By James Emejo in Abuja

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has urged traders across the country to desist from patronising smuggled items as well as report those in possession of such to both security and regulatory agencies for punitive measures.

Addressing women traders under the umbrella of the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) which held a peaceful campaign against illegal importation of foods and indiscriminate use of chemicals on food items, over the weekend, he said smuggling posed a fundamental problem to the country, adding that the federal government had set up a committee headed by the vice president and which included other relevant agencies to tackle the menace.

He said the only way to defeat smuggling was for traders to blacklist identified products and increase their patronage of made in Nigeria products.

He also warned of costly health concerns as some of the food preservation chemicals are unsafe for human consumption, some of them used to preserve dead bodies in mortuaries.

The minister said: “And one point that we have always laboured to make is this  collaboration with the traders because no matter the efforts you make, smuggling  always continue.

“But if the traders do not buy these smuggled products, that is the beginning of the end of smuggling.

He assured the traders of the ministry’s support to address the menace.

He said: “I also want to enjoin you to please to sustain this campaign, it should not just be a one-day campaign. Somebody said here that today, we have children of between three to five years dying of kidney disease. Where did that come from?

“It is because of the smuggled food we eat. We are smuggling not only rice, we are smuggling poultry products, poisoned fish. And it is important for people to know that most of the smuggled poultry and fish products are preserved with what they used to preserve dead bodies.”

“So anybody who is selling any of those products- fish, chicken or turkey that is frozen should know- unless he got it from a Nigerian poultry farm- know that what you are selling is preserved with what they use to preserve dead bodies.”

Lokpobiri said: “And that’s why it is so important that we sustain this campaign. You have taken the lead and I believe this campaign should take place all over the country because these smuggled products are sold all over the country so we can save all Nigerians who would have been victims to some of these smuggled products.”

“The truth is that it is either we kill smuggling or smuggling will kill us. The best way to kill smuggling is to say no to selling of smuggled products.”

He stresses that those selling smuggled items should be reported to security and regulatory agencies for proper action.

The women traders led by Mrs.  Ruth Agbo wielded placards with various inscriptions including ‘Cook local rice; encourage Nigerian processors; Trade Nigerian rice; support Nigerian farmers among others.