Posted by Aloysius Attah, Onitsha | 12 April 2018 | 3,152 times
The battle against fake and substandard products in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State, is a continuous one. While those who are neck deep in the ugly business are not relenting, the owners of genuine brands whose original products are being cloned, pirated or faked are also not relenting in ensuring that those who reap where they did not sow have their mouths removed from the pie.
Investigations by our reporter revealed that fake products still thrive in about four major markets in Onitsha and environs namely the Onitsha main market, Onitsha Bridge Head Market, Ogbaru Main Market popularly known as Relief Market and the Ochanja Main Market.
While Onitsha main market thrives in pirated products like books, household items and articles, the fakers of wines, beverages, cosmetics and other allied products thrives at the Ogbaru main market. Fake drug dealers who market pirated medicines cloned in China and other substandard drugs still operate discreetly at the Onitsha Bridge Head drug market while their counterparts in the Tools and Allied Products in another section of the Bridge Head also grapple with the menace of pirated tools and hardware.
Recently, journalists in Anambra witnessed the public burning of fake Kiwi brand of shoe polish estimated at over N30 million. The exercise which took place in Awka was at the instance of a court order from an Onitsha High Court presided over by Hon. Justice I.U. Ndigwe, who ordered the police and court bailiffs to carry out the public destruction.
The products were intercepted in a warehouse hidden in a tunnel inside Onitsha main market through the relentless efforts of Asco Investment Limited, the sole distributor of the Kiwi brand shoe polish manufactured by SC Johnson West Africa, owners of the brand.
Two people, Hyginus Chukwuma and Uju Anike, suspected to be the brain behind the importation and distribution of the fake polish, had the effrontery to sue the Nigerian Police and Chief Sam Obi Anyanwutaku, Managing Director of Asco Investment and sole distributor of Kiwi Polish in Nigeria, when the products were evacuated from the hidden warehouse. But on sensing that they may be in for bigger trouble when the case commenced in court, they tactically withdrew from the matter and begged the court for leniency and to enter a consent judgment so that the case would be settled.
Managing Director, SC Johnson West Africa, Mr. Oghale Elueni, thanked Chief Sam Anyanwutaku, MD, Asco Investments, for his relentless efforts in fighting the menace of those who pirate and produce the fake brand of Kiwi Shoe Polish in Nigeria.
Counsel to Asco Investment, Chris Ekemezie, in a remark during the exercise blamed the regulatory agencies, such as Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), saying that the failure of the agency was the reason for the spread of fake products in Nigeria. He added that the organisation also frustrates the efforts of manufacturers by willingly refusing to act on complaints against fake product importers brought before them.
“When you take a report to them, you find out that it takes as long as six months before they work on your complaints, at which time the importers of the product would have been alerted. SON is empowered to fish out and impound fake non consumable products, but they still do not live up to this,” he said.
Anyanwutaku estimated the worth of the destroyed products at over N30 million. He lamented that fake products were not only limited to polish, but stated that the failure of regulatory agencies to stop the importation of fake products into the country was killing the economy. He noted that his company has pending court cases with fakers across different parts of the country over the same issue.
Anyanwutaku disclosed that SC Johnson was in over 88 countries globally and had been in existence for over 200 years, making tested and certified products, but that it was only in Nigeria that the company mostly had the problem of fakes.
He lamented that his company has spent a lot of energy and resources in fighting the menace of fakers, saying: “My company spends a lot of money, including engaging people to move round the market to sniff out these importers. The execution of this Onitsha High Court order is to make sure that the consumer buys only the original high quality Kiwi Polish and also a warning to those that deal with fake to go and do genuine business in their lives because we shall continue to use all available laws in Nigeria to publicly destroy any of this fake products we find in Nigeria and also prosecute the criminals behind such acts.
“The Kiwi polish we produce is not just to make your shoes shine, but to also protect it. But when you use these fake ones, they destroy your shoes and also tarnish the corporate image of our company and brands, and we will not sit back and let that happen.”
When contacted for comments, the state coordinator of SON in Anambra State, Engr. Nwaoma Olujie, said the organisation has been working seriously to sensitise both importers and consumers of the hazards of importing or consuming fake and substandard goods. She said her organisation recently met with importers in a seminar where it harped on the dangers of bringing in fake products into the country.
Olujie denied allegations that the organisation is usually sluggish with investigating complaints brought to them against importers of fake products. Her words: “What do they mean by that? Are they saying that we usually leak the information to the importers of fake products or what? That is not true, because on our part, we have held sensitisation seminars and even raided markets of fake products, even around that Onitsha.”
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