The Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Mr Osita Aboloma has directed a nationwide enforcement operation 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.
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.
The statement also stated that in Lagos State south west Nigeria where different teams from Surveillance and Intelligence Monitoring (SIM) Unit of SON 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 Director General SON and the Coordinator of SIM, Mr Isa 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.
“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,” he said.
“Although some were found to be stocked with sugar branded as Dangote Sugar and the ship 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,” Mr Suleiman added.
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’s 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.