It will no longer be business as usual for smugglers of poultry products in the country as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has launched a special anti-smuggling operation against illegal importation of the products code-named “Hawk Descend” as part of its efforts to salvage the poultry sector. Speaking at the official launch of the operation at the Seme border, Comptroller General of Customs, Dikko Abdulahi said the objective of the operation is to achieve national food security and protection of the Nigerian economy against smuggling of frozen poultry products.
He said Nigeria can no longer be a dumping ground for smuggled products, most of which are preserved with chemicals dangerous for human consumption. “During this period, our operatives will intercept smuggled products, seize and destroy them in line with the provisions of extant laws and regulations. Like the wayward chic, there will be no hiding place for smuggled chicken in our land. Our hawks will descend and mop them out of circulation. “As we roll out our guns smoking, we are strengthened by the outcome of recent medical research which reconfirmed our fears about the health hazards of consuming smuggled products. “We need to send a collective message to the exporter countries that Nigeria can no longer be a dumping site for products that have outlived their usefulness,” Dikko, who was represented by Deputy Comptroller General (DCG) Investigation, Inspection and Enforcement, Tahir Musa, said.
He noted that while the NCS operatives have stepped up their efforts to reduce the rate of smuggled poultry products, there was ,however, a recent upsurge in the smuggling of the products into the country, thus necessitating the launch of the operation.
“We have received commendations but from time to time, this menace rears its ugly head and that is why we have decided to march by launching this operation so that we can mop it up and in a sustainable manner so that no smuggled poultry products come into the country,” he said.
Dikko said the operation which will be conducted for an initial period of three months will cover commands and patrol in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States. While soliciting the cooperation and support of other security agencies and stakeholders in order to avail the NCS of useful information about movement and storage of the products, Dikko assured that with the launch of the operation, the country will be rid of smuggled poultry products.
A total of 8,000 cartons of smuggled poultry products were destroyed to mark the launch of the operation.
In his remarks, Director General, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) Onallo Akpa said 80 percent of the poultry products which are smuggled into the Nigerian market are imported from Benin Republic. He said the poultry industry has contributed 25 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural Gross Domestic Product and created over 40 million jobs for Nigerians, hence it cannot continue to watch things go down the drain with the increasing rate of smuggled poultry products in the country. “We cannot continue to have this in our country while the economies of other countries continue to develop. If we allow this to continue, what will be the fate of investment in this country? What will be the fate of employment created by this industry for Nigerians?,” he asked.
He lauded the effort of Customs in the fight against smuggling but lamented that the porous nature of the borders has not helped in sustaining the fight. However, he expressed hope that with the launch of the operation and support of other security agencies, smuggling of the products will be reduced to its barest minimum.
Speaking on the implications of consuming smuggled frozen poultry products, representative of the Director General, National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC); Director, Port Services, Maureen Egbibeyi said they constitute great health hazards to consumers and expose them to various diseases because they are always left contaminated due to the modes of transporting and preserving them.
By Pita Ochai