For five months, 34-year-old David Egbenagu Ozoemenam operated a backstreet factory where he was producing alcoholic drinks with a fake registration number of the National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
But his unlawful operation came to an end when a police team, led by the IRT commander, Philip Rieninwa, a Chief Superintendent of Police, trailed the suspect to his factory where he was arrested.
The police also took pictures of the substandard tools, machines and Izal disinfectant found in his factory.
The suspect said he started the production of unwholesome alcoholic drinks when he suffered a reversal of business fortune several months ago.
” I am from Azigbo village in Nnewi South Local Government Area, Anambra State. I am married with three children and I reside at No.2 Tuara Street, Progress Estate, Iva, Lagos.
I am a trader. I trade in wine and beverages before I ventured into manufacturing of hot drinks, wine and beverages. I am the owner of the house I am using as residence and factory where I manufacture the drinks.
”My brand name is ‘Stock’. I manufacture stock gins and brandy. The ingredients I use are food grade ethanol, brand flavour, caramel, glucose syrup and treated water. I don’t have NAFDAC number because at the time I started this manufacturing, I had financial problems and I could not pay for NAFDAC number.
Moreover, customers don’t know the difference between a genuine NAFDAC number and fake NAFDAC number; they feel it is a waste of time to check the number at NAFDAC office. Even NAFDAC officials don’t give much time to checking the numbers they issue to people.
The worse are customers who take any number they see as NAFDAC number, whereas majority of the customers don’t have time to examine the number displayed on the bottle of the products.
”The company is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). I use four rooms in my house as factory to manufacture stock products. I started manufacturing in September 2019 when my business was no more booming.
‘’When I was selling wine and beverages, I was making cool money. I used to get N150, 000 monthly. At a point, the business was not moving as I expected due to differentials in dollar exchange. Naira lost its value to a point that N1,000,000 (one million naira) may not be up to N300,000 and it affected buying and selling badly, though I built a house in my village and another one in Lagos from buying and selling hot drinks and beverages.”
He explained that he embarked on the illicit business when he saw that two of his colleagues who were into production substandard drinks were doing well.
”When I saw that two of my colleagues, especially one Innocent Iloabuchi who went into manufacturing of drinks was doing well, I decided to try manufacturing to see if I would become rich like them. I told my wife and she advised me to go ahead with it in as much as it would bring much money.
”When I started, I went to Ojota(a Lagos suburb) to get materials or ingredients I had earlier mentioned. I started mixing them based on what I copied from companies that manufacture hot drinks, wine and beverages.
”Whenever I wanted to manufacture gin, I would get a bottle of a popular brand, Chelsea, and copy the percentage of the ingredients as written in its label and it will be fine and correct when I used the same percentage to manufacture my own hot drinks.
”At times, I got advice from the companies that sell the ingredients to me, including the measurement and the correct percentage. For instance, in gin, I give 40 per cent alcohol; brandy (36 per cent alcohol).I sell a carton of brandy containing six bottles N3,000; 48 small bottles of Alomo Bitters N2,700 ,and 12 bottles of Rose Berg 12 bottles in a carton N2,400.
On how he got empty bottles which he used in bottling the drinks, he said, “I used to buy empty bottles from market where they sell empty bottles”.
On why he could not manufacture his own bottle by himself or buy direct from bottle manufacturing companies, he said: “It is too expensive and can take about N40 million which I don’t have. I don’t even have a laboratory where I can test the ingredients to know the one that has expired because all these things require big money.
“I got a label by printing it in Ojo Barrack. There is one man they call Ojo who has his office right inside the Army Barracks, that prints labels for me. One sheet cost N40 and nobody disturbs him because people are afraid to go inside the Army Barracks to question him.
”I have a Siena car which I used to supply goods to my customers around Iyana Iba area of Lagos only, to avoid having confrontation with NAFDAC officials because I don’t have genuine NAFDAC number, but I have a trade mark which is Stock. I had planned to register my products before I started manufacturing but I had financial restraint.
”Manufacturing alcoholic drinks and wine gives money more than buying and selling because you can manufacture millions of bottles of hot drinks and wine if you wish and it is not as strenuous as buying and selling.
“There is no health hazard in what I manufacture because I used to test it myself before supplying to sellers. The ingredients I use is to specification and standard and very original. Nobody has died or gone to psychiatric hospital after taking my products.
”When you get something like Chelsea hot drink, you see the ingredients they used to manufacture it and when you do it the same way they did it, you will surely get the same result.
People who get problem in drinking hot drinks and wine are people who abuse drinks and people who take the drinks which their bodies don’t want or those who drink too much of awoof (free)drink. Even water disturbs when you take an overdose or too much.
”I attended Community Primary School in Azigbo, Nnewi, Anambra State and I finished primary six. I stopped at primary six level because there was no money for me to further my education. I am a very brilliant person.
”I came to Lagos in 1999 and stayed with one Daniel Okafor as a trading apprentice. He was my master who taught me buying and selling of wine, hot and beverages for six years but nobody taught me how to manufacture wine, hot and beverages.
”Nobody has ever complained about my products. People like my products and some people who do the same business are not happy for my rapid progress, hence, they started giving out bad and unfounded information against me.
What I produce is not fake. Fake drink is the imitation of another person’s drink when you are not the original producer of the drink like Chelsea, if I start to produce Chelsea now, you can say it is fake because I am not the original owner of Chelsea but what I produce is ‘Stock gin.
Stock brandy and Stock rose Berg. They (his products) are not harmful. They are my own products, though they are not yet registered. My enemies are just envying me and trying to put me out of work .
They, the companies that sell ingredients to us, usually ask us what we want to produce. They give us the measurement of every item required for the production.
“I did not know that the police were monitoring me. I bought empty bottles from Iyana Iba area of Ojo and put them inside my Siena car. When I wanted to go, they stopped me and arrested me on Saturday. Government is supposed to assist me because I can become an employer of labour and my product is not harmful. If it was harmful, it would have killed me because I used to test it in every production.”