‘Imported poultry products unsafe for human consumption’
*Customs impounds 7,000 cartons of products
THE Federal Government’s clampdown on imported poultry products may have been informed by assessed unsavory pangs of the items on human health and the economy. Indeed, authorities revealed that the imported products, which have emerged favourite delicacies among the populace, due to their affordable prices, contain health damaging formalin, used essentially in preserving them.
This discovery, which could harm the nation’s human resources prompted the authorities to further step up efforts at curtailing the product’s importation into the country.
On Tuesday, the officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), destroyed 7,000 cartons worth N80million of the products at Seme Border town in Lagos State. Speaking at the event, the President of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Dr. Ayoola Oduntan cautioned Nigerians against the health and economic risks of consuming imported poultry products.
Oduntan explained that poultry products imported into Nigeria are being preserved with poisonous chemicals. Oduntan, who was represented by the Director General of the association, Onallo Akpa, explained that over 500 metric tonnes of poultry products were being imported from European countries alone into the country, despite the efforts of Nigerian poultry farmers in raising local production level.
He said: “Formalin, which is the chemical used to embalm corpses, is the same that is used to preserve the frozen products before importation to the country and it is very dangerous to our health.
“Other than ruining the Nigerian economy, the destruction of the local poultry industry and the erosion of family livelihoods, Nigerians are worse off by the continued patronage of these unwholesome smuggled poultry products and it can bring a collapse to the economy. “We must not allow smuggling to destroy our economy; so we must work together to save our economy,” Oduntan added.
He explained that the continuous importation of poultry products will harm the economy of Nigeria, stating that the poultry industry in Nigeria has been able to contribute 85 percent of the agricultural domestic product in Nigerian economy with 14 million Nigerians involved in terms of employment generation.
Meanwhile, not less than 8,000 cartons of the smuggled products, valued at N70million were destroyed at the ceremony. Comptroller General of NCS, AbdullahiDikko, who flagged off renewed clampdown against smugglers of the products also directed anti-smuggling units to intensify operations especially around Lagos-Ogun-Oyo axis as part of measures to curtail smuggling of the products into the country.
According to the customs boss, the campaign tagged “Operation Hawk Descend”, which is expected to be for an initial period of three months is intended to achieve national food security and protection of Nigeria’s economy against smuggling of poultry products. Speaking at a meeting with stakeholders, the customs boss, who was represented by Deputy Comptroller General in charge of enforcement, investigation and inspection, Musa Tahir, said the service will ensure total compliance.
Dikko said: “The Hawk Descend is a special operation to fire shot in our war against smuggling of frozen chickens, turkeys and other poultry products into the country. “The operation will be conducted in the South-Western border axis covering our command and patrols in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States and it would be for three months.
“During this period, our operatives will intercept smuggled products which will be destroyed in line with the provision of extant laws and regulations. There will be no hiding place for smuggled chickens in our land because our hawks will descend and mop them out of circulation. “There are millions of patriotic Nigerians who have invested their hard earned resources in the local poultry sector so the unfair competition from smuggled chickens threatens their investment and capacity.
Any form of smuggling would not be tolerated”, said Dikko. Explaining further, he said: “Government in its wisdom has banned the importation of frozen chicken and turkey into Nigeria. However, it is a known fact that smugglers all over the world thrive on products whose trade is controlled, restricted or out rightly banned.
Though we have succeeded in bringing smuggling to a near standstill in the past, we are however witnessing a recent upsurge. “With the launch today, we are renewing our determination to strike a final blow to poultry products smugglers, as we roll out our guns smoking; we are strengthened by the outcome of recent medical research which confirmed our fears about the health hazards of consuming smuggled products”.
The customs boss explained that the destruction of seized poultry product is stretching the logistics of the Customs to its limits, adding that the manner of destruction equally raising serious environmental questions.
According to him, in the course of the “Operation Hawk Descend” customs will collaborate with Ministry of Environment at Federal and State levels, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), environmental activists and other interested stakeholders to pursue better ways of disposal in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner.