NAFDAC seizes 4,000 cartons of banned crusader soap containing mercury
• Warns public to cease use
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has exposed illicit operations involving the importation, sales and distribution of banned crusader soaps containing mercury.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, made this known during a press briefing held at NAFDAC Office Complex in Lagos.
According to her, the raid, which was carried out on August 4, 2023, resulted in the seizure of three trailer-loads of the soap, which amounted to 4,000 cartons by 12 packs by 12-tablet soap.
She said: “In the course of its regulatory activities, the Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) Directorate of NAFDAC has discovered a syndicate that specialises in importing banned crusader soaps containing mercury. The syndicate uses forged customs document to import the product into the country.
Further investigation through the ports show that the banned soap was imported seven times in 2021 alone and each consignment is not less than three containers with 4,500 cartons of the soap. These products have found their way into various supermarkets and cosmetics shops with unsuspecting members of the public patronising them.
“Acting on intelligence, I&E Directorate in August 2023 busted a warehouse in Trade Fair Market, which was filled with banned imported soaps. Three trailer-loads of imported crusader medicated soap and Mekako soap totaling 4,000 cartons by 12 packs by12 tablet soap were evacuated from the warehouse, while some suspects were arrested in connection with the case. The street value of the products is approximately N1 billion.
“It is to be noted that the successful busting of the warehouse came after three failed attempts, as the cartel using their own informants were continuously relocating the consignment of the soap to different locations in Lagos to prevent the discovery of the products by our team of investigators.”
Adeyeye revealed that on interrogation, the prime suspect, one Chief Peter Obihit (alias Ogbuagu) claimed to have bought the franchise of the product from the mother company and presented an expired NAFDAC certificate that was issued for local manufacture of the product after the ban in Nigeria.
The NAFDAC boss disclosed that not one bar of the soap has been manufactured in Nigeria since the purported registration of the company in 2013, adding that the suspect claimed to have just secured a contract manufacturing agreement with a local manufacturer, but they are yet to commence production.
She added: “The sample of the product was taken to our laboratory for analysis and we found out that they contained heavy metals identified as mercury. The soap was falsely labeled made in England to deceive Nigerians, while the actual source is India.
“This act is an outright violation of NAFDAC Acts and a contravention of the agency’s regulations, including the cosmetic products (prohibition of bleaching agents) regulations 2019.”
Adeyeye revealed that the suspects would be charged to court, adding that a manhunt was currently being intensified to arrest other fleeing members of the syndicate.
She noted that mercury is a serious health hazard and can cause damage to the skin, eyes, ears, brain, kidney and the nervous system, adding that the presence of mercury in cosmetics is of global concern because of the established and documented health hazards it poses to human health and to the environment.
“The Minamata convention on mercury, a World Health Organisation (WHO) project, underscores the gravity of the challenge posed by the use of mercury containing products. The convention banned the sale of mercury-added cosmetics, including skin-lightening creams. After 2020, parties to the convention, including Nigeria, are required to have banned the manufacture, import and export of mercury containing cosmetics products,” she said.
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