The day was Thursday the 30th of April, location; Oregun, Lagos. An opened bottle of diet coke lay before my desk. I’d always being a fan of coke products- their catchy ads and mantra were as popular as Christmas carols. But there was something wrong with this particular beverage- a swig from the bottle was enough to arrive at a conclusion. The best before date on the bottle’s cap answered my doubts. The drink or rather the poison before me was more than a month old.
On the double ConnectAfrica correspondents made a dash to the shop where the drink was bought. A rather naïve sales attendant apologetically collected the drink from the correspondent. Her offer to replace the drink only unearthed more rot. Stacked in a corner of the room were cartons of expired diet coke. In alarm, she opened the refrigerator and more expired diet cokes smiled at us. Off course all the bottles bore the obnoxious date-03/03/2009. We snapped some pictures; for the media and NAFDAC-Nigeria’s food and drugs regulatory body.
A visit to the shop an hour later and the Augean stable had been cleaned spick and span. Our second coming however was for a different purpose. ‘When did Coca Cola supply these drinks?’ we asked her. ‘On the 18th of April’ the rather alarmed salesgirl hurriedly produced a supply card supporting her claim.
Next bus stop was to get Coca Cola’s side to this story. But like most close end cases; mum was the word from the beverage giant. An arrogant public relations culture entrenched in the annals of corporate Nigeria is gradually and quickly becoming a fad-keep quiet and the story will run out is the default line of defence. It isn’t that NAFDAC has gone to bed since its blunt and vivacious boss ascended to the illustrious federal cabinet; the truth is Dora Akunyili was so effective in dealing with the drug-rot, she personified NAFDAC. I guess that explains why the agency’s unattractive and outdate website still refers to Dora as its DG and its most current news is 2 years old!! Ironically NAFDAC airs a public awareness drama were several children are poisoned when a mendacious importer decides to re-edit the dates of the noxious substance for profit. Several children are hospitalized and NAFDAC-the saviour mankind saves the masses at the end of the day
However existing laws should make errant companies like Coca Cola face the music squarely. Because unlike the drama where we all have a second chance to analyse, make corrections and poke fun here and there, this is reality, this is happening now. Coke addicts would love to be reminded that the coke side of life is fun and health rather than denial and death.