In an effort to curb the spate of unfortified and impure sugar in the Nigerian markets, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria(SON), has carried out nationwide enforcement raids across the country.
The nationwide enforcement operation is a directive of the Director General Chief Executive of Standards Osita Aboloma, aimed at ensuring that sugar obtainable and consumed in Nigeria are fortified with Vitamin A and devoid of any harmful impurities as stipulated in the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) and World Health Organisation (WHO) convention on food fortification.
The enforcement raids which were carried out simultaneously across the country, swooped on various markets and locations on the lookout for importers and dealers of impure and unfortified foreign manufactured sugar in the country, is in an effort to safeguard the health of the nation and also protect local manufacturers from the influx of cheaper substandard sugar from abroad
The raids SON said, are in line with the Federal Government’s promotion of made in Nigeria products and the policy on food fortification which stipulates that certain food products such as sugar, salt, flour and vegetable oil are fortified with essential micro nutrients to safe guard the health of its citizens especially women and children against the debilitating effect of deficiencies of trace elements in food.
According to a statement made available from the Director General’s Office, the nationwide enforcement was based on reports collated by the Operations Directorate of SON from surveillance of the 36 states of the federation which indicated that most of the imported brand of sugar found in our markets are suspected to have been smuggled into the country, unfortified with the required micro nutrient of Vitamin A and also contain impurities.
In the commercial city of Lagos where different teams from SON raided different locations, of particular interest was the raid by the Surveillance and Intelligence Monitoring (SIM) Unit of SON to Iddo Lagos, where outlets were found not only stocking imported sugar suspected to be unfortified, but also re-bagging sugar into sacks of a popular Nigerian brand for sale to unsuspecting buyers.
Speaking during an interview after the raid the representative of the DG SON and the Coordinator of SIM, Isa Alhaji Suleiman stated that the sugar products put on hold and evacuated were Altmogiana, Usina (Bazan) and Usina (Santaisabel) brands with Brazil as the country of origin.
He further disclosed that some shops were found with large quantities of empty sacks branded with the name Dangote suspected to be used for the re-bagging of these imported brands of sugar in very unhygienic environments and aside the health implications, this amounts to counterfeiting which is an illicit act of sabotage sanctionable by the law.
According to him, although some shops were found to be stocked with sugar branded as Dangote Sugar and the shop owners claiming they are original, the organisation will not take it for granted but subject the samples drawn for further laboratory analysis in order to confirm their claims and if found to be untrue the perpetrators will be brought to book and their products destroyed.
And from 17 shops at the Iddo Market Area alone 433 bags of sugar worth about 7million naira were evacuated while the affected shops were locked, sealed and the owners advised to visit SON Operational Headquarters at Lekki Phase 1 Lagos for further corrective actions.
Similar raids were carried out in Kano, Kwara, Oyo, Kebbi and parts of Lagos state such as Ajah, Amuwo Odofin, Alabarago market, Ojo and the mile 12 markets respectively where substantial numbers of bags of suspected unfortified imported sugar were discovered, seized and evacuated by SON and security operatives.
The raids which are still ongoing nationwide are in continuation of SON’s sector by sector enforcement activities geared towards ridding Nigeria of substandard products with sugar fortification a major priority of SON at the moment.
It may be recalled that SON alongside its international development partner Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) recently convened a Food Fortificant Programme Technical Committee meeting with participation from over 70 stakeholders from the food industry to review sections of the Standards for premix and micro-nutrient’s requirements in sugar, vegetable oil, flour products so as to be at par with international conventions and global best practices.