By Ifeyinwa Obi & Chioma Obinna
FRESH facts have emerged revealing that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, okayed the importation of a 20ft container of Egusi soup, Ogbono soup, and yam porridge from India which was recently intercepted by the Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
It was discovered that the agency which is saddled with the responsibility of eliminating counterfeit pharmaceuticals, foods and beverages products that are not manufactured in Nigeria, issued numbers for the imported products.
The numbers, which authenticate imported products, were found on some of the items that were shown to Saturday Vanguard by the Comptroller of Tin Can Island Port Command, Yusuf Bashar. He condemned the development, noting that it was wrong to import the products at a time the Federal Government had granted zero duty for the importation of machinery for the packaging of agricultural products into the country.
Imported cancerous food
However, a top officer of the NCS, who pleaded anonymity, accused NAFDAC of issuing genuine registration numbers for the products.
He said: “When our boss asked NAFDAC officials how the NAFDAC registration number was issued for the product, no body said anything. It showed that there was a compromise somewhere. Can Indians cook our local delicacies more than we do here? That is how cancerous foods are imported into the country.”
Also, a freight forwarder, Mr. Donatus Onwuegusi noted that it was wrong for NAFDAC to have registered such consumables without considering their likely health implications.
He said: “It is very sad that the food which is being imported into the country for the first time already have original NAFDAC registration numbers on them. Yet the same NAFDAC will deny those who want to start producing pure water the registration number because they can not bribe them. It is bad especially at this time when the President is seriously fighting corruption.”
Monitor activities of NAFDAC
He urged the government to monitor the activities of NAFDAC to avoid future occurrence. Onwuegusi further commended NCS for using Thierry Initiative to intercept the container. He said: “The Customs tried but the government should find out the situation of the container of food handed over to NAFDAC to stop them from releasing it to the owner because the food can wipe out the whole country. NAFDAC must be investigated.”
Similarly, a consultant at Simmons Cooper, consultant to the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, Mr. Babatunde Irukera urged the media to work assiduously with the CPC in protecting consumers.
Urukera said: ‘’One lawyer in my office bought canned Moimoi and I said so they are exporting Moimoi to Nigeria. The thing was made somewhere in England. Recession affects individuals more than it affects companies. Companies will continue to shift impact to the people. This underscores the need for vigilance and the very critical role the media have to play in the society.
People import Moimoi
“The agencies are overwhelmed but only the media can help. A society where there is so much ingenuity, the consumers need protection. The Nigerian society needs protection. The media should seek ways of removing from the market hazardous products.”
Responding to the claims, a source at NAFDAC’s Department of Registration & Regulatory Affairs, told Saturday Vanguard that the agency was investigating how importers got NAFDAC numbers, saying she could not confirm or deny it.
The source said NAFDAC has guidelines and operating procedures for product registration.
Further efforts to reach both the Director of Registration & Regulatory Department Affairs and the Acting Director General of NAFDAC, Mrs. Yetunde Oni proved abortive as calls made to her telephone line were not answered.
Saturday Vanguard recalls that a few days ago, NAFDAC’s Deputy Director, Investigation & Enforcement, Mr. Francis Ononiwu had decried the influx of imported fruit drink into the country, blaming it on the absence of the agency’s staff at the ports.
“We are aware that most of these products come through the sea ports and NAFDAC is not on the ground at sea ports. Definitely, we cannot effectively stop the products from entering. That is a major challenge. If we are there the quantity will be much more reduced or eliminated. The federal government should consider taking NAFDAC back to the ports”