Only the death penalty can stem the tide of fake drugs in Nigeria, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) argued on Thursday, an agitation that may irk anti-capital punishment activists, such as Amnesty International.
Opponents of the death penalty across the world say it is an extreme response that hardly curbs crime and, besides, often leads to the execution of people found to be innocent long after they are dead.
However, NAFDAC Director General, Paul Orhii, noted that the existing punishment for drug faking offences is weak, and that the dealers are hardened, hence the need for a tight rein.
"These fake drug dealers are a group of very tough people to deal with. But we are not relenting. The NAFDAC is ready to take the battle to their doorstep," Orhii said during his visit to the corporate headquarters of Independent Newspapers in Ogba, Lagos.
He asked the National Assembly (NASS) to strengthen existing laws governing the NAFDAC to ensure stiffer penalty for fake drug dealers.
He said consultation is going on with the Justice Ministry and the NASS on this course.
Last month, two people were sentenced to death in China and several others handed severe sentences for adding melamine to milk despite being aware of the danger the substance poses to humans.
Orhii said such would act as deterrent to others.
"I am in support of death penalty for some categories of drug faking offences. Drug fakers are worse than armed robbers because they lure you into believing that they are out to save your life and collect your money but end up killing you with fakes."
Current laws in Nigeria stipulate a maximum jail term of 15 years and a maximum fine of N500,000 for convicted fake drug dealers.
Orhii scoffed that this is grossly inadequate for the magnitude of the offence.
But he refused to draw a battle line between himself and pharmacists opposed to his appointment.
Rather, he urged them to join the NAFDAC to raise a formidable force that would rid Nigeria of the scourge of fake drugs that has killed millions of people.
"There are many pressing issues we need to attend to, especially on how to eradicate fake drugs and substandard regulated products. Pharmacists should use their expertise to help the NAFDAC because that is the only way it can achieve its aim of stamping out fake drugs."
Orhii insisted that he is not at loggerheads with pharmacists even though they plan to sue the government over his appointment.
The pharmacists argue that his appointment contravenes Section 9, Subsection 1 of Decree 15 of 1993 which stipulates that the NAFDAC boss must be well grounded in pharmacy, drug, and food.
Orhii promised that the NAFDAC would devise ways to encourage local producers of drugs and food as part of the strategy against fakes.
It plans zonal distribution hubs where imported and locally manufactured drugs are collected and tested before their release to the market.
It is also collaborating with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States to bolster the battle.