A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday sentenced two employees – Adeyemo Abiodun and Ebele Eromosele – to seven years imprisonment each, for selling a killer teething syrup `My Pikin’.
The men and their employer, Barewa Pharmaceutical Ltd., were charged with production and sale of the mixture, which caused the death of more than 80 children in Nigeria few years ago.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) arraigned them on an amended six-count charge of conspiracy and production and sale of an adulterated drug.
Justice Okechukwu Okeke convicted the employees on the counts of conspiracy and sale of the teething mixture and acquitted them of the four other counts.
He did not give them an option of fine.
“I hereby find the accused not guilty of counts one, two, five and six, dealing with production and adulteration, while I find them guilty of counts three and four, which is conspiracy and sale of the drugs.
“The prosecution tendered several exhibits during the trial, but failed to show evidence that the accused actually produced the adulterated drugs.
“Having found the accused guilty on the two counts, they are hereby sentenced to seven years imprisonment on each count. The sentences are to run concurrently,’’ he said.
Okeke also ordered that the company be compulsorily wound up and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
Shortly after the judge convicted the accused, their counsel, Mr Osaro Eghobamien (SAN), pleaded for leniency.
He urged the court to give them light sentence, saying that they had been traumatised since the case began.
Eghobamien noted that Kola Gbadegeshin, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, died some months ago due to trauma arising from the suit.
Shortly after the plea by the counsel, the first accused, Abiodun, started shaking and collapsed.
The judge, then, summoned the medical doctor in charge of the Federal High Court, who examined him and confirmed that he was hypertensive and that his blood pressure increased.
Okeke, then, directed that he be offered a seat.
“In as much as I appreciate the passionate plea and consider the state of the first accused, I am, however, bound by the provisions of the law,’’ he said.
During trial, which spanned over three years, NAFDAC called seven witnesses, while the defence called one.
The offences for which the employees were sentenced contravene Section 1 of the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act No. 25 of 1999.
Each of the offences attracts a term of imprisonment not less than five years and not more than 15 years or N500,000 fine, or both.