The Nigerian government is set to decide on ban of food items which put the health of citizens at risk and discourage local production and sufficiency.
The Minister of Agriculture Mr Audu Ogbe, told reporters in Abuja on Tuesday that a decision would be made on Wednesday on the importation of tomato paste and other products which he said had been certified unfit for consumption by the United Nations and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
He stressed that increasing cases of cancer, kidney failure and other chronic ailments among Nigerians were reasons enough to check the selfish interest of international partners and their local collaborators causing health risks in Nigeria.
Tomato paste packed in sachets and tins and containing preservatives that are hazardous to human health, frozen chicken coated with formaldehyde, a chemical used to preserve human bodies in the mortuary, rice stored for more than 10 years and preserved with harmful chemicals are the kinds of imports the Minister promised that the government would take a decision on.
While Nigeria is aiming for food sufficiency amidst importation challenges, a major concern is what the Agriculture Minister called large scale self-poisoning by Nigerians.
Moi-Moi (a Nigerian delicacy made with beans) steamed in cellophane bags and fresh fish sprayed with disinfectant to keep flies away in some parts of northern Nigeria, are some of the items he said were poisonous.
The Minister addressed reporters after a meeting with members of the Food and Agriculture Organisation who were Nigeria to help implement a food safety policy that would strengthen food control system through an institutional reform.
But enlightenment for Nigerians to know what not to eat is key.
There is no need to talk agriculture and food sufficiency if it weakens instead of keeping the population healthy and safe from risks.
The first step towards an efficient National Food Control System, therefore, is a massive enlightenment campaign that would reach all level of Nigerians. Only then will a ban on all harmful imports will be effective and Nigeria will no longer be a dumping ground.