Lawmaker Jailed For Six Years Over Fake Drugs Scandal In Benin

Court Remands 19 Persons In Prison Over Army General's Death


A court in Benin on Tuesday sentenced an opposition MP to more than six years behind bars and fined him 4.5 million euros ($5.1 million) in connection with a scandal involving fake drugs.

The sentence came as Benin cracks down on the trafficking of expired and counterfeit drugs in West Africa — a business that has deeply alarmed health watchdogs.

At a hearing in the country’s commercial capital Cotonou, the court handed Atao Hinnouho a prison term of 76 months for trying to prevent a search of his home and for customs fraud linked to the import of banned merchandise.

He was also ordered to pay 3.0 billion CFA francs in fines, damages, and interest payments.

But he was acquitted of another charge of attacking an officer in uniform.

After arriving at the court in a wheelchair, Hinnouho — whose parliamentary immunity was lifted in July — listened to the verdict in silence, his head bowed. Friends, supporters and family members quickly left after the verdict was read out.

Aboubakar Baparape, one of his lawyers, denounced it as “a political trial” and vowed to appeal.

Hinnouho, who has been in jail since May, was one of the key players working with New Cesamax, a laboratory based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Following a raid on his home in December 2017, police seized several hundred boxes of medicines after which Hinnouho went on the run only to be caught several months later.

Two of his aides were arrested and sentenced in March to between six months and four years in prison over the sale of false and illegal drugs.

100,000 deaths per year

Last year, Benin launched a crackdown on expired and counterfeit drugs after growing alarm over the scale of such trafficking in West Africa.

Fake medicines are drugs that are bogus or below regulatory standards but often are outwardly indistinguishable from the genuine product.

Taking them may do nothing to tackle an illness or — in the case of antibiotics — worsen the problem of microbial resistance.

According to the World Health Organization, fake medicines are responsible for more than 100,000 deaths per year in sub-Saharan Africa.

The UN health body estimates that one out of 10 medicines in the world is fake, but the figure can be as high as seven out of 10 in certain countries, especially in Africa.

In August 2017, Interpol said it seized 420 tonnes of counterfeit medicine in a massive operation involving 1,000 police, customs and health officials in seven countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo.


Republic Of Benin Jails Seven Pharma Executives In ‘Fake Drugs’ Trial
File Photo.


A court in Benin on Tuesday jailed seven local pharmaceutical executives for four years on charges of selling illicit medicines after a trial that breaks new ground in West Africa’s campaign against fake drugs.

The seven were convicted of “the sale of falsified medicines, display, possession with a view to selling, commercialisation or sale of falsified medical substances.”

They work for wholesale pharmaceutical distribution companies, five of which – GAPOB, Ubipharm, CAME, Ubephar and Promo Pharma – dominate the sector in Benin.

They were also fined 100 million CFA francs ($190,000, 150,000 euros), a lawyer for civil plaintiffs told AFP after the trial, describing the sum as “token.”

Two other defendants were given six-month terms. They were aides to an opposition MP, Atao Hinnouho, who has fled.

A 10th defendant, the head of the Directorate for Pharmacies, Medications and Diagnostic Evaluation (DPMED) under the control of the ministry of health, was released. He had been accused of failing to prevent the drugs from being sold.

Benin is fighting against its reputation for being the crossroads for trafficking in expired and counterfeit drugs in West Africa – a business that has deeply alarmed health watchdogs.

President Patrice Talon, elected in 2016, has vowed to crack down on the practice.

Over the past year, dozens of people have been arrested and tonnes of fake medications seized.

A 15-nation regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has also announced an investigation into the business.

Fake medicines are drugs that are bogus or below regulatory standards but often are outwardly indistinguishable from the genuine product.

Taking them may do nothing to tackle an illness or – in the case of antibiotics – worsen the problem of microbial resistance.

In 2015, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor-quality antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa.

SON Arrests Suspected Dealer Of Expired Items

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria has arrested a suspected dealer of expired household items stocked in two buildings in Kirikiri, Lagos.

The arrest was carried out on Saturday through the collaborative effort of operatives of the agency and the Nigeria Police Force.

The arrest followed the discovery of a twin three-storey building by SON, belonging to Julf Ventures Nigeria Ltd in March 2017, stocked with imported expired items whose expiry dates were distorted.

