The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has arrested a syndicate that specialises in importing banned Crusader soaps containing mercury into the country.
The Director General, NAFDAC, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, disclosed this on Friday in Lagos.
She said the syndicate used forged customs documents to import the product into the country,
Adeyeye noted that the importation of the soap into the country was banned by NAFDAC years ago because it contains mercury, adding that the soaps are now in supermarkets and cosmetic stores across the country.
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 shows 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.
“Acting on intelligence, our investigation and enforcement team in August 2023 busted a warehouse in Trade Fair Market, which was filled with the banned imported soaps.
”Three trailer-loads of imported crusader medicated soap and mekako soap totalling 4,000 cartons by 12 packs by 12 tablet soap 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.”
Adeyeye explained that the successful busting of the warehouse came after three failed attempts, as the cartel used their informants continuously to relocate the consignment of soaps to different locations in Lagos to prevent the discovery.
According to her, one Chief Peter Obih, the prime suspect, during interrogation, claimed 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 made in England to deceive Nigerians while the actual source is India.
“This 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,” she said.
The NAFDAC DG noted that the presence of mercury in cosmetics became a global concern, due to the health hazards it poses to human health and to the environment.
She said the arrested suspects would be charged in court while a manhunt is currently being intensified to arrest other fleeing members of this syndicate.
The NAFDAC boss, however, advised Nigerians not to patronise imported soaps and detergents, including mercury-containing cosmetics, and to report all infractions to the nearest NAFDAC office.