Smugglers flood Nigeria with harmful frozen fish –FG

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  • As 37 air accident probe reports pending at AIB, says commissioner

Smugglers are beginning to flood the markets with harmful frozen fish illegally brought into the country through land borders, the Federal Government has said.

According to the government, the smugglers bring in all sorts of frozen fish such as tilapia, red pacus, river bream, pangassius, horse mackerel, sardine, and croaker through the country’s land borders.

It, however, vowed to clamp down on the perpetrators and declared that anyone found importing frozen fish without licence from the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development risked a five-year jail term or a fine of $250,000, or both.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, stated that those involved in the act were sabotaging the efforts of government despite the extant fish importation policy and prohibition of frozen farmed fish importation into the country.

Lokpobiri, who spoke at the Abuja headquarters of the FMARD on Thursday, said the circulation of unhealthy fish and fishery products in Nigerian market had resulted in grave health implications such as kidney disease and cancer.

He said, “It has become necessary for the Federal Government through the FMARD to address the Nigerian public on the sale of smuggled unhealthy frozen fish, especially farmed tilapia, in Nigeria. These smuggled frozen fish are very harmful to the health of Nigerians.

“The ministry is using this medium to warn all those involved, colluding, aiding and abetting these nefarious activities to stop or face the full wrath of the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Importation of fish without licence attracts five-year imprisonment or a fine of $250,000, or both, in addition to forfeiture and destruction of the vessel and its products.”

Lokpobiri added, “For the avoidance of doubt, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has put in place measures to arrest, detain and prosecute offenders as provided in the Sea Fisheries Act Cap S4 laws of the Federation 2004. Such persons will be dealt with as criminals and economic saboteurs”

To check the illegal activities, the minister said the government had been collaborating with countries in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria Customs Service, maritime police, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Agriculture Quarantine Service.

In the meantime, thirty- seven accident reports are pending at the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) as at the time its new management assumed office in January, it was learnt yesterday.

From all the reports, the final account of the June 3, 2012, Dana Air crash, which killed about 163 on-board and on ground at the Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos and three others would be submitted to the Presidency for approval before being released to the public.

AIB Commissioner Akin Olateru, an engineer,said this yesterday at a forum organised by the Aviation Round Table (ART) in Lagos.

Olateru, however, promised that reports of the four accidents would be made known by next week. A minimum of 10 accident reports will also be released to the public before the end of the year, Olateru added.

He stressed that the era of keeping accident reports in the bureau’s wardrobe was over with his management team.

Besides the Dana crash report, AIB would send those of the last two Bristow Helicopters and one AOS Helicopters to the presidency for approval.

The first of the two Bristow Helicopters crashes occurred on August 13, 2015 at the Oworonshoki Area of the Third Mainland Bridge with six fatalities while six others sustained serious injuries.

The second, which also crashed into the high sea, was coming from an offshore platform, but without fatalities.

Also, the AOS helicopters crash occurred on July 29, 2011 between Ife and Ogbomosho. The reports of the accident would be made public by next week.

Olateru said: “Let me give you an example, I took over AIB on January 13, there were 37 pending accident investigation and the first question I asked was how many accidents do we have in a year that we have 37 pending accident investigation?

“Today, I’m proud to tell you, four reports are on their way to the president, including Dana, two Bristow and AOS helicopters reports. And by next week, we will make them official reports.

“Before the end of this year, by the special grace of God, we will release a minimum of 10 reports. There must be a big paradigm shift in the way we do things.”

He lamented that there were only “one and half pilots”. According to him, none specialises on helicopter accident investigation despite the frequencies of helicopter crashes in the country.

Olateru added that AIB did not have any emergency code number that the public could contact in case of an accident, promising to change that soon.

Punch with additional report from Nation