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‘Why Nigeria cannot place blanket ban on pesticides restricted abroad’

By Chukwuma Muanya
23 December 2021   |   2:53 am
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has dismissed a report that about 40 per cent of all pesticides in use in Nigeria are dangerous substances

Director Drug Evaluation and Research, NAFDAC Mrs. Ijeoma Nwankwo (left); Founder and Group Managing Director of Emzor Pharmaceuticals Dr. Stella C. Okoli; Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye; Director Registration and Regulatory, Dr. Monica Eimunjeze; and Special Assistant to the DG, Dr. Olugbenga Fajemirokun, during a working visit of the NAFDAC DG to Emzor Campus, in Ogun State.

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has dismissed a report that about 40 per cent of all pesticides in use in Nigeria are dangerous substances that have been banned or heavily restricted in European and American markets.

The agency, however, gave reasons why Nigeria cannot place a blanket ban on imported agrochemicals restricted, but instead initiated a four-year phase-out plan for obsolete and unsafe agrochemicals.

Director-General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye, told The Guardian: “Globally, regulation is done in the interest and safety of the citizens, and what is obtainable in advanced countries, in most cases, are not obtainable in developing countries. The European Union (EU), for instance, restricted/banned some agrochemicals from being used to produce some crops due to the nature of the crops. The action was taken to safeguard a class of the population that consumes such crops. In such a case, it will be unscientific to do the same in Nigeria, where the class of crops in question are not grown here and the chemical in question are not used on similar fresh crops in Nigeria. The chemicals in question are still being produced in the EU and the residue still exists in their fruits and vegetables.”

Indeed, the report by the Alliance for Action on Pesticide in Nigeria was inaugurated last month at a two-day conference on pesticides regulation and use in Nigeria, hosted by the AAPN and Trade Network Initiative, and supported by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS), in Abuja.

The report, a product of studies conducted in Kano, Oyo, Ebonyi and Benue States, noted that the 40 per cent represents 57 active ingredients in 402 products that are still in use in Nigeria. Many of those belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) that are especially dangerous for human health, animals and the environment.

The report said 25 registered products in Nigeria have been proven carcinogenic; 63 are mutagenic; while 47 are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Also, 262 products show neurotoxicity and 224 show clear effects on reproduction.

The report stated that 65 per cent of the active ingredients (26 out of 40) used by farmers in Nigeria as sampled in the field study belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).

MEANWHILE, Adeyeye said the public should be rest assured that NAFDAC as an agency will never compromise the nation’s public health or environment and will not inflict undue hardship on Nigerians.

Said NAFDAC, in the last four years, has reviewed its regulations, guidelines and strengthened collaboration with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and stakeholders to ensure effective regulations. Such effort has been recorded in pesticides and agrochemicals regulation.

She said NAFDAC has reviewed the safety of all registered agrochemicals in Nigeria and in consultation with relevant stakeholders, initiated a four-year phase-out plan for obsolete and unsafe agrochemicals. “Such phase-out plan is currently running for Paraquat, which will totally phase out in 2024 and Atrazine in 2025, while 100ml pack size of Dichlovus (DDVP) is already banned,” she said.

The NAFDAC DG said the reformation directive has been issued to manufacturers of veterinary drugs that produce veterinary antibiotics that consist of more than two active pharmaceutical ingredients. Adeyeye said the agency has also stepped-up advocacy on the use of veterinary vaccines and biosecurity on farms to reduce the requirement for the use of medicines on farms. “The agency also banned the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter in livestock production to ensure the production of the safe and wholesome food of animal origin,” she said.

The pharmacist said prudent and responsible use of pesticides and agrochemicals is the paramount caution in the use of the products in Nigeria. Adeyeye said the agency is currently working with CropLife Nigeria to train distributors of agrochemicals in Nigeria. This, she said, is extremely important to forestall the risk of mishandling, poor storage, and unsafe exposure to the products.

“The agency has, over the years, developed regulation in compliance with the situation in Nigeria’s environment. This may be at variance with the view of some Nigerians that still believe it is only when others, such as the EU and the United States of America ban a product that we should follow suit,” Adeyeye said.

She called on investors to feel free and confident to invest in agricultural production in Nigeria. She reiterated her determination and assurance to Nigerians that no stones would be left unturned to ensure that food products available to Nigerians for consumption are safe and wholesome.

Adeyeye said the agency in the last four years of her administration has been repositioned to effectively regulate amid other products, all agricultural input such as pesticides, and agrochemicals, veterinary medicines and veterinary vaccines, animal feed, food additives and feed supplements. The pharmacist said all these inputs are known to have an impact on the food chain and the quality and safety of the input have a direct impact on food from the farms and the health of humans, animals, and plants. She said the agency observed with dismay the volume of imported food Nigerians consume. Adeyeye said, in line with Federal Government’s agenda and investment in agriculture, the agency wishes to encourage investors to consider investing in agricultural production so that the creation of jobs and the ability to feed the nation without expending too much on the foreign exchange can be achieved.

She said it is worthy of note that a lot of regulatory activity has been carried out in ensuring that all input required in the production of food are effectively regulated to ensure safety and quality.

The pharmacist said in reciprocating to this effort, local production of food is highly encouraged to ensure food safety.

Adeyeye added: “NAFDAC wishes to call on all and sundry on the need for ethical and responsible use of regulated products. All should always buy and use registered products. The manufacturer instruction plays a significant role in achieving safe use of regulated products, therefore; strict compliance to it is highly inevitable. NAFDAC also encourages and appreciates speedy information sharing on any regulated product for swift action when the need arises.”

She said NAFDAC has registered and still registering several organic fertilisers, biopesticides and bio-fertiliser, this is to provide a wide range of choices for crop protection products to farmers. Adeyeye said the agency would continue to call on all farmers to ensure strict compliance to all practices such as Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), Good Hygienic Practice (GHP), Good Storage Practice (GSP) amidst others.