• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Only 12% of fish imports is taxed

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About 14 million metric tonnes of fish, worth c.N950 billion, which is 88.3 percent of stock imported into Nigeria, are not declared by importers annually, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has revealed.

This is responsible for the massive quantity of rancid or spoilt fish being sold in the Nigerian market, according to Akinwunmi Adesina, minister of agriculture and rural development, who disclosed this yesterday when he visited the premises of an Indian-owned import firm in Lagos with large quantities of rancid fish in a cold room.

Also at a forum recently, the minister stated that under-declaration of imports resulted in importers paying less tax to government on fish imports.

“People are bringing in more fish than they are actually declaring. Between 2010 and 2012, we asked for how much fish importers were bringing in (annually), the record they gave was 1.9 million metric tonnes. I asked the customs to give us information on how much importers are bringing and they said 16.3 million metric tonnes. They bring in more than they are declaring and it takes a long time to sell off because it is too much; yet they are bringing them in and so it goes rancid and they still go ahead and sell,” said the minister, who expressed concern on the health dangers of consuming such rancid foods.

Bunmi Ogungbe, a quality assurance fish management officer in the Federal Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, explained how this storehouse of rancid fish, located at Old Ojo Road, off Badagry Expressway, was discovered.

“We carry out routine checks to inspect the quality or state of fish products. Some of our inspectors came on Friday and discovered that some of the fish have become rancid,” Ogungbe said.

“We’ll lock the cold room where we have identified the rancid fish. After the laboratory test and we have been able to prove that it is no longer safe for human and animal consumption, we shall destroy the fish,” she added.

Though the owners of the firm had left that morning when they heard of the minister’s visit, the staff on ground argued that the frozen fish (Alaska popularly known as ‘panla’ and Mackerel popularly known as Titus) were not rancid, saying the appearance of rancidity was just oil which seeped out from the fish.

They further said the fish, which were imported in November last year, were produced September 9, 2013 and were expected to expire September 9 this year.

Ogungbe, however, said the company could not feign ignorance of the fact that some of the fish in its cold room were getting spoilt.

Further investigation revealed that 30,000 cartons of fish weighing 20 to 22 kilograms each were imported by the firm and about 200 of such cartons, which the ministry insisted had become rancid, were left.

OLUYINKA ALAWODE