Thugs assault officials, NAFDAC maintains its demand for a ban on alcohol sachets

The prohibition on the importation, production, distribution, sale, and use of alcoholic beverages in sachets, PET, and glass bottles with a capacity of less than 200 milliliters was declared irreversible by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control on Monday.

Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, the Director-General of NAFDAC, maintained that the ban was necessary to preserve lives and benefit Nigerians.

Distillers and labor unions repeatedly protested Adeyeye’s declaration on January 31 that NAFDAC will start enforcing the prohibition on alcoholic beverages in sachets, claiming the measure would lose 500,000 workers their jobs.

When asked on Monday if NAFDAC would reconsider the restriction in light of the escalating demonstrations, Christiana Obiazikwor, Head of NAFDAC’s Public Relations Office, informed The PUNCH that the ban would still be in place.

Obiazikwor elucidated that the NAFDAC did not prohibit the production of alcohol in larger bottles, but rather alcohol in packaging or containers that are easily concealed by a youngster.

“The alcoholic content in sachet or PET bottles less than 200ml is 30 per cent. Beer has four to eight per cent alcohol. The Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers, and Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health and NAFDAC in December 2018 that they will phase out production of alcohol in sachet and PET bottles less than 200 ml by January 31, 2024. The agreement document is available.  A five-year phase-out notice should be sufficient.

“They say it’s going to lead to loss of jobs, but it can lead to loss of lives as well. So, which is more important? We are not going back (on the ban). We are doing this to save the lives of Nigerians, and commuters.

“The schoolchildren buy it and put it in their bags, so we are doing it to protect the children because they can’t take responsibility for themselves; so the leaders and adults need to take responsibility for them. Are we going to kill our children because the economy is bad?” she said.

In response, however, John Ichue, the Executive Secretary of the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria, stated that the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed with NAFDAC in 2018 could not be interpreted as a policy statement.

Ichue said, “The MOU that we signed in 2018 was not really a policy and it was signed under duress because the then Minister of Health attempted to ban the manufacturing of pet alcoholic drinks but he later allowed us to engage in sensitisation effort to encourage responsible drinking and discourage underage access to these drinks, which we have been doing since 2019.

“The MOU is not a policy; the government is currently working on a national alcohol policy which we all agree is the proper way to go. In most countries where a ban on sachet alcohol was implemented, it was not successful. It led to illicit alcohol in circulation.”

In the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, on Monday, irate drug vendors and touts attacked NAFDAC investigators and enforcement directorate personnel as well as the mobile police officers assigned to them.

Attacked while raiding bogus, unregistered, and counterfeit medicines at the FCT’s Area One Motor Park was the agency’s enforcement squad.

The park’s touts and hawkers started hurling stones and other sharp objects at the crew and reporters who were there to record the enforcement exercise while it was going on.

The enforcement team and journalists managed to flee the park, but it needed the involvement of the mobile police, who fired intermittent shots into the air and used tear gas to scatter the attackers.

On the other hand, two NAFDAC cars suffered vandalism.

The Department of State Services provided intelligence on drug hawkers’ activities at the vehicle park, which led to the raid, according to Umar Suleiman, Assistant Chief Regulatory Officer, Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, Federal Task Force, NAFDAC, in a conversation with journalists following the incident.

Suleiman said, “This exercise that we just conducted at the Area 1 motor park is a result of intelligence we received from the DSS since last year. A lot of hawkers were there selling their products and many people patronising them and that was why we raided the park.

“The attack is a normal thing for us in the investigation and enforcement department. That is the reason we always go with armed Mopol and Investigating Police Officers in case of any arrest.

“But to my surprise, we had not done half of the work when the drug hawkers absconded but mobilised in full force against us, throwing stones at us and destroying the windscreens of the vehicles.”

Suleiman reported that NAFDAC agents had successfully seized N5 million worth of restricted substances. Among the drugs found in the confiscation, he recognized Rohypnol, Dizapam, Tramadol (500 and 225 mg), Cocodamol, and aphrodisiac.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *