THE Lagos State Police Command, a few days ago, announced the discovery of an alleged fake brewery in Ikorodu where counterfeit products were being produced. The brewery allegedly produced malt drinks, spirits and beer and packaged them in the manner of reputable brands in the beverage industry. The ignoble objective was to pass them off as premium brands. The state Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Imohimi Edgal, reportedly led a team of detectives to the location of the bogus brewery, sealed it off and arrested five suspects said to be currently helping the police in their investigations. The production of the fake beverages was reportedly carried out in very unhygienic conditions. The quality and wholesomeness of the products have yet to be ascertained but they are unlikely to pass any standard test. The CP has promised to send samples of the beverages to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for laboratory analysis.
The extent to which some unscrupulous persons are willing to go to cheat members of the public and/or reap bountifully from where they did not sow is unbelievable. In the country’s struggling economy, it is unconscionable and callous for anyone to predispose genuine investors and manufacturers to losses which they could not have possibly reckoned with while making investment decisions. The Ikorodu saga is purely an act of economic sabotage as the companies whose products are being faked will be adversely affected. The reason is simple: the fake products are produced at lower costs and most probably sold at lower prices than the original products. The lower costs and lower prices do not reflect the level of efficiency of the producers of fake products. Rather, they are indicative of their insignificant investments in such critical areas as research and development (R&D), systems, processes, equipment, production environment and highly technical human capital. The more they are able to cut corners, the more efficient they appear to be. This is clearly unsalutary for the economy as it could forestall new investments and the expansion of existing investments, especially in the real sector, by firms whose product are being counterfeited.
There are also human consumption and safety issues. Products that are made under unhygienic conditions, abridged processes and by unqualified persons are bound to be of suspicious quality. The productivity level in the economy is already low; eating or drinking poisons which the fake beverages largely represent can only drive efficiency further downwards. Again, because those who engage in the production of counterfeit products operate clandestinely, they are seldom captured in the radar of the tax authorities. Some of them even use public utilities without paying for them. They are indeed pernicious nuisance whose operations and activities should not be allowed to thrive in any economy. It has, therefore, become imperative to encourage local vigilance and information sharing. The economic saboteurs who produce fake products and sell them to unsuspecting consumers are not spirits and they do not carry out their dastardly activities in the air. They operate in geographically locatable places and they have neighbours, whether proximate or distant. It is the duty of every citizen to report suspicious persons and activities to the law-enforcement agencies.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that the success recorded by the police in Ikorodu did not happen by magic. The police acted promptly and achieved their objective based on a tip-off from residents of the community where the fake beverages were being produced. This succinctly exemplifies the importance of community partnership with the police which appears to have improved significantly since the incumbent Lagos CP mounted the saddle. And the result has been the attainment of one significant milestone after another in crime prevention and control in the state. This is worthy of emulation across the federation. We have always urged the police to be friendlier with the people, not through mere slogans or inscriptions pasted on the walls at their stations but in the crucible world of action. It is a given that genuinely friendly police officers will easily scoop information from members of the public that will make their job easier, while the significant reduction in crime rate arising from such collaboration will guarantee the much needed peace and tranquility in the society. Thus, it is a win-win situation.
While we agree that no level of economic deprivation can justify citizens who engage in acts of economic sabotage that also unwittingly endanger the lives of other people, it is nevertheless advised that the government should seriously consider re-jigging its economic policies so that they are more accommodating of the decent aspirations of hard-working persons. That way, the propensity for some citizens to take desperate and ignoble measures to survive economic hardship will reduce. Meanwhile, we urge the police to painstakingly investigate the operation of the alleged fake brewery at Ikorodu to unearth those behind it and ensure that they are speedily brought to book. There is an urgent need to rein in the spate of lawlessness in the polity.