…NAFDAC decries weak penalty for drug offenders
Controversy is now trailing the conviction of a businessman, Ifeanyi Ezeanwu, to five years imprisonment or an option of fine of N300, 000, over importation of a container load of Tramadol and other sex enhancing drugs by a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.
JustIce Hadiza Rabiu-Shagari, had reviewed the facts of the charge, following a change of plea by the convict who was arraigned by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration Control (NAFDAC) in February 2015, on a one count charge of unlawful importation of the said drugs.
Ezeanwu had pleaded not guilty when he was first arraigned but, when the case came up at the last adjourned date, he changed his plea to guilty, while the court adjourned the case till Friday for a review of fact and sentence.
Other banned drugs said to have been imported by the convict include Ibamol tablet of 50 mg, and Heogra tablet of 150 mg.
The offence, according to the prosecution, contravenes the provisions of section 1(a) of the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Ptocessed Foods (Miscellaneous provision) Act Cap. C34 Law of the Federation 2004.
Reviewing the facts of the case on Friday, the prosecuting lawyer, Mr. Umar Shamaki, narrated to the court how the convict was arrested by NAFDAC operatives.
Shamaki also tendered several items which including the convict’s confessional statements, samples of banned drugs, which were admitted as exhibits by the court.
After the review, the prosecutor urged the court to sentence the convict according to Section 3(1) of NAFDAC Act.
Shamaki told the court that the NAFDAC Act prescribed a payment of N500, 000 fine, or a prison term not less than five years and not more than 15 years.
Meanwhile, lawyer to the convict, Mrs. Vivian Ekwegh, pleaded with the court, to be lenient in sentencing the accused, as he was a first time offender.
But Justice Rabiu-Shagari, in her verdict held that: “the prosecution has been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, especially, as there is no other way of proving a case than self-admittance”.
She, consequently, convicted and sentenced the convict to a term of five years imprisonment or an option of fine of N300, 000 from the date of arrest.
But analysts have decried the latest judgement, saying that the development has showcased the need to review the law for drug offenders in the country and also support the recent call by NAFDAC for a stiffer penalty for drug offenders.
The Director – General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, had on Monday during an interview with journalists in Abuja, proposed stiffer penalty for drug counterfeiters in the country to serve as deterrent to others.
Adeyeye noted that the provision of the law for drug offenders in the country prescribed weak penalty, stressing the need for review of such law.
She said that the agency had presented a bill to the National Assembly demanding for more punitive punishments for those involved in illicit and falsified drugs.
She said, “Fake and illicit drugs kill people and the judgment the offenders usually get is so insignificant when compared to the level of the offence committed.
“Getting judgment of months or two years’ imprisonment is not enough.
“We must do everything possible to get a law in place that will recommend stiffer penalty for drug counterfeiters.”
Adeyeye noted that food and drugs were too important in human life to toy with.
She pledged that NAFDAC would ensure that those dealing in fake and illicit drugs in the country would not go unpunished.