ABUJA- AS preparation for Christmas gathers momentum, the Federal Government yesterday, met with importers over smuggled rice and other food items including frozen poultry products and fish through land borders into the country.
The meeting was hosted by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sen Heineken Lokpobiri, at the Ministry’s headquarter in Abuja, where which was to engage stakeholders from farmers, processors, importers, exporters, and regulators. According to him the essence of the meeting was to proffer solution to the problem of smuggling of food items with a sustainable strategy.
He said: “Today we have a problem and it is only we that are sited here that can solve that and it has to do with the activities of smuggling, particularly as it relates to rice, poultry products and fish. In the last few weeks the Vice President has been meeting with the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Interior, including customs and some other government agencies with the view of finding a solution to this problem.
“I guess all of you here the dangers of the consumption of these frozen products, imported rice and fish by the Nigerian population. All of you are aware that there are many strange diseases that are now affecting little children; some at the age of five they are already down these diseases. “The reason is because instead of us to patronize our local poultry industry, locally produced fish, and for the fish because of the huge gap in order to ensure quality control decided to give some fish quota to those who have applied to import fish, and that fish is only acceptable to Nigeria if it is brought through the seaport.
“We also know some criminal activities are going on through the land borders particularly the Benin Republic border, where people are bringing in frozen fish, poultry products, which are not healthy for human consumption. “These smuggled poultry products contain what they use to preserve dead bodies called formalin, and it is important for Nigerians to know that it is very dangerous to eat any frozen product that is smuggled into the country. If big hotels in the country patronize locally produced rice, poultry products and fish, they will save a lot of lives and create more jobs. ”
However, the Minister also disclosed that over 1 million metric tonnes of rice waiting to hit Nigerian markets from Benin Republic, which he urged hotels, eateries, super markets, and others to patronize Nigerian agricultural products. “Over 1 million metric tonnes of rice waiting to hit Nigeria from Benin Republic, and the rice is not meant for Benin Republic because people of Benin Republic don’t eat parboiled rice”, he stated.
Speaking on how to approach the problem, one of the stakeholders, Nigeria Association of Agricultural Product Dealers, NAAPD, whose Secretary General, Hon Kingsley Chikezie, said with the documents that authorised them to collaborate with the governors and police to reduce multiple taxation, same could be applied to reduce smuggling across the land borders.
On its suggestion, the National Orientation Agency, NOA, promised to step up awareness creation on the issue and to orientate Nigerians more on patronising, consuming and depending on locally produced poultry products, fish and rice instead of the smuggled ones despite the affordability.
Also the President of Poultry Association of Nigeria, Ezekiel Mam, called on Nigerians to discard imported poultry products due to the damage caused by the preservatives, and should patronize the local poultry products.