BY CHIBUZOR EMEJOR,
Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has said no Nigerian is safe and exempted from contaminated food consumption occasioned by dangerous and harmful chemicals used by farmers and food dealers to preserve them.
Speaking in Abuja at the meeting with heads of agencies and stakeholders to brainstorm on the way forward on the wrong use of chemicals on agricultural produce, Ogbeh called for concerted efforts to end the menace.
According to him, “We have sniper, they said, it damages lungs if put in the food. We have other challenges.
“People will go and buy frozen chickens preserved with Formica. Even when National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control [NAFDAC] confiscates and buries them, some people will still dig them up and eat.
“So we are in a crisis state. The big problem is how to get people to know that that is bad. The level of education and literacy is not high in Nigeria.
“Why are young people these days coming down with kidney and liver diseases? Nobody knows our misconduct that is causing all these problems.
“All these are due to bad water, which many people drink. You can see why they said our life expectancy is very low. We need to work on these.
“I complained some time ago about the cellophane for wrapping of moimoi and even the grinders used in the markets.
“They are not stainless. In the course of grinding food, particles of these metals from the grinder mix with the food.
“We have tried to develop a stainless grinding machine. But the prototype is a bit much for the people in the markets who grind pepper, onions and pepper.
“We are trying to buy and encourage people to use them. So we have a duty to do something. At the end of this meeting, we will develop a strong communication team to educate farmers, agro-dealers and everyone.
“We will use radio, television and perhaps campaign in those areas where they are using these chemicals. This is because people do not know how dangerous these chemicals are.
“No human being is safe in our environment now. When you buy beans, you don’t know what is used to preserve it. When you buy smoked fish, you don’t know what they used.”
Earlier, Dr. Vincent Isegbe, Coordinating Director of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services [NAQS], said the present situation of using sniper to preserve beans in the country is a “time of painful reflection.”
Isegbe said Nigeria does not have National Pesticide Policy, adding that inter-agency committee has been constituted to develop the policy.
He therefore called for holistic approach to ending the storage of food items with harmful chemicals.
The Coordinating Director of NAQS who blamed low level of literacy and ignorance on the part of farmers and food dealers, said his agency would soon embark on random sampling of beans across the country to ascertain the level of chemical usage.