, with an estimated street value exceeding seven hundred and fifty million naira (N750,000,000). Ten individuals were arrested at the scene of the crime and will face charges after a thorough investigation.
Due to the gravity of the illegal activities in the market, NAFDAC took the decisive step of temporarily shutting down the entire Eziukwu Market for regulatory activities. The closure was lifted only after an agreement was reached with stakeholders, who pledged that the market would no longer be used for such illicit activities.
As Nigeria grapples with issues of counterfeiting and illicit activities affecting various sectors, a growing sentiment of lamentation pervades the nation. Abuchi Obinna, a concerned citizen, voiced his frustration, stating, “The discovery of yet another fake drinks cartel in Abia is a testament to the issues we face in ensuring the safety and of our people. It’s disheartening to witness the extent to which these criminal activities undermine our health, Government must pit in place sterner penalties.”
Drinking adulterated alcohol poses severe health risks, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, drowsiness, dizziness, and even death. Methanol, a substance used in fake vodka, can cause permanent blindness. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over three million people worldwide die from alcohol poisoning. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reports that 4.7 percent of overall cancer cases in 2019 can be attributed to the consumption of adulterated alcohol.
NAFDAC, in its commitment to protecting public health, urgess to remain vigilant, especially during the festive season. Consumers are advised to scrutinize branded drinks for authenticity, considering the “4 Ps” before making purchases:
- Place: Buy only NAFDAC registered drinks from reputable and licensed retailers, bars, and supermarkets.
- Price: Be cautious if the product is sold significantly below its normal price or lacks normal taxes on liquors.
- Packaging: Check for poor quality packaging, spelling mistakes, unusually shaped bottles, and the manufacturer’s contact information. A broken or damaged seal indicates potential tampering.
- Product: Beware of bad smells, as products with a scent resembling paint stripper or nail polish remover are likely counterfeit.
NAFDAC reassures the public that it will continue to combat counterfeit products nationwide, ensuring that only safe and healthy products are consumed. The agency calls on citizens to report any suspicious activities related to the illegal production of adulterated products to the nearest NAFDAC office nationwide.