Why Nigeria Needs To Regulate Use Of Pesticide

Pesticide

By Balarabe Alkassim

For decades, the use of pesticides especially in developing countries had been a thing of concern over its multiple effects on the health of the people, environment in those countries.

While most of the toxic pesticides have been banned in Europe and other continents, they still find their way to the developing countries whose farmers still use to grow or preserve their harvested crops to ward off pests.

Nigeria is reportedly the only country in Africa, which deliberately ignore the consequences of arbitrary, uncontrolled use of Pesticides and allows an unhindered influx of banned Pesticides despite its attendant health and economic implications.

It is the only country on the continent without a single all-encompassing legislation that ensure the strict control and regulation of pesticides usage.

Therefore, the move to establish the Nigerian Pesticides Council, a regulatory body to oversee the manufacture, marketing, import and usage of pesticides in Nigeria is a move in the right direction.

This was so, looking at the rampant use of chemicals especially in the agricultural sector to produce or preserve farm produce for future use and its attendant health as well as socio-economic effects in the country.

These unregulated practices lead to the loss of billions of dollars to the country in export earnings while posing health hazards by exposing Nigerians to various carcinogens and other disease-causing agents.

While the high concentration of residual Aflatoxins in our agricultural products is causing widespread rejections in international markets, Nigerians have constantly been in and out of hospital for unexplained illnesses and a spike in cancer, liver, kidney diseases and other sicknesses linked to chemicals released through pesticides.

The House of Representatives is pushing for the passage of a proposed Bill sponsored by Muntari Dandutse to regulate the use of pesticides in Nigeria through the creation of a regulatory body.

It is titled: “A Bill For An Act To Provide For Establishment Of The Nigerian Pesticides Council; And For Related Matters (HB.1396)”

The bill passed second reading and was referred to the House Committee on Agricultural Production and Services headed by the sponsor of the bill.

The committee invited stakeholders to a public hearing on the bill and four other agriculture-related bills on Thursday, December 9, 2021. Concerns were raised by stakeholders about the dangers of unregulated use of Pesticides in the country and the need to establish a regulatory agency that will perform the task.

In October 2021, over 40 CSOs, NGOs and other stakeholders deliberated and raised their voices over the dangers of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHP) usage in Nigeria.

After the October deliberations, a body, Alliance For Action On Pesticide In Nigeria (AAPN) was formed and it held a stakeholder dialogue on Pesticides regulation and use in November 2021.

The stakeholder dialogue was held to present the results of a field study conducted in four States by Trade Network Initiative (TNI) in collaboration with the Alliance on the use of pesticides among farmers in Nigeria and their negative impact on farmers, the environment and consumers of farm products due to poor regulation.

According to AAPN, the broad-based dialogue was attended by 83 participants including 18 online participants, and presented the Alliance’s position on pesticide usage and regulation in Nigeria to the public.

It added that, it also provided the stakeholders the opportunity to share their experiences and challenges as it relates to pesticide use and regulation in Nigeria.

Some of the stakeholders that attended the dialogue include; members of the National Assembly, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Environment, National Environmental Standard and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC).

Others include; the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC), Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS), and Bank of Agriculture (BOA).

The rest include; Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) like; the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association in Nigeria (FACAN), Small-scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON), Nigerian Women Farmers Association of Nigeria, independent researchers, academia, medical laboratory scientists, public health analysts as well as one representative and members of the media.

The group in its memoranda submitted at the public hearing on the bill, observed that 40% of pesticides registered in Nigeria have either been completely withdrawn from European markets or are heavily restricted.

The group stated: “This 40% represents 57 active ingredients in 402 products that are still in use in Nigeria.

“Many of these belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), which are especially dangerous for human health, animals and the environment.

“25 registered products in Nigerian have been proven carcinogenic, 63 to be mutagenic, 47 are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, 262 products show neurotoxicity and 224 show clear effects on reproduction.

