By Udeme Clement
The Ogun Command of Nigeria Customs Service has called on Nigerians living within the communities of Idiroko, the border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin, to be on guard against expired frozen products smuggled into the country illegally, warning that such items have serious health hazards and are not suitable for human consumption.
The Customs Area Controller (CAC) of the Command, Comptroller, Gangua Hassan, gave this warning, sequel to interception of a 20feet truck fully loaded with expired fish and rice, smuggled into the country through the border. The officers on operation swiftly arrested a suspect, who is a native of Benin Republic, in connection with the items. He stressed that his team will leave no stone unturned in the rage against smugglers working against government’s policy on industrial development.
The seizure of the contaminated fish is coming only one week after the Same Command made massive seizures of contraband items estimated at N291.8million within the same border.
During the visit, Sunday Vanguard observed that the seized items were concealed in the truck, in a bid to escape security checks. While the cartons of fish were packed from the extreme corner of the truck, some bags of rice were arranged near the door to cover the expired fish.
The burial of the items was another task entirely, which took almost a whole day, as over 10 labourers were seen digging and burying the items at a dump site within the Command.
Speaking, the CAC, who displayed the items in the open, explained, “Our officers intercepted 722 cartons of imported frozen fish comprising of soley fish, senrei fish classified under water pelagic fishes, commonly known as open sea fish, loaded in a refrigerated truck with registration number SMK 96 XR, and 56 bags of foreign rice were loaded inside the same truck. The items have a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N10.5million and one suspect, a native of Benin Republic was apprehended in connection with the seizures.
He is giving the Command useful information needed for investigation. In contravention of the guidelines as contained in the government policies and extant circulars, the goods were seized, and must be destroyed accordingly, as you are going to witness here. It is pertinent to note that frozen fish has recently come under regulated products in Nigeria with vivid guidelines, which every fish importer must fulfil before embarking on importation. For the avoidance of doubt, apart from fulfilling all import guidelines, there must be fishing license permit from Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development by the importing company.
Such importation must be subjected to National Agency for Food, Drugs, Administration and Control (NAFDAC) certification. In pursuant of government policy on fish importation, Customs is working assiduously to ensure that Nigeria is not turned into a dumping ground of not only fish, but other restricted items.
Smugglers should desist from illegal border trade and allow sanity in our economic environment, as we will not hesitate to confiscate any prohibited item brought into Ogun Command illegally. We are well trained and adequately equipped to curb smuggling in whatever form.”
Some senior officers who supervised the destruction of the items at the dump site said that timely intervention in seizing the expired fish averted what would have been a major disaster, if such items had gone into the market for unsuspecting Nigerians to consume.