As the three month campaign against imported poultry by the Nigeria Customs Service enters its third week, smuggling and sale of the products have not abated; rather, they have increased, investigation has revealed.
In the last two weeks of the Operation Hawk Descend, the Customs have seized over N32bn worth of poultry smuggled into the country through the south western axis of Nigeria-Benin border.
In a statement on its website, the NCS said it had recorded seizures worth N21,832,994 (6,206 cartons) in the second week of the Operation Hawk Descend. This was in addition to 1,803 cartons of poultry worth over N12m seized during the first week of the operation, an increase of over N9m.
On the whole, the seizures, which consist of 8,009 cartons of banned products, were recorded at villages around the borders in Idiroko, Badagry Creeks, Badagry Waterway, all in Lagos State and Agbara in Ogun State.
Many of the seizures were said to have been made on the Iyafin-Badagry Waterway on the lagoon that stretches through the Nigeria-Benin border.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Mr. Abdullahi Dikko, said the objective of the operation was to make imported poultry unattractive to Nigerian consumers, turn it to a high risk product for smugglers and eventually cut off the supplies to nation’s markets.
He announced the intention of the customs to focus its searchlight on cold room operators.
Dikko said, “Cold room operators who stock smuggled frozen chicken are advised to embrace other legitimate business before customs swoop on them.”
He added that the Operation Hawk Descend had received a boost with the support of the Customs Administration of Benin Republic.
This, Dikko said, followed a bilateral meeting between him and the Director-General of Benin Customs Administration, Charles Sezan, to review joint border operations involving the two countries.
The PUNCH had two weeks ago reported that the prices of imported poultry had risen by 28.5 per cent, while those of locally reared birds have increased by about 25 per cent.
For instance, it was learnt that in the Berger area of Lagos, the price of a kilogramme of frozen chicken had risen to N900 from N700; a kilogramme of frozen locally bred poultry, which sold for N800 two weeks ago, had also risen to N1,000, a 25 per cent rise.
However, the Director-General of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, Mr. Onallo Akpan, in a text message to our correspondent, accused the middle men in the chain of increasing the prices of locally produced poultry to create an artificial scarcity.
He said, “The poultry products that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has declared unhealthy for public consumption has become scarce and expensive.
“Locally produced chicken prices have not changed but the middle men are making profit from the situation and refuse to sell locally produced chicken.”
The Director-General, NAFDAC, who was represented by the Director, Ports Services Inspection, Mrs. Maureen Egbibeyi, at the launch of Operation Hawk Descend in Lagos, had called on Nigerians to be cautious in purchasing imported frozen poultry as some had been found to be contaminated.
She said, “Freezing poultry doesn’t take away the contamination. There is an international standard for the preservation of poultry in a cold chain; it must be maintained. Once that cold chain is broken, the poultry should be disposed of.
“This is why NAFDAC has put in place measures to ensure the importation of safe products through product registration. If it is regulated, we make sure the cold chain is maintained throughout the period of importation, storage and sale. Contamination of these products can come in during the period of storage or through the mode of transportation.”