* Bill Scales Second Reading
A Bill now before the Senate seeks life imprisonment for vendors of fake drugs in the country.
The bill, which has already scaled the second reading in the red chamber, seeks to amend the Counterfeit, Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods law in the country.
The amendment Bill, among others prescribes stiffer punitive measures, including life imprisonment, for anyone culpable of importing; producing and distributing counterfeit and fake drugs as well as unwholesome processed foods in the country.
The Bill, sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi, is titled “A Bill for an Act to amend the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs And Unwholesome Process Foods (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap C34 Laws of the Federation and for other matters connected therewith.”
Leading the debate on the Bill, Olujimi raised the alarm about the high level of fake and counterfeit drugs in circulation within the country, calling for immediate action on the part of the government to stem the tide.
The Bill was unanimously endorsed, while Senators canvassed for even death penalties and confiscation of properties of all offenders as good measures for scaling down the growing influence of fake drugs business in Nigeria.
Senator Olujimi, however, said importers and manufacturers of fake drugs have found new ways of beating the mechanisms put in place to crack down on the trade, arguing that the laws against fake drugs deserve to be amended, a reason she proposed the Bill.
Olujimi described fake and counterfeit drugs as the deadliest weapon of terrorism against public health in Nigeria given its tendency to ‘kill en mass’
She said fake drugs have consistently been embarrassing healthcare providers while eroding the confidence of the public on the health delivery system with the rate of treatment failures often experienced in most health care centres in the country.
She said the business of fake and counterfeit drugs has been growing in Nigeria because of the law put in place to check the spread, is weak.
She said the regulatory agency on drugs, NAFDAC ought to have been empowered to enable it carry out its responsibilities with ability to impose stiffer penalties on offenders.
She said, “The Weakness of the law breeds lawlessness, resulting in impunity, oppression, exploitation and violation of human rights regarding the case of drugs counterfeit.
The Amendment Bill, according to the Senator also canvasses increase in the punishment for those who hawk, display or sell drugs not dully licensed or registered by appropriate authorities in the country.
While the old Act on Fake and Counterfeit drugs prescribes only a fine not exceeding N500,000 or imprisonment term of not less than two years for offenders, the Amendment Bill provides for a fine not exceeding N2 million or imprisonment for a term of not less than four years or both, fine and imprisonment.
Part of the punitive punishment the Bill provides for offenders include making elaborate provisions for seizure of assets upon conviction.
The Bill also provides for disposal of proceeds of crime under the Act by NAFDAC and payment of the proceeds into the victims compensation fund.
However, other Senators who contributed to debate on the bill insisted that punitive punishments must be awarded to offenders, including the establishment of special courts to try violators of law on fake drugs.
Senator Ben Bruce summed up the dilemma on fake drugs in Nigeria, alluding to cases whereby Nigerians would travel to India and China to specifically order for fake drugs which they, in turn, would ship to Nigeria.
He said Nigeria’s fight against fake drugs should also include the countries that have been collaborating with Nigerian dealers in flooding the markets with fake drugs.