By Sam Kayode
The National Agency for food and drugs Administration in Nigeria (NAFDAC) in Borno state has closed down at least five water packaging companies in the state capital for various regulatory violations.
The companies, names withheld, were closed down for violating the NAFDAC protocols on setting up such mini water factories for the production of fit drinking water for residents to consume.
In a chat with METROWATCHONLINE.COM, State Coordinator of NAFDAC, Nasiru Mato, said that a lot of people utilized the ‘heat’ period to exploit desperate residents thirsty for drinking water by supplying untreated water to them to consume.
“Because of the advent of heat in the Maiduguri metropolis, a lot of producers have resolved to sharp practices which are not permissible according to our regulations and standards. thereby harming the health of the people further.
“Most of those caught were nabbed in the act of misrepresentation of products while others were involved in mislabeling which itself is a sharp practice against our standards for the production of water.
” Some of them were caught using the wrong packaging when we swooped on them so we had no option other than shutting them down”, Said Mato
While zeroing on fake bore holes which some of the water merchants use, the coordinator noted that his agency always makes demands for a “geological survey” of the factory site and the bore holes before allowing them to produce packaged or bottle water for consumption.
On regular supervision of the state, Mato said that the lock down of 2020 coupled with the lingering insurgency however had a terrible effect on his technical staff who are supposed to work to make sure that Borno people are drinking clean water at all times bottled or packaged.
” So in order not to allow the work to go backwards, we use virtual methods to continue our inspection of the myriad of water factories we have in Maiduguri metropolis so that the safety of our people is guaranteed.
” Also during the covid 19 lock down of the period under review, we only allowed workers on essential duties to go to work which is why others stayed at home and utilize the virtual technology to check on water producers, bakeries and many other food producing outlined duties we are supposed to check on to see that they do not harm or reduce the life span of our people.”
About 22 bakeries have been sealed since 2019 in Borno state for using bromide in bread which has been banned by NAFDAC for use by master bakers in the country.
DECENTRALIZATION OF REGISTRATION PROCESSES BY NAFDAC
To avoid the spates of fakery which goes on in the water and food business in the state, Alhaji Mato advised that any one with unregistered products deserving registration should send them to his office for checks and subsequent registration before distribution to residents.
“Let me use this opportunity to call on young people who intend to go into packaged water, or even agro chemicals business to come straight to us because all the perceived bottle necks they were afraid of has been removed from the business of registration. We will help them to get speedy registration when due. The era of going to Abuja has gone because the entire process has been decentralized now.
“We are very careful about anything that goes on in these small scale food factories now that we have decentralized. Even gadgets used in production are supposed to be in the right positions and specifications. Not just any how to cut corners. As a matter of fact, the concern of the agency is to ensure that these things are well placed where they should be. We will insist on the right things to be done and are unstoppable over this.
“As a matter of fact, because of the decentralization of registration, products with minimal risks can easily be registered at the zonal level where we are now. The introduction of the e-registration platform known as NAPAMS registration has made it easier.
“Again to enhance speediness of the registration, feedback mechanism has been fixed by NAFDAC management for all complaints to be sorted out here in Maiduguri instead of Abuja as was the case before when everything was centralized” he noted
Because of the massive dehydration that takes place in the savannah during the dry season, the coordinator called on young people with business acumen to go into water production because it becomes hot cake in the metropolis when residents are advised to drink more water to survive the massive heat which sometimes get as high as 49 degrees celsius.
“To me water producing in a decent and supervised environment is a better palliative from NAFDAC now that it is decentralised against hard drugs which some children of influential people put their wealth, energy and time.” said Mato
SEIZURES MADE SO FAR
On the volume of seizures made within 2020 ND 2021 the NAFDAC boss said that hundreds of millions of naira of products like food items, drugs and harmful cosmetics have been seized so far from the metropolis and some insurgency safe council areas.
“Sometimes these seizures are voluntary while some other times we intercept such illegal products especially from the local council areas. I am specific on non food items like agro chemicals, liquid fertilizers, and herbicides that have expired yet in circulation for farmers to put on their crops.
” Indeed we have also been able to stop the circulation or redistribution of these fake and substandard products within the state making it possible for people to have less worries about what they consume into their stomach.
Millions of people in Maiduguri metropolis still lack access to clean drinking water because of the over bloated population of the city which was is as a result of the influx of hundreds of internally displaced people IDPs into the city having escaped from their various council areas attacked by insurgent boko haram in the last eleven years.