Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC), Retired Col. Hameed Ali and the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, (NAFDAC), Yetunde Oni, on Thursday, held a joint briefing on the plastic rice controversy.
Full text of the top officials’ addresses was made available to DAILY POST Thursday night.
Ali, in his speech, recalled that Customs operatives in Lagos intercepted a consignment of Rice, based on credible intelligence.
He said the action was based on an earlier intelligence received from Office of the National Security Adviser alerting that large consignments of plasticized rice was shipped from the far East to Africa.
Ali noted that Customs took the alert seriously and charged Officers to watch out for such imports that did not conform with regulatory requirements.
He said “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. However as we know how social media works in our clime, the outcome we are about to hear today was pre-empted.
“Irrespective of the outcome of the laboratory analysis, Customs will remain vigilant and alive to its responsibilities. We are still guided by the intelligence we have which indicate that several metric tonnes 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 NAFDAC and other Agencies of Government to ensure that only rice that is certified fit for human consumption is allowed on our shores.
“We also like to use this medium to commend the determination of Nigerian Rice Producers who have taken the challenge of addressing the rice sufficiency gap very seriously. We commend the various State Governments whose decisive interventions have led to the present bumper harvest of local Rice.
“While this may lead to significant revenue reduction for Customs in the short run, the multiplier effects of increased local production of Rice in terms of job creation in the value chain will benefit the economy in the long run.”
In her remark: NAFDAC boss said following the report of the seizure of the “suspected fake rice”, the Agency swung into action by sending team of inspectors to the office of the Customs Area Comptroller, Federal Operations Ikeja, Lagos to draw samples from the seized consignment for Laboratory analysis.
“The product, branded as “Best Tomato” was in 25kg pack size, without NAFDAC number, no batch number, no date markings and no details of the manufacturer.
“The preliminary result of the analysis was conveyed to the Honorable Minister for Health, Prof Isaac F. Adewole and was made public on 22nd December, 2016 whilst awaiting the comprehensive result. I hereby this day the 29th December 2016 present the full Laboratory report as follows:
- Floating – Negative
- Sedimentation – Positive
- Cooking. – Normal
- Odour. – Normal
- Colour. – Off-white grains
- Moisture. – 13% (within specification)
- Pre-ashing. – Normal
- Ash. – 0.6% (within specification)
- Lead and Cadmium – Not detected
- Aerobic mesophillic count – 2.8×105 cfu (above maximum limits)
- Mould – 5.1×103 cfu – (within specification)
- Coli form – 7.5×103 cfu (above maximum limits)
- E-coli. – <3cfu (within specification) 14. Packaging. – Does not conform to NAFDAC pre- packaging Food labeling regulations 2005 “Based on the above Laboratory result, the product is not plastic but rice contaminated with microorganisms above permissible limit, hence the seized rice consignment is UNSATISFACTORY and therefore unwholesome for human consumption. “I wish to thank the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service and his men for the timely interception of this unwholesome rice. NAFDAC in collaboration with Nigerian Customs Service will continue to intensify vigilance and surveillance activities at all entry ports and boarders. “May I use this medium to appeal to the General Public to report any suspicious case(s) about all NAFDAC regulated products to any of the NAFDAC offices across the Nation for prompt regulatory action. I appeal for continued support and cooperation of all Nigerian to team up with NAFDAC in our concerted effort to deliver on our mandate of safeguarding the health of the nation.”