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Furore over paraquat toxicity as coalition urges NAFDAC on ban

By Femi Ibirogba, Head Agro-Economy
23 November 2020   |   3:02 am
Coalition Against Paraquat (CAP) has called on the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to enforce an outright ban on the use of paraquat in the country

Coalition Against Paraquat (CAP) has called on the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to enforce an outright ban on the use of paraquat in the country to save the farmer, the consumer and the environment from its toxicity.

The coalition, comprising specialists in different fields, made the call during a visit to the agency recently at its Isolo office in Lagos to present some scientific evidence on paraquat toxicity to support its ban in Nigeria.

A member of the coalition, Professor of Agricultural Extension, Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, University of Ibadan, Ademola Ladele, said paraquat had been proven scientifically to pose dangers to public health and the environment, hence the need for NAFDAC to ban its use in the country.

Ladele, who led the coalition to the agency, said local and foreign consultants were consulted to do a global review of paraquat and it was found that the level of its toxicity was alarming, posing dangers to human life and the environment, hence the need for it to be off the farm in Nigeria immediately.

“We looked at several technologies, including herbicide use, in the process of implementing that project, and we discovered that farmers were using paraquat heavily. And in most places we went to, we saw that there were issues with the use of paraquat. We started looking at it and working on alternative products to replace paraquat because what we saw wasn’t pleasant at all. That is why we are here to share more information with NAFDAC that will help support what NAFDAC is doing towards removing paraquat from Nigerian farms,” he said.

Also speaking, the National President, National Association of Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers, Prof. Simon Irtwange, said while there are short and long-term negative effects of paraquat toxicity on human health, restricting the use of paraquat in the country has been a major challenge.

He stressed that 32 countries had deregistered paraquat and prohibited its use, including China that is responsible for 80 per cent of the total exports to the world.

“We feel that this is a compelling case for NAFDAC that has the responsibility of protecting the farmer, the environment and the consumer to completely deregister this product,” he said.

Irtwange, who is also the chairman, Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “We have come together as a coalition of concerned professionals and patriotic Nigerians working in the framework of CAP to care about the well-being of our farmers, consumers and the protection of our already troubled environment.

“There are alternatives that we can promote and we also want to say that we are here as willing partners with NAFDAC and we are ready to partner with you by providing evidence in other areas,” he added.

Receiving the coalition, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, commended their efforts in ensuring the health and safety of the citizenry.

Mojisola, who was represented by her Special Assistant, Dr Gbenga Fajemirokun, said the impact of paraquat toxicity on human health and other challenges have generated a lot of concern, as there are facts of the negative impacts suffered by farmers and consumers of farm produce in the country.

Reacting to the point raised on the ban of paraquat by 32 countries, she said: “It scares me to note that the country that is responsible for 80 per cent of the exports has banned it’s used in their country and I think that is quite an alarming scenario.

“If China has banned paraquat because they found it toxic, how come we will still be importing it into our own country?

“As we speak, we don’t register or renew, we would see to it that the entire thing is off our shelves and that it is not being used by our farmers. We are looking at an outright ban once the time that we set as the timeline comes.”

Also representing the NAFDAC boss, a director, Dr. Bukar Ali Usman, said part of the plan for eliminating the use of paraquat in Nigeria includes non-issuance and renewal of expired licences and stoppage of production and importation of paraquat.

She added that massive public education on prudent use will also help reduce the few ones that are already around, since no new one is registered and allowed to produce, adding that the agency was encouraging few trials for an alternative to paraquat.

“We said by 2022, the Directorate of Registration and Regulatory will withdraw the licences. The sensitisation and public awareness will be continuous, then moratorium for the exemption of the available stock will exist up to December 20, 2023. By January 1, 2024, any molecule, not even a volume of the drop has become contraband and that is the phasing out plan,” he said.