Ever since the nation gained independence, Nigerians more than any people in the world, have been tortured and neglected in all fronts without regards. Is it in politics, education or healthcare, housing, transportation among others, the ugly news hits the citizens like a bullet and it’s very painful to digest. Of late, the news that greets Nigerians daily has got so depressing that sometimes one wished to develop ear problem.
Well, if you harbour such thought, you may be abandoned in the island of the deaf as one may not be that lucky to be flown abroad for treatment like President Muhammadu Buhari.
Of course, one does not need to be told that majority of our Nigeria’s best doctors have taken flight in search of greener pastures abroad. The measure bore a stamp of panic and worry, as to what the government has reduced the nation to. Also, the mockery it invites the country, should cause a shiver of shame and fear among the public in a time such as the current COVID-19 pandemic that citizens need the services of doctors. Much of the cynicism in the society about government’s intentions is that they die before their time. This is unwarranted and even harmful.
However, we need to have faith in our government and particularly so in its drive to save the citizens from hunger. It is therefore quite proper not to join forces with those who see only a future that is bleak as the past and as crippling as the present, but to have the burning zeal to increase food production through agriculture. If you were a bit vigilant you will notice that since the Buhari administration started the hype on agriculture as the next economic drive aside oil, all sorts of agrochemicals and pesticides found their way into the country. Of course the government was blinded in its day dreaming where it saw agriculture as the beautiful bride and intends to feed the nation without importing food.
The Buhari administration’s food sufficiency strategy was well designed to increase mechanised farming by encouraging people to go back to the farm. However, the rising insecurity in the country and the wobbling one step forward, two steps backwards makes me wonder if they could ever achieve the dream. To a large extent, the agricultural programme is all woolly words and vague declarations. If you watch closely what we consume lately in this country and especially so on what is used in most cases as preservatives you will be amazed about the death on demand as food.
Currently, Nigeria seems to be the only country in Africa which feels unwary about the consequences of arbitrary uncontrolled use of pesticides and harmful agrochemicals on consumables. The influx of banned agrochemicals finds its way unhindered into the country irrespective of the health implications to consumers.
Yet beyond the hazardous health implications on some agrochemicals, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC’s) language seems to showcase a political weakness on the side of the agency and government in particular. According to NAFDAC’s Director General, Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye, “Global restriction is done in the interest of safety of the citizens, and what is obtainable in advance countries, in most cases are not obtainable in developing countries…NAFDAC has reviewed the safety of all registered agrochemicals in Nigeria…” The inability to have the political will and find a way to halt importation of agrochemicals already banned abroad could be very dangerous for Nigerians. It is important that we do not mince words about the weakness and shambles government at all levels has wrought on the citizenry. In any case, following NAFDAC’s consultations with stakeholders, the phase out or ban of unsafe agrochemicals will wait until 2024 as it has a four year plan for that.
The question begging for answer is what happens to the citizens before the appointed time? The idea that law enforcement agencies chose to hide under a timeline to implement a ban on health challenging substances is unacceptable and shameful. In whatever situation, NAFDAC has reached the point where it must shake off its limitations and save Nigerians from common causes of food poisoning. Aside the health implications the unregulated practice also allows the nation to suffer loss in billions of dollars to export earnings. This is as a result of food items such as beans, cocoa, yam among others that are not allowed in Europe and America because of the use of harmful preservatives.
Sooner than later, some farm produce may be questionable for consumption due to the poor control of agrochemicals. One of the most striking trends in recent times is that whereas, traditional farming and storage has been chequerred and tragically abandoned. The preferred mechanised farming and storage that encourages agrochemicals is putting lives of Nigerians at risk. Notwithstanding, the more I think about it, the more I am persuaded that, farmers do not intend to kill people but the indiscriminate use of agrochemicals for greater yields of crops, less work and more profit is a huge concern. However, it is not a good record that Nigeria is soaring in life expectancy depreciation. Of course, this is alarming. The general assumption that the younger generation will live longer than the last is more or less a wishful thinking. Life expectancy in the country keeps dropping like an airplane that has lost its control.
Nothing could be more important than understanding the drivers of health and what we need to do to reverse our collective charge towards calamity. On this premise, it is important to note that the effects are being felt of the over 40 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) among others who raised their voices in October 2021, over the dangers of highly hazardous pesticides in the country. Following their agitations, awareness and enlightenment before the public, the House of Representatives recently chose to take the bull by the horn as a Bill sponsored by Muntari Dandutse has passed its second reading. The Bill referred as, “A Bill for Act to provide for establishment of the Nigerian Pesticides Council and for Related Matters (HB1396)”. From every indication a majority of the public thinks that the government is handling the harmful pesticides/agrochemicals prohibition issue badly. While the vast majority believes that there is need to clean and clear the agricultural system of any dangerous or harmful chemicals.
The inconvenient truth about the foot dragging to ban harmful agrochemicals could be that some important personalities in the country may be behind its importation. It is high time farmers perish the thought about the assumption of greater production and profit that seems to matter more than human lives. Now that the regulatory agency, (NAFDAC) chose to wait until 2024 before a blanket ban on harmful agrochemicals, Nigerians as always have no option than to resign their fate to God.