Following a tip-off, the agency discovered another two separate buildings found with expired domestic consumables with altered dates in the suburbs of Kirikiri, said to be owned by the same company.

Briefing reporters after the arrest, the Director-General of SON, Osita Aboloma, who was represented by the Director of Inspectorate and Compliance, Bede Obayi, described the act as disheartening.

He noted that the agency would ensure they trace the substandard products that had already left the warehouse.

“We acted on the intelligence we received from well-meaning Nigerians. You can see the volume of expired products here and imagine their implications on our society in terms of health issues.

“When somebody buys expired cream, what does it show? You are applying cream that the active ingredient had gone and that may cause reactions on the skin.

“We promise Nigerians that we will carry out investigation and ensure that the products that have left the warehouse to different shops all over the country are properly traced and withdrawn from circulation.

“Due to the support of other regulatory agencies and the Nigeria Police Force, we were able to discover two other warehouses belonging to the same company based on a tip-off,” Aboloma said.

He commended the Lagos State government for its prompt response in sealing up the entire building to prevent further circulation of the products.

The Director of Investigation and Enforcement, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mr Kingsley Ejiofor, condemned the act which he described as “illicit trade by unscrupulous Nigerian importers”.

The NAFDAC official, however, lauded the SON and Police for arresting the importer and solicited for more support to tackle the influx of fake and substandard goods into the country.

NAFDAC Destroys Fake Products In Abuja

NAFDAC Destroys Fake Products In AbujaThe National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has destroyed expired and counterfeit medicines and other regulated products which it says is worth over 70 million naira.

At a press briefing before the destruction exercise in Abuja, the Acting Director-General of the agency, Mrs Yetunde Oni told journalists that NAFDAC is winning the war against counterfeiting in Nigeria.

“Today, we witness the destruction of various categories of regulated products as one of the strategies employed by NAFDAC to prevent the circulation of fake, counterfeit medicines and unwholesome regulated products.

“These products are worth over 75 million naira. We must stress that some of these products were voluntarily submitted to NAFDAC by various governmental and non-governmental organizations whilst others were mopped up from open market via enforcement activities and surveillance system of NAFDAC,” she said.

She however explained that the agency is in the process of reviewing its laws to enable it perform optimally.

“Permit me to state here that our laws are being reviewed to make the business of counterfeiting no longer business as usual and very unattractive to those people who engage in wanting to kill innocent citizens all because of business.

“We are optimistic that in the near future we would have nothing to destroy as we work toward ensuring availability of good, quality, safe and affordable medicines and wholesome regulated products to the Nigerian populace.”

Expired Drugs, Oil And Beverages Circulating In Abia State -NAFDAC

Pharmacists, Oyo, PCNThe National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) says large quantities of fake and adulterated drugs, supplements, oil and beverages are in circulation in Abia State.

The agency raised the alarm in a statement on Wednesday, as it alerted members of the public that fake Goya olive oil , unregistered drugs and expired vitamin supplements as well adulterated beverages in circulation in the Southeastern State.

Officials of the agency during a mop up exercise at the Ariaria International Market in Aba reportedly discovered that the dates of some drugs which had expired six months ago have been tampered with and re-written using a handmade machine.

NAFDAC says although some of the perpetrators are on the run, their shops have been sealed.

The NAFDAC coordinator in Abia State, Innocent Okeke said the agency will not relent in its efforts to rid the state of fake drugs.

Mr. Okeke also appealed to the state government for a synergy with the market management to flush out the criminals.

He urged residents in the state to be wary of consuming adulterated Goya olive oil as it contains paraffin oil which is dangerous to health.

Nigerian Customs Impound Goods Worth 219 Million Naira

customsThe Nigerian Customs Service , Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone C, has impounded contraband goods with duty paid value of 219 million naira.

The goods include a truck carrying 714 cartons of fake drugs, mostly pain relievers without registered NAFDAC number, 4,480 cartons of foreign soap, 596 pieces of used tyres, 1,920 cartons of foreign mosquito coil and 6 new Hilux vans.

While conducting journalists round the seizure at the Abia/Imo Command in Owerri, the Imo State capital, southeast Nigeria, the Area Comptoller of FOU Zone C, Mr Victor Dimka, said that there would no more be hiding place for smugglers in the zone.

He added that men of the Nigerian Customs Service are better equipped and determined to combat this menace of smuggling that has remained one of the major bane of economic growth.

