A Federal High Court, Lagos has wound up Barewa Pharmaceutical Ltd, the manufacturer of My Pikin baby teething mixture, which allegedly killed about 80 babies in 2008.
Justice Okechukwu Okeke, in his judgment on Friday, also sentenced two of the company’s employees to a total of 28 years imprisonment.
Barewa Pharmaceutical Company, its Production Manager, Mr. Adeyemo Abiodun; and the Quality Assurance Manager, Egbele Eromosele, were convicted for conspiracy and selling of a dangerous drug.
Okeke sentenced each of Abiodun and Eromosele to seven years for conspiracy to sell a dangerous drug and to another seven years for selling dangerous drug, but ordered that the sentences should run concurrently.
He however, discharged and acquitted the convicts, including the company, of the rest of the four counts relating to adulterating, manufacturing and distributing the said drug (My Pikin).
The judge said though the prosecution failed to prove the allegations relating to adulteration of the said drug, there was sufficient evidence that the drug contained “dangerous chemical,” which the convicts allegedly sold to a pharmacy shop in Agege, Lagos.
The prosecution, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, had, during trial, alleged that the drug (My Pikin) contained a chemical called “diethylene glycol,” which allegedly led to the death of the children who used the drug.
The judge, who paused while writing the sentence to be passed on the convicts, quickly asked Abiodun to be given a seat in the dock and also called for a doctor to look after him when he began to gasp for breath soon after the judgment was delivered.
The judge continued writing the sentence while the doctor looked after him. The doctor later announced in the court that the man was hypertensive and that his blood pressure was high at that moment.
He said, “My understanding of the word, adulterated, is that somebody has tampered with the original product and changed the quality and efficacy of the drug.
“There must be evidence that the manufacturer of the adulterated drug changed or tampered with the ingredient to reduce the standard of the original drug.”
But the judge said, throughout the period of trial, which lasted about five months, the prosecution failed to provide any evidence proving the allegations.
He, therefore, found them guilty only on two counts one of which was that the convicts “on or about October 2008 sold dangerous drug to wit: My Pikin Baby Teething Mixture to Roca Pharmacy of 34, Balogun Road, Agege, Lagos, which did not represent the quality you represented it to be.”
The offence was said to be contrary to Section 1(18)(a)(ii) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under Sections 1(8)(a)(ii); 1(18)(b)(ii) and 3 of the same Act.
The second count upon which the accused were convicted was the conspiracy for the selling of the drug to the same Roca Pharmacy contrary to and punishable under the same law.
The prosecution had on January 6, 2013 re-arraigned the three on an amended charge of six counts following the death of the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Kola Okunola, in October 2012.
Okunola, 67, was said to have died of stroke.
One of the defence counsel, Mr. Osaro Eghobamien (SAN), however, vowed to challenge the judgment at the Court of Appeal.