The Federal Government have announced its pro-action against smugglers of frozen fish and cold room operators which include fine slam of N77.5 million ($250,000) or a five-year jail term.
According to a briefing, read by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri in Abuja on Tuesday, the government would soon set up a crack team to trace smugglers to cold rooms, prosecute them and shutting down the cold rooms.
Mr. Lokpobiri noted that the annual demand for fish in Nigeria stands at 2.3 million metric tonnes, and just 30% of this demand is met domestically, resulting in an annual spend of N125 billion ($625 million) on imports. He informed that government was collaborating with stakeholders to see how to gradually upscale local production by deliberately encouraging it.
Government believes that smuggling of unhealthy frozen fish into the country is detrimental to the progress being made towards guaranteeing the good health and nutrition of Nigerians.
Below is the full statement as issued by the government:
“It has become necessary for the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, to address the Nigerian public on the sale of smuggled, unhealthy frozen fish, especially farmed Tilapia in Nigeria. These smuggled frozen fish are harmful to the health of Nigerians.
“We are setting up a task force that will go to the different cold rooms like what Nigerian Customs Service is doing to illegal storing of smuggled rice.
“We will also go to these cold rooms where these smugglers have kept the fish, locate them there and seal up the cold room, ensure that they pay the $250,000 fine.
“The smuggling of unhealthy frozen fish into the country is detrimental to the progress being made towards guaranteeing the good health and nutrition of Nigerians. Some of the negative effects of this include unhealthy fish.
“In the light of the above, the Ministry is using this medium to warn all those involved, colluding, aiding and abetting in these nefarious activities to stop or face the wrath of the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Importation of frozen fish without licence attracts five years imprisonment or a fine of $250,000 (N77.5m) or both, in addition to forfeiture and destruction of vessel and its products.”
Meanwhile, a 2016 report said the expansion of Nigeria’s aquaculture industry is largely inhibited due to poor access to credit, a lack of the requisite technical skills, and the unavailability of good quality and moderately priced fish feed.
All around the world, especially in Nigeria, fish is accepting as a cheaper and available source of animal protein and based on a research, the contribution of fisheries to the country’s economy is highly significant in terms of employment income generation, poverty alleviation, foreign exchange earnings and provision of raw material for animal feed industry.
The Nigeria government is hopefully that soon, the country would not have to depend on importation of the aquatic creature and depend solely on domestic fish farmers.