By Gabriel Ewepu & Fortune Eromosele – Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, FMARD, Alhaji Sabo Nanono and the Director-General Standard Organization of Nigeria, SON, Mallam Faruk Salim, have both expressed enthusiasm to partner Agricultural Produce Sellers Association of Nigeria, APSAN, in tackling the production, distribution of substandard and counterfeit agricultural products in the country.
The duo made the collaboration during the ‘Official Launch of the Taskforce on Substandard and Counterfeit Products’ in Abuja. In his keynote address, the Minister, Sabo Nanono, stated that the task force is a bold step in stemming the tide of substandard and counterfeit products in Nigeria.
Nanono, who was represented by the Value Chain Desk Officer, Dr. Rasaq Oyeleke, noted that it will enhance food security and improve the quality of local, exported foods in the nation; stressing that it aligns with the federal government’s desire to diversify the economy with a sharper focus on agriculture as a revenue generating substitute to oil.
He said that “You will agree with me that substandard products and counterfeits come with heavy economic and health burdens with people paying ultimate price in certain cases of counterfeiting. Consumers do not have values for their money when substandard or counterfeited products are patronized.
“It is said that no sector is spared of having substandard products and counterfeiting including agriculture canned products, agric inputs, electronics, equipment, agrochemicals, etc. Nigerian products have been blacklisted in the international markets due to substandard products and counterfeiting.
“It is important to note that my Ministry just inaugurated a Standing Inter-Ministerial Technical Working Group on Agro Zero Reject Initiative to, among others, ensure that the European Union lifts the ban on our beans and other commodities. The Taskforce to be launched today may wish to work with the Inter-Ministerial.
“However, this cannot be achieved if what we are producing as a nation cannot meet international quality and standards. We are also cognizant of the fact that whatever is being rejected elsewhere could be what we are consuming locally, therefore putting our own health into jeopardy and our economy in shambles.
“The task force has the herculean task to Bringing the criminals that engage in product counterfeiting to book as Spelt out in our laws. I also believe that the Taskforce will be well resourced to carry out their national assignment.”
Meanwhile, the president of APSAN, Comrade Aloys Akortsaha, stressed that the establishment of the task force committee was borne out of a desire to contribute massively towards the eradication of fake and substandard agricultural produce in Nigeria.
He explained that “The task force which is poised to fighting this menace of substandard and fake products, will be in collaboration with the relevant agencies saddled with the regulatory responsibility to ensuring standardization, as well as security agencies, including; Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Consumer Protection Council, the Nigerian Police Force, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).”
He noted that APSAN, as an umbrella Organianisation that is saddled with the responsibility of pioneering the affairs of agribusiness dealers across Nigeria, will ensure that the task force will be effective to the point of clamping down to sole distributors of substandard and counterfeit agric products.
The Director-General, SON, Mallam Faruk Salim, commended the efforts of APSAN in enacting the task force and reiterated support in fighting counterfeit, substandard agricultural produce in the country.
Salim, who was represented by the Director of Legal Services, SON, Barr. Umaru Kawu, maintained that “SON and APSAN have been in business in the past to ensure your produce put in the marketplace are of standard. This task force that has been inaugurated, I advice strongly that there be a scope to regulate their activities.”
On his part, the Chairman of the newly enacted task force, Mr. Vandefan James said, “We will be out there in the market to detect counterfeit agric produce and also we would train members of the task force to identify substandard products that are in the market, once such products are detected they would be arraigned to the relevant agencies for sanction.
“I promise Nigerians and the federal government that our task force is not going to be one that would carry sticks or guns, but it would be a civil task force in ensuring farmers and consumers get value for what they buy and sell.”