NAFDAC Arrests Syndicate Importing Banned Mercury-Containing Soaps into Nigeria

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has cracked down on a syndicate responsible for smuggling prohibited Crusader soaps into Nigeria. Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, the Director-General of NAFDAC, made this announcement in Lagos, revealing that the syndicate had employed fake customs documents to import these banned products.

Crusader soaps were banned from importation into Nigeria by NAFDAC several years ago due to their mercury content, which poses significant health risks. Shockingly, these harmful soaps have found their way onto the shelves of supermarkets and cosmetic stores across the country.

Adeyeye disclosed that NAFDAC’s investigation and enforcement team had uncovered the syndicate’s operations. The group had used counterfeit customs papers to smuggle the banned Crusader soaps into Nigeria, and astonishingly, these products were imported seven times in 2021 alone. Each shipment consisted of no less than three containers, each containing 4,500 cartons of the soap. These products were then distributed to various outlets, deceiving unsuspecting consumers.

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Acting on a tip-off, NAFDAC’s enforcement team raided a warehouse at the Trade Fair Market in August 2023, where they discovered three trailer-loads of imported Crusader medicated soap and Mekako soap, totaling 4,000 cartons. This haul had a street value of approximately one billion Naira.

The syndicate’s activities were not easily curtailed, as they repeatedly relocated their consignments to different locations within Lagos to avoid detection. One of the prime suspects, Chief Peter Obih, claimed during questioning that he had acquired the product’s franchise from a company. He presented an expired NAFDAC certificate issued for local production of the soap after its ban in Nigeria in 2013. However, not a single bar of soap has been manufactured locally since 2013.

Laboratory analysis of the soap samples confirmed the presence of heavy metals, including mercury. The Crusader soap, which was falsely labeled as “made in England” to deceive consumers, was traced back to its actual source in India.

Adeyeye emphasized that the presence of mercury in cosmetics is a global concern due to its health and environmental risks. The arrested suspects will face legal consequences, and efforts are underway to apprehend other members of the syndicate who are currently on the run.

NAFDAC has urged Nigerians to refrain from purchasing imported soaps, detergents, and cosmetics containing mercury and to report any violations to the nearest NAFDAC office.

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