FG to prosecute illegal importers of frozen food

FG to prosecute illegal importers of frozen food

The federal government says it will henceforth arrest, prosecute and fine illegal importers of frozen foods into the country through the land borders and seal cold rooms where it is sold.

Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of state for Agriculture and Rural Development, announced this while speaking with newsmen in Abuja on Thursday.

Lokpobiri said the government would also set up a taskforce to seal and prosecute operators of cold room, who deal on those illegally imported produce.

READ ALSO: Senate to investigate ban on land border car importation

The minister said the ministry was working in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Marine Police to actualise the plan.

He said the offenders would pay a fine of $250,000 or attract five years imprisonment or both in addition to the forfeiture and destruction of the produce as stipulated by the law.

He listed some of the fishes usually being imported to include tilapia, red pacus, river bream, pangassius, horse mackerel, sardine and croaker, among others.

Lokpobiri said the illegal venture had resulted to huge loss of revenue, decrease in local production and loss of jobs, as well as discouragement by farmers.

The minister, who said that the move was to encourage local production and exports, disclosed that the country’s annual demand on fish was currently at 3.2 million tonnes and deficit at 1.9 million tonnes.

According to him, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture in the ministry is the only competent authority empowered by the Nigeria Sea Fisheries Act to issue distant water fishing licence for the importation of frozen fish into Nigeria.

“The department does not issue licence for the importation of frozen farmed fish into Nigeria through the land borders.

“The smuggling of unhealthy frozen fish into the country is detrimental to the progress being made toward guaranteeing the good health and nutrition of Nigerians.

“We will continue to partner with the Nigeria Customs Service, the Navy, marine policy to see how we can clamp down on the offenders.

“Even those that have brought the produce into the country, we are setting up a taskforce that will go round different cold rooms, like what Customs is doing to rice.

“Any cold room that we find these fishes, we will seal them up, ensure you pay the $250,000 fine because laws are meant to be obeyed,’’ he said.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Customs seize frozen food worth N6m (See photos)

The minister said that consumption of those imported frozen foods were major cause of some health challenges being experienced in the country.

Lokpobiri, who frowned at the rising cases of kidney disease among children between the ages of five and seven, assured that the government would fight the menace to a halt.

Source: Naija.ng

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