NAFDAC Destroys Fake Goods Worth N500 Million

TNAFDAChe Director General of National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii, has commended drug traders at the Bridge Head market, Onitsha, Anambra state, for voluntarily regulating themselves against importation and distribution of fake drugs and substandard food products in the state.

Dr. Orhii said this during the destruction exercise of fake and substandard drugs with other food products worth about N500 million in Awka, Anambra state capital.

According to the NAFDAC Director General, some of the fake drugs destroyed were voluntarily surrendered by the Onitsha traders.

At ASWAMA dump site, Agu Awka, the venue for the destruction exercise, Dr. Orhii, was present with other officials and many high ranking officers of other security agencies in the state including the Police, Immigration, Federal Road Safety Corps FRSC and Civil Defense.

Dr Orhii said the support of the security agencies in the war against fake, substandard drugs and food products could not be overemphasized adding that NAFDAC would not renege in its war against fake drugs as they are battling the reintroduction of such products into the market on daily basis.

Dr. Paul commended the drug traders at the Bridge Head Market, Onitsha, on their resolve to voluntarily regulate themselves and monitor any incidence of fake drugs circulation among them in the market.

The Director General of NAFDAC added that the reason for burning the dangerous products is to ensure they do not go back into circulation in any way or form again.

NAFDAC Destroys Illicit Drugs Worth N50 Million In Kaduna

nafdacThe National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has reiterated its commitment to ridding Nigeria of counterfeit and unwholesome drugs towards  ensuring  the protection of lives of the citizens.

This resolve was re-echoed on Tuesday by the agency, as it destroyed expired pharmaceutical products worth 50 Million Naira in Kaduna State, north-west Nigeria.

The Director General of NAFDAC, Dr Paul Orhii restated that there would be no sacred cows in the fight against counterfeit drugs and substandard food  products.

Speaking after  setting the contraband products ablaze, Dr Orhii who was represented by the director, Special Duties in the agency, Abubakar Jimoh, said the agency was fully prepared to restore  sanity in the health sector and maintain zero tolerance in the fight against counterfeit drugs in Nigeria.

Though the various strategies employed by NAFDAC have resulted in seizures of smuggled containers of fake, substandard cosmetics and food products at the borders, Nigerians have also been advised to remain alert, to stop patronising street hawkers, whom they call merchants of death and to always check the labels of all consumables, which, when expired, can destroy the human organs.

According to the agency, statistics of counterfeit drugs have reduced from over 40 per cent in 2005 to 6.4 per cent in 2012, a feat that was achieved through collaboration with sister security agencies and the general public.

The agency also stated that it was making arrangements to regulate the manufacturing of orthodox medicines  to ensure that they do not constitute a threat to the health of Nigerians.

The Kaduna State commandant of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, appealed to Nigerians to join hands with the agency towards ridding the country of counterfeit and expired drugs, adding that his agency will continue to collaborate with NAFDAC and other security agencies in the fight against fake drugs in the country.

Proposed NAFDAC Bill Will Strengthen The Agency – Orhii

The proposed National Agency for Food and Drugs Control and Administration (NAFDAC) bill pending before the Federal Executive Council is seeking lifetime jail for drug counterfeiters.

On this episode of law weekly with Channels TV’s Shola Soyele, the Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii says a severe sentence, confiscation of assets and the provision of incentives for whistle blowers which are all provisions in the proposed act are geared at strengthening the activities of the agency in its quest to rid the country of fake and counterfeit drugs.

FG To Deal With Unregistered Pharmacists

The Federal Government on Tuesday disclosed its plans to punish persons who engage in unethical practices and curb the proliferation of unregistered patent medicine shops in the country.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Fatima Bamidele while addressing state directors of pharmaceutical services in Abuja warned pharmacists to desist from all forms of unethical practices that may impact negatively on the nation’s healthcare delivery system.

Ms. Bamidele also announced the launch of a mega drug distribution guideline, adding that the federal government is determined to provide quality pharmaceutical services in the country and as such is ready to punish unregistered patent medicine dealers.

“They are largely responsible for dispensing fake and adulterated drugs,” she said.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Acting Registrar of Pharmacists’ Council of Nigeria, Pharmacist Gloria Abumere announced plans by the council to sanction erring pharmacists in addition to curbing the proliferation of unregistered patent medicine shops across the country.