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Monday, 27 July 2015

Why NAFDAC sealed chocolat royal

The real reasons the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Tuesday night, sealed completely the business outlet of a popular elite and confectionary company, Chocolat Royal have emerged, The City Reporters can exclusively reports.


Apart from the importation, storage and use of fake, unregistered and expired/unwholesome food products to produce consumables for customers, we can authoritatively report that Chocolat Royal was sealed by NAFDAC on discovery of six illegal 40ft cold rooms built on top of sewage (suck away pits) and in front of toilets fully stocked with contaminated food products such as Westco Flakes Coconut, Blue Pearl, Westco Strawberry, Carramen, Griollons De Peches, Sirup De Glucose, Edelweiss, Sprinkle King and Kikkoman Teriyaki, ETC.

Not only that majority of these food products discovered have expired since 2004, (11- years ago) and the least 2013, the most worrisome aspect of it all was the discovery to the consternation of NAFDAC officials that the management of Chocolat Royal had revalidated the expiry dates of almost all the food products, while 90 % of them were not even written in English language and therefore could not had been registered.

While two of the illegal cold rooms built in front of toilets were discovered at the Chocolat Royal headquarters at 267A Etim Iyang Crescent, another two were also discovered at N0 1 Karimu Ikotun resident of the Chairman, Mr Amin Moussalli both located in Victoria Island Lagos.

Investigations revealed that Mr Moussalli the chairman of AIM consultants with chains of media houses which include, Cool, Nigeria Info, Wazobia FM stations, Cool as well as WEE television stations, now at large, travels abroad sourcing for  food production companies with products with few months to expire.

This Lebanese business mogul receives these products (which ordinarily would have cost the companies colossal amount of money to dispose) mostly for free and also gets paid to evacuate them. He then ships the products in large quantities to Nigeria his food toxin dumping ground for almost two decades.

These products are then cleared at the wharf and stocked inside the two cold rooms at his Karimu Kotun resident, Victoria Island where they were gradually transferred to Chocolat Royal headquarters for the preparation of consumables such as ice creams, chocolates, beverages and pastries for members of the public.

At the end of the double operations which lasted for nine hours, imported fake, unregistered and expired food products worth approximately N1bn  were evacuated in six Hilux vans and buses which NAFDAC stormed the place with.

This remarkable feat by NAFDAC was as a result of a tip off from The City Reporters editor/ Associate editor New Telegraph who for three years had investigated the activities of Chocolat Royal; a company frequently patronised by top Nigerian and foreign echelons such as governors, legislatures, managing directors, artistes and others.

When the officials of Food and Drug regulatory Agency stormed Chocolat Royal at exactly 12:15PM with some team of mobile police officers, they were resisted vehemently from carrying out their duties by some senior staff of the confectionary company led by the Finance Director Mr. Idowu Adebayo and others who apparently were part of the conspiracy to decimate Nigeria’s population through food laced with poison.

Understanding the gravity of what was about to happen if eventually discovered, they subtly denied NAFDAC officials’ access to the cold rooms and stores demanding from them their search warrant just to forestall more discoveries after some large quantities of the expired food products were discovered in their freezers, kitchens and bars upstairs; a ploy later discovered to be a strategy to enable them evacuate the cold rooms and stores.

The atmosphere was charged to the extent that the bouncers were almost engaging the NAFDAC officials in a brawl but the intervention of the mobile police officers attached to the NAFDAC team saved the day.

However, the situation almost turned messier when the obstinate management of the Chocolat Royal invited another set of mobile police officers to the scene on allegation that their facility was being invaded illegally but they retreated after the Superintendent of police who led the NAFDAC police team explained their mission.

On realizing that the operation was not illegal after all, the daughter of the Chairman who also doubled as the Deputy Group MD of AIM group, Mrs. Tatiana Moussali Nouri was left with no choice than to cooperate.

She however urged the staff to act civilised while she led the officials round the premises to inspect some stores and cold rooms which they had already evacuated as the melee was on, but the NAFDAC officials could not be deceived based on the information already at their possession.

In order to re-strategize, the NAFDAC officials took inventories of the expired products already confiscated  and urged them to signed, while every cold room in sight was sealed to prevent the management access for more evacuation.

Pretending to have concluded inspection, they asked Chocolat Royal management to report to NAFDAC office the next day and then stormed Mr Moussalli’s Karimu Kotun resident where the first two 40ft secret illegal cold rooms filled with fake, unregistered and expired food products built on top of sewage were discovered.

On getting to the apartment however, the foreign national security guards and other domestic staff, unleashed dogs on NAFDAC and refused to open the main gate leading to the building against all entreaty.

This however forced NAFDAC official to put a call across to the Director Investigation and Enforcement NAFDAC, Mr. Kingsley Ejiofor who immediately stormed the scene.

The arrival of this all action NAFDAC Director spurred everyone to action as he immediately ordered the officials to break the gate and shoot the dogs if the security guards eventually refused to chain them.

When finally the gate was forced opened and the guards subdued, the cooks opened the two cold rooms where the entire products in stock were discovered to have expired, many since 2004 with maggots’ found in some .

At the end, two buses and two Hilux pick-up vans filled with the fake and expired products worth over N500 million, all imported were evacuated from the Karimu Ikotun resident of Mr. Moussali alone.

On Interrogation, the jittery cooks who identified themselves as John Gbokasa and David from Benin Republic confirmed to NAFDAC officials that the House belongs to Mr Moussali adding that the fake, unregistered and expired food products found inside the two cold rooms were for Chocolat Royal.

