Rebecca Mu’azu, Gombe
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Gombe Zonal Office, has arraigned and handed over 26 suspects in Gombe over to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, for adulterating palm oil with an unknown substance, suspected to be harmful to the human body.
The suspects were caught in the act of processing the adulterated palm oil which led to the arrest and sealing of 32 shops in the Gombe Main Market, where the crime was carried out.
Handing over the keys of the sealed shops and the suspects to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the Head of Operations of the Gombe Zonal Office of the EFCC, Mr. Michael Wetkas, said the agency swung into action immediately it was alerted of the illegal activity, which led to the sealing of the shops and arrest of the suspects.
Mr. Wetkas said NAFDAC would now carry out laboratory test on the substance, to determine how harmful it was to the human body.
“Following this, we now thought wise to engage other agencies, because food safety is strictly under the purview of the NAFDAC. So, we had to call them and they are together with us here. We were discussing with NAFDAC and I was made to understand that most of these chemicals are carcinogenic.
That means if you consume them they will be killing you gradually, they are cancerous.
I have also made an official request in the official letter I wrote to NAFDAC that after the test analysis, we will appreciate if they will give us the result of the chemical analysis, so that we see the component of the chemicals that are mixed with this oil and they can do well to tell us the implication of this chemical on our health. This will help us as a people in the campaign and we should take it very, very serious,” Mr. Wetkas said.
The 32 sealed shops were coved with sand to conceal the red substance, which were apparently evident on the floors and on the buildings, used to store the substances in drums.
The Head of Operation of the Gombe Zonal Office of the EFCC, Mr. Wetkas, said the office acted based on intelligence report from the public, who observed the fraudulent activity and reported them to the anti-graft agency.
One of the suspects, Theophilus Simon, said he got involved in the act of mixing the substance in palm oil because there was a variety of palm kernel that produces within three to four years, but does not produce the reddish colour that most people ask for.
“Adding the colour is not adding value to us. People are saying that we increase it to increase the quantity. I believe that nobody put colour in order that it will increase or make the quantity to increase. It’s just that it will make it red, especially the Agric one. It’s not every one. Everyone of us know that Agric, I mean all these plantation that you can plant palm fruits and it can produce in three years, because normal palm tree can start giving seed in ten years, but this Agric you can plant under three years,” Simon said.
The Head of the EFFC in the Gombe Zonal Office, Mr. Wetkas handed over the keys of the sealed shops to Mr. Laras Jatau, the representative of the Head of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Gombe State, for laboratory analysis to determine how dangerous the substance is on human health.
Mr. Jatau said the development was quite worrisome because it was not long ago that the agency carried out sensitisation on the dangers of processing harmful foodstuffs with harmful substances in order to make more money.
He said they would carry out the analysis to determine what it was they were mixing with the palm oil.
“We have in the agency a directorate that is concerned about investigation, enforcement. That directorate is vested with the responsibility of making investigations and prosecutions. And they have already been contacted before hand and it is with their mandate that we have come to collect these suspects for onward submission to our Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, who will take over with the investigation and the possible prosecution ,” he said.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration called on all Nigerians to report such fraudulent activities, so as to protect them from sicknesses that were preventable.