Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The federal government has finally put to rest the alleged report on the importation of plastic rice into the country.
Laboratory result released by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) revealed that the said rice was not plastic as suspected.
The country was thrown into panic early this month when a report stated that the Nigerian Customs Service intercepted some tonnes of imported plastic rice meant for distribution during the yuletide.
But the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, debunked the report after some preliminary studies revealed otherwise.
He said there was no truth in the report assuring Nigerians that there was no cause for alarm.
The final result which was made public yesterday confirmed the earlier declaration by the minister.
NAFDAC however said the rice failed other integrity test which thus ruled it out for human consumption.
Mrs. Yetunde Oni, Acting Director General of NAFDAC, Mrs Yetunde Oni, said the rice was contaminated and so not suitable for human consumption and therefore should be destroyed.
Oni briefed journalists yesterday in Abuja alongside the Deputy Comptroller- General of the Nigerian Custom Services, Mr. Umar Ilya on the issue.
She said: “Based on the above laboratory result, the product is not plastic but rice contaminated with micro organisms above permissible limit, hence the seized rice consignment is unsatisfactory and therefore unwholesome for human consumption. The consignment upon handover by the Nigeria customs service shall be destroyed.”
In his reaction, Comptroller-General of Custom, Mr. Umar Ilya, said irrespective of the outcome of the findings, the service will continue to do it’s work and ensuring that fake and banned goods are not allowed into the country.
He revealed that over 40,000 bags of rice have been seized recently part of which were sent to the Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs).
The Comptroller-General also noted that as part of the move to curb illegal importation, that the service has decided to henceforth apart from seizing the goods, it would also confiscate means of transporting the goods.
He said: “Irrespective of the laboratory analysis, customs will remain vigilant to its responsibilities. We re still guided by the intelligence we have which indicates that several metric tones of expired and dangerous rice are still lying in wait at warehouses in neighboring countries. The target of these products is Nigerian markets. We will therefore intensify our patrols to ensure that economic saboteurs do not succeed.
“We will urge warehouse owners across the country not to accept such smuggled products in their facilities. We enjoin transporters to reject moving such products as under the law, both smuggled products and the means of conveyance are liable to seizure. We will rely on the synergy with NAFDA, and other agencies of government to ensure that only rice that is certified fir for human consumption is allowed on our shores.”
Explaining the circumstances surrounding the alleged plastic rice, Ilya said the service only responded to security alert issued by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) on the importation of plastic rice into the country.
“You may recall that recently, our operatives in Lagos intercepted a consignment of rice, based on credible intelligence. Customs action was based on earlier intelligence we received from ONSA, alerting us and other frontline Agencies that large consignments of plasticised rice were said to be shipped from the far East to Africa. As the largest market for imported rice in Africa, customs took the alert seriously and charged officers to watch out for such imports that do not conform with regulatory requirements.
“When the consignments of rice in question were brought to customs warehouse, our apprehension became heightened when we observed glaring lapses in the packaging. The bags of rice had no NAFDAC Number. Batch number, manufacturing or expiry dates. We could also not see any detail about the manufacturers on the bag. We were left with no option than escalating our findings to the agency that is statutorily charged with the responsibility of confirming the true status of the import.
“As required by the law, officials of NAFDAC were invited to draw samples for laboratory analysis.”