“I know that the products have expired, some, 2004, 2006, 2009, but I am a cook and I take instruction from my boss,” David said.

“Anytime they need some products to prepare edibles at Chocolat Royal, they come here with van and mine is to give them key to take whatever they want and after they finish taken the items, they will return the key to me,” John added.

They however pleaded with the NAFDAC officials not to arrest them but wait until their boss, Mr Moussalli who absconded as the operation was ongoing or the wife who they said was out of the country return. This plea was however, turn down as the two men were arrested and taken to NAFDAC’s office at Apapa where they later gave out some vital information to the regulatory agency during interrogation.

Buoyed by the breakthrough, the NAFDAC Director of enforcement Mr. Ejiofor and the entire team then stormed the Etim Iyang Crescent headquarters of Chocolat Royal at about 6:15pm again with the aim to not only break the cold rooms but also arrest Tatiana and the staff who had earlier wilfully obstructed them from performing their duty.

But except the overzealous Finance director, Mr Idowu Adebayo and one Mr David who were not all that lucky, others including Tatiana had all taken to their heels on realizing that Moussalli’s resident has been broken into and two illegal cold rooms discovered and evacuated.

NAFDAC officials however, were able to inspected only two cold rooms as it was getting late already. Except some few products purchased in our local market, all the imported products inside the cold rooms have expired.

The expired products which worth about N500 million were also evacuated and the entire building sealed.

Reacting to the incident after the operation, Ejiofor said that NAFDAC had in their custody six persons in connection with the incident, adding that they were arrested for intentionally obstructing NAFDAC officials while on official duty.

“The suspects will be interrogated, while the food products will be sampled and taken to the laboratory for analysis, where the labels and contents will be properly analysed and at the end of the day when the reports are out, that will determine the next line of action,” Ejiofor said.

The NAFDAC director, who commended the officers and the entire team for the successful operation despite the intimidation from the staff of the offending company, further said that the food and confectionary outlet will continue to remain close to allow for proper investigation.

“They will be investigated by the Federal Taskforce on Fake and Counterfeit Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods, and at the end of investigation, files submitted will be reviewed and after evaluation, we would send them to our legal department and we will be advised on what to do by the legal team and if we have enough facts, then we will now proceed for prosecution,” he added.

But in a twisted press statement meant to obfuscate the truth as well as, deceive the members of the public, the management of Chocolat Royal, on Wednesday, presented the invasion of its premises by NAFDAC as a normal routine check, trivialising the incident as nothing serious.

Not only did they denied ever using the expired products discovered to prepare consumables for members of the public but stated that the expired food products were discovered in their “cupboard”

They also said that the expired food products were discovered in one of the directors house instead of Moussalli’s house.

“The items found were never used in preparing food or confectionaries.

“As corporate citizens, we will work with NAFDAC to ensure that these issues are promptly resolved and any breaches if any are remedied,” the statement reads in part.

 Meanwhile the Director General of NAFDAC, Mr Paul Orhii after inspecting the fake and expired food products evacuated from Chocolat Royal, Thursday morning at NAFDAC enforcement office Apapa, said that the matter will be thoroughly investigated and the people involved prosecuted if found culpable.

“As you can see, these products were not even registered, not only were they not registered, they have expired, some in 2004 and they were not even written in English language, so they could not have been registered.

“Not only that, you also noticed that the case is not only that the products have expired, some about 11 years ago, but they attempted to revalidate them, which is also a serious offence.

“They were caught in the process of using these expired products, so after investigation we will begin the prosecution. Anybody can build a cold room anywhere provided the place is not prohibited, but in this case, I understand that there was a cold room on top of sewage; suck away pit, of course you cannot use that kind of cold room to store stocks that you are going to use for the production of food for the members of the public, so that is an offence,” he said.

Orhii said that Chocolat Royal outlet will remain sealed until investigation is concluded adding that compliance with NAFDAC regulation must be ensured first, before the issue of reopening of the outlet will be discussed, but not anytime soon.

He however thanked the journalist for his courage in carrying out such commendable investigation which led to the operation urging the members of the public to provide NAFDAC with any useful information that could help in their operation.

He noted that the Agency is making every effort to rid the society of fake and substandard regulated products.

“We appreciate the role of the press in assisting us in our regulatory activities and we will ensure that all matters relating to fake and unregistered products are decisively dealt with and culprits brought to justice,” Orhii added.

Investigation carried out has shown that minimum of 5000 Nigerians and foreign nationals patronise the three Chocolat Royal outlets in 267A Etim Iyang Crescent, VI, Shoprite and Centro mall, Lekki. When calculated, It simply means that estimated 150,000 people are poisoned every month and 1.8million people every year.

In all it could be said that, Chocolat Royal has contributed to at least 10% of complicated health problems witnessed in Nigeria in the past 15 years based on the terrifying quantities of unregistered and expired food products discovered and evacuated in their cold rooms and stores.

A medical practitioner, Dr Bassey Richard who spoke to our correspondent on phone when asked to give insight on the health implications of consuming expired food products, said that consumption of fake and expired food products can cause food poisoning and very dangerous especially to pregnant women and infants.

“Eating expired food products will likely lead to food poisoning. Food poisoning consists of diarrhea and vomiting that can last for weeks, lead to fever and in some extreme cases to death.

“When it has to do with foods prepared with fruits such as nuts, apples and grapes, growth known as mycotoxins can occur, which can cause itchiness, diarrhea, vomiting and dizziness. It is not advisable to eat expired food products,” he said.

Report,
Don Norman Obinna

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