The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Friday said it has arrested a syndicate who specialises in importing banned crusader soaps containing mercury into the country.
Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director-General, NAFDAC, who disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos said that the syndicate used forged customs documents to import the product into the country.
According to Adeyeye, the importation of the soap into the country was banned by NAFDAC years ago 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 show 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-load of imported crusader medicated soap and mekako soap totaling 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.”
She 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 were found to contain heavy metals identified as mercury.
“The crusader soap is falsely labelled made in England to deceive Nigerians while 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.
Adeyeye said that the presence of mercury in cosmetics was of global concern, because of the established and documented health hazards it poses to human health and to the environment.
She said the arrested suspects would be charged to court while a manhunt is currently being intensified to arrest other fleeing members of this syndicate.
The director-general, however, advised Nigerians not to patronise imported soaps and detergents, including mercury containing cosmetics, and to report all infractions to the nearest NAFDAC office.