Govt intensifies clampdown on imported poultry products
CITING unsavory pangs of the items on human health and the economy, the Federal Government has intensified clampdown on imported poultry products.
According to the Government, the smuggled items contain health-damaging formalin, used essentially in preserving them.
This discovery, which could harm the nation’s human capital, prompted the authorities to further step up efforts at curtailing the product’s importation into the country.
Besides, the Government discovered that most consumers of the imported products are not aware of the damaging effects on the human system.
The products are allegedly smuggled into Nigeria from Asia, Europe and other parts of the world through Benin Republic.
Available statistics indicates that in the past six years, influx of poultry products into Benin Republic has been on the increase.
For example, from 82,338 tons in 2008, the demand increased to 162,791 tons as at 2014, fueling speculations that there is a ready market for the products outside Benin Republic.
According to the statistics, the demand increased to 84,328 tons in 2009, 113,614 in 2010, 123,764 in 2011, 136,889 in 2012, 142,478 in 2013 and 162,791 in 2014.
Indeed, the Federal Operation Units (FOU), zone ‘A’, Ikeja of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) between January and July this year impounded not less than 34,371 cartons of the smuggled products.
The seizures are valued at N154.6 million with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N185.6 million.
Success so far recorded in the ongoing clampdown according to the Controller FOU Zone ‘A’, Ikeja, Turaki Usman Adamu, “is a clear indication of a geometrical progression in terms of quantity of seizures when compared with the corresponding period of last year”
Explaining further, Turaki said: “We will appreciate useful information about movement and storage of these products. The unit will continually rely on credible intelligence that will lead to interception of the products and by so doing, we would have succeeded in sending a very strong message to the exporting countries that our preparedness remains unshakable and our resolve sacrosanct”.
According to Turaki, it is pertinent to note that smugglers all over the world thrive on products whose trade is controlled, restricted or out rightly banned.
He said: “This explains the strong will with which the Nigeria Customs Service have vigorously pursued this project. We are aware of the dangers posed by the importation of these products in terms of adverse effect on the economy in terms of depreciation of our GDP, resulting in unwarranted cases of unemployment and the attendant health hazards needs not be over-emphasized. The Service in its effort to sustain the campaign is further strengthened by the outcome of recent medical research, which re-confirmed our fears about the health hazards inherent in the consumption of smuggled products.
“We have a responsibility to protect the heavy investments of our local farmers and we cannot abdicate this responsibility. The fight against smuggling of these unwholesome products will be taken to the creeks and other flashpoints where we suspect provide access to smugglers”. We have heightened our aggressive patrol activities in order to actualize this mandate”, said Turaki
He explained that FOU, Zone ‘A’ remain a rallying point and hub of anti-smuggling activities, adding that prior to the recently launched ‘Operation Hawk Descend’, the issue of ensuring practical zero tolerance for importation of poultry products have been on the front burner of major discourse in the Unit”.
Challenging team leaders to ensure seizures of the banned items “even when such products are concealed in most ingenious methods”, Turaki said: “Our operations are intelligence based and through this methodology, the Unit has recorded seizures of poultry products concealed in fuel tankers, articulated company vehicles and other forms of mind boggling concealment methods.
“We have working relationship with the poultry farmers association as we share intelligence which guides our operations.
“We are however, not pretending that even with all our arsenals, we cannot win this war on our own and that is why collaboration with our stakeholders and dependable allies becomes most expedient.
“The Unit remains fully committed to this campaign and will stop at nothing until smugglers of these products are decimated and their supply chains blocked. We strongly believe that this strategy will help in checkmating and possibly bringing smuggling of these products to a standstill”.
At a ceremony held at Seme Border town where the renewed clampdown was announced recently, the officials of NCS destroyed 7,000 cartons worth N80million. 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 would 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, Abdullahi Dikko, 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 would 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 Southwestern 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.