“65% of the active ingredients (26 out of 40) used by farmers in Nigeria as sampled in the above-mentioned HBS/ TNI field study belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).

“Two of these pesticides were found to be carcinogens and 2 are mutagens, 5 are known endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs), 11 are proven neurotoxin and 12 are proven to affect the human reproduction system”.

It noted that the human and environmental impact of pesticides devastation continues to rise.

Major Incidences of alleged pesticides poisoning.

The group cited an incident in Benue State in which 270 people died in after a suspected poisoning of a river by a pesticide banned in Europe.

It added that alleged poisoning of livestock feeding or drinking points leading to ‘mysterious’ death of livestock, had often sparked farmers/herders clashes in many communities.

On many occasions, the pesticide popularly called “Sniper” had been used by people in suicides with many losing their lives from the toxic chemicals contained in the cheap insects and pests killer, which can be bought almost anywhere.

Regulation lapses

It was observed that, despite the seriousness of the situation, both government and the regulatory agencies, like NAFDAC and others like NESREA and NAQS, have failed to take action and prevent the damage being caused by Pesticides.

The group stated: “They are not working in a coordinated fashion. They appear to be overwhelmed, under-funded and lack the necessary manpower to comprehensively address the challenges related to pesticide use in Nigeria.

“The Coalition Against Paraquat (CAP) have over the years engaged NAFDAC with scientific evidence on the need to deregister Paraquat and ensure the immediate phase-out of Paraquat from the Nigerian market. NAFDAC instead of taking immediate action gave a timeframe of up to 2024 before Paraquat will be eventually banned.

“Meanwhile, banned and expired pesticides are entering Nigeria largely unhindered through its ports. Local retail markets where these products are retailed are barely checked’.

AAPN stated that, farmers, rather than the manufacturers, promoters and regulators and other agents, bear the negative effects of banned Highly Hazardous Pesticides on the environment.

It stated that: “Thus, we recognize the need for greater sensitization on and off-field knowledge transfer on organic agriculture, bio-pesticide usage, IPM and agroecology.

“Furthermore, the Alliance is aware of the continuous rejection of Nigeria’s food exports in the global market, especially the EU due to high pesticide residues in farm products originating from Nigeria; concerning the gaps between our local and those of the EU pesticide regulations.

“Hence the need for an update in Nigeria’s pesticide regulations, and a strengthening of the regulatory agencies in consonance with the global standards”.

AAPN supported the establishment of the Nigeria Pesticide Council for a strict regulation on the use of Pesticides.

It also calls for the strengthening of the existing mandates of other regulatory agencies while eliminating overlapping responsibilities for effective enforcement of provisions of the law as regards regulation, penalties for default and other things.

It stated: Should a council be established, we strongly recommend that, any established Council on Pesticides for Nigerians should focus on strengthening the roles of existing agencies, improve their inter-agency collaboration and increase oversight and thoroughness with regards to pesticides regulation in Nigeria, as many Nigerians are suffering from effects traceable to the increasing dependence on pesticides use in our food and farm systems”.

The Alliance, therefore, called on the Federal Ministry of Health to direct NAFDAC to review its pesticide regulation and enforce the implementation of the regulation from ports to markets.

It also called on Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, Direct Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to clearly specify that banned chemicals must not be brought or used in Nigeria and direct the big names or major players in the agrochemical business space in Nigeria, to establish industries in Nigeria for the production of the alternatives to paraquat and other HHP rather than continue to import.

It stated that, local production will create jobs, grow the economy and conserve scarce foreign exchange just like what it said South Africa did after a study visit.

It added: “NAFDAC should immediately make public and accelerate the review of its list of banned pesticide in Nigeria and ensure that all active ingredients are not approved in markets with strong food safety and environmental protection standards such as the European Union are included. Nigeria and other countries of the global South should not become dumping grounds for highly hazardous pesticides. Nigerian lives like that of Europeans should be protected”.

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