Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko Inde has warned of the potential health hazards in the consumption of imported frozen poultry product, beyond the negative impact of the nefarious business on local agriculture development in the country.
The Customs boss gave the warning Tuesday, when he flagged off a fresh campaign against importation of poultry products, with the destruction of 8,000 cartons of smuggled poultry products, valued at about N70Million.
Speaking during the launch of the campaign tagged , “Operation Hawk Descend” at a town hall meeting with key stakeholders, the Customs boss said that the objective of the Operation Hawk Descend which is expected to be for an initial period of three months is to achieve national food security and protection of Nigerian economy against smuggling of poultry products.
Dikko, who was represented by Deputy Comptroller General in charge of enforcement, investigation and inspection; Musa Tahir warned that henceforth, Customs officers will intercept poultry products, seize and destroy them.
According to him, Operation Hawk Descend is a special operation to fire shot in our war against smuggling of frozen chickens, turkeys and other poultry products into the country.
“The operation will be conducted in the South-Western border axis covering our command and patrols in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States and it would be for three months.
“During this period, our operatives will intercept smuggled products which will be destroyed in line with the provision of extant laws and regulations. There will be no hiding place for smuggled chickens in our land because our hawks will descend and mop them out of circulation
On the need to protect the local industry, the Customs boss said “There are millions of patriotic Nigerians who have invested their hard earned resources in the local poultry sector so the unfair competition from smuggled chickens threatens their investment and capacity”.
The Controller-General therefore warned that Customs officers will henceforth reutinely raid cold rooms and major distribution points where poultry products are being sold.
Dikko noted that Government in its wisdom has banned the importation of frozen chicken and turkey into Nigeria. However, it is a known fact that smugglers all over the world thrive on products whose trade is controlled, restricted or out rightly banned.
He said although the service had succeeded in bringing smuggling to a near standstill in the past, “we are however witnessing a recent upsurge. With the launch today, we are renewing our determination to strike a final blow to poultry products smugglers, as we roll out our guns smoking; we are strengthened by the outcome of recent medical research which confirmed our fears about the health hazards of consuming smuggled products” he added.
While admitting that the destruction that the destruction of seized poultry product is stretching the logistics of the Customs to its limits, he said that the manner of destruction equally raising serious environmental questions.
He assured that in the course of the Operation Hawk Descend customs would collaborate with Ministry of Environment at Federal and State levels, NGOs, environmental activists and other interested stakeholders to pursue better ways of disposal in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner.
Also speaking at the town hall meeting, Director General of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN); Dr. Ayoola Oduntan warned that Nigerians consuming poultry products are at risk of unknown deceases because most of the poultry products imported into Nigeria are being preserved with poisonous chemicals.
Dr Oduntan who was represented by the Director General of the association, Mr. Onallo Akpa, said that over 500 metric tonnes of poultry products were being imported from European countries alone into the country despite the efforts of Nigeria poultry farmers.
He disclosed that a certain chemical for the preservation of the products before importation known as Formalin is also the same chemical used to embalm corpses; hence, it is very dangerous to our health.
By Alex Akao