Disposal of smuggled poultry products by Customs: Where does the danger lie?

When the Federal Government imposed a ban on the importation of frozen poultry products, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) was expected to ensure that the products do not in any way enter into the Nigerian market. However, while the Service posits that it is winning the war against illegal importation of the contraband item with records of increased seizures; investigation reveals that not less than 85 per cent of poultry products consumed by Nigerians are smuggled into the country through the country’s borders with the Republic of Benin. Officials of the NCS and other security agencies have been accused of conniving with the smugglers in their scheme. In this feature article, Correspondent Shulammite ‘Foyeku, examines the real problems associated with the method of disposal of the banned item. 

The government had included poultry products among other items on its imports prohibition list basically to boost production of local farmers and encourage patronage of the local industry.
However, despite strict measures by personnel of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to stem the tide of smuggling of this contraband, the business of smuggling is obviously being carried on without restraint.
Nevertheless, some of the smuggled products are impounded through intelligence gathering by dedicated NCS officers who would not compromise their integrity by allowing the smugglers get away with the contraband items. This accounts for the seizure of a trailer load and over 2,000 cartons of the products recently intercepted by operatives the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ and the Western Marine command just to mention but a few.
Of concern however is the uncivilized manner seized poultry products are disposed off after being impounded by operatives of the NCS. What has been the tradition of customs operatives is to burn and bury these seized poultry products not minding the health hazards this action is causing to residents of the vicinity. The stench from the ‘burial’ ground of these poultry products is more hazardous to health than consuming them!

Little has the management of Customs ever thought of acquiring an incinerator to dispose the seized contraband. The odour from the warehouse of the FOU, Zone ‘A’ located close to the Customs Training College, in Ikeja, Lagos has become a source of worry and concern to people living in the area. Even officers are sometimes agitated as to where the products will be disposed when it has been intercepted as they have dug all available spaces in the command and their warehouses to bury seized poultry products.
Members of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Agric and Non Oil Export Group led by their Chairman, Prince Wale Oyekoya, had at a recent meeting held with the Controller, Federal Operations Unit; Zone ‘A’ Comptroller Isa Nuhu noted that despite increasing number of of seizures of poultry products, they still find their way into the Nigeria market thus killing local production.
“The fight against smuggled frozen products is not really effective the way Customs and the Federal Government are handling it. How did most of the products get out of the border? If you go to any market, the poultry products are what you will find. Customs are not being proactive with the way they waging the war against smuggling of poultry products. They only arrest people who will not settle them and publicize it,” he said.
Nuhu had responded saying, “If they want us to really continue seizing we must also be thinking how we would dispose them. The little that we have seized so far is becoming a problem with the way we are disposing them. So we must also think really of better ways and means of disposing these things.”
According to the Controller, if Customs must protect local production by ensuring that all smuggled poultry products are intercepted, the LCCI should also be thinking of providing means of disposing them; especially an incinerator.

“I don’t think it is the duty of LCCI to buy incinerator for Customs. This is a government agency that generates almost N1trillion to the coffers of the government. How then would they be requesting that an NGO buy incinerator for them?” Oyekoya asked.
Burning of poultry products in open pits is also much more harmful to human health. This method of disposal produces many pollutants including carbon monoxide and many dangerous health conditions can be caused by inhaling or ingesting even small amount of these pollutants.
According to the Canadian Center for pollution prevention, open burning of garbage poses health risks to those exposed directly to the smoke. In the short term, exposure to smoke can cause headaches, nausea, and rashes. Over time, it can increase the risk of developing heart disease.
Incinerators however burn very hot and destroy many of the dangerous waste chemicals. Most of the remaining toxins are captured in the smoke stack using high technology. What is left over is discharged high into the atmosphere where it can be diluted before it is breathed.
Hence, whether it is the responsibility of an NGO such as the LCCI to provide an incinerator or not, Customs, considering all these hazards, need to with – a sense of urgency – acquire incinerators and also collaborate with other agencies to create more awareness and enlightenment program on the health implications of consuming these frozen products.

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