The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) disclosed on Friday the arrest of members of a syndicate that specialised in importing banned Crusader soaps containing mercury into the country.
Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, the Director-General of NAFDAC, who disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos, said that the syndicate used forged customs documents to import the product into the country.
Adeyeye said NAFDAC long ago prohibited the importation of the soap because it contains mercury.
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 used forged customs documents to import the product into the country, and further investigation through the ports showed that the banned Crusader soap was imported seven times in 2021 alone.
“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 cosmetic shops, with unsuspecting members of the public patronising them.”
She said further: “Acting on intelligence, our investigation and enforcement team in August busted a warehouse in Trade Fair Market that was filled with the banned imported soaps.
“Three trailer loads of imported Crusader medicated soap and Mekako soap totalling 4,000 cartons of 12 packs of 12 tablet soaps were evacuated from the warehouse, while some suspects were arrested in connection with the case. The street value of the evacuated products is approximately one billion Naira.”
She explained that the successful busting of the warehouse came after three failed attempts, as the cartel continuously relocated the consignment of soaps to different locations in Lagos to prevent the discovery.
According to her, Peter Obih, the prime suspect, claimed during interrogation to have bought the franchise of the product from a company and presented an expired NAFDAC certificate that was issued for local manufacture of the product after the ban in Nigeria.
Adeyeye noted that not one bar of the soap had been manufactured in Nigeria since the purported registration in 2013.
“The suspect claims to have just secured a contract manufacturing agreement with a local manufacturer, but they are yet to commence production. The sample of the product was taken to our laboratory for analysis and was found to contain heavy metals identified as mercury.
“The Crusader soap is falsely labelled as ‘Made in England’ to deceive Nigerians, while the actual source is India. This is an outright violation of the NAFDAC Act and a contravention of the agency’s regulations, including the Cosmetic Products (Prohibition of Bleaching Agents) Regulations 2019,” she stated.
The NAFDAC boss stressed that the presence of mercury in cosmetics has sparked global concern because of the established and documented health hazards it poses to human health and the environment.
She said the arrested suspects will be charged in court while intensifying the manhunt for the fleeing members of the syndicate