THE National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has a lot of work on its hands in efforts to minimise the armada of online advertisement and vending of substandard goods, especially food and medicines.
The age of the Internet, Information and Computer Technology, ICT, and the Social Media opened a wide vista of opportunities for trade and business in a highly globalised environment. People buy and sell across borders and even continents with a minimal need for physical travels.
The Internet and social media provide ready platforms for the display of all manner of commodities and services and the delivery of such to the doorsteps of consumers.
It also offers an ample opportunity for vendors of fake, substandard and dangerous products to prey on unsuspecting and gullible members of the public. They design visually- captivating advertorials designed to deceive.
This situation became more pronounced during the restrictions on the physical movement of people in the current atmosphere of the Coronavirus pandemic.
People have resorted to depending much on the goods advertised on the social media for their needs. A lot of people have wound up buying unusable stuff, some of which are unsafe for human use.
After a period of apparent lull in enforcement activities, NAFDAC seems recharged and ready to confront the scourge of online advertisements and sale of fake products.
On August 19, 2021, the agency destroyed fake and substandard products worth about N2.5bn in Shagamu, Ogun State.
NAFDAC claims that since 2017, it has conducted 144 raids across the country, with unregulated goods worth over N17bn seized.
NAFDAC’s Director General, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, disclosed that the phone numbers and contact addresses that many of the producers and promoters of these dangerous products leave on the social media cannot be traced. According to her, many unscrupulous blogs exist just to deceive gullible members of the public.
Nigeria is not the only country where the internet and social media have been leveraged to boost commerce. It should be possible for online commerce to boom with minimal adverse effect on the people.
That is why we have so many government agencies and departments, including NAFDAC, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, NSO; the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and others.
If they do their jobs as expected, these fake products, whether made in Nigeria or imported, will not be so easily available to the consuming public.
These government agencies should create strategic partnerships with each other, the media, social advocacy groups and members of the public to act as whistleblowers whenever they come across advertisers and vendors of fake goods.
Beyond this, NAFDAC and other regulatory agencies should ramp up the prosecution of offenders. When crime is publicly punished, it creates deterrence.