NSA raises alarm
By ALEX AKAO
All relevant security agencies in the country?s border routes and seaports have been placed on the red alert to watch out for a shipment of about 6,000 tonnes of poisonous rice believed to be on its way to Nigeria from Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital.
The worrisome discovery was made recently through intelligence reports from the office of the nation?s National Security Adviser (NAS), indicating that the consignment of the contaminated product may arrive soon. It is not immediately clear if the importers are bringing in the products through the roads or sea.
Already, all officials of the Nigeria Customs Service, Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), the National Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as well as the Ports Health Control, have been directed to maintain extra vigilance at their duty posts to ensure that the unwholesome edible food items are promptly impounded on arrival.
The warning to the security agencies to that effect is contained in a circular from the office of the NAS, captioned, ?Freetown: Plans Underway to Divert Contaminated Rice to Nigeria? with reference number NSA/C/352/S dated June 3, 2009 and signed by Akingbolasan, S.A.
The memo, which was also copied to the Controller-General of Customs, indicated that those behind the expected shipment were Nigerian businessmen, who had indicated interest to buy the products earlier rejected by the Sierra Leonean authorities on account of its being unsafe for human consumption.
Although details of the shipment remains sketchy as at press time, Daily Sun reliably gathered that the products were part of food aids to the war-torn country from Asia. The products were said to have encountered delay during transit as a result of sea storm, thereby becoming contaminated.
The Sierra Leonean authorities were said to have carried out tests on them, which proved that the rice was no longer fit for human consumption, before they were approached by the unscrupulous Nigerian businessmen who offered to buy them for shipment to their country.
?While the situation is being monitored, the Organization is being alerted of this development in order to safeguard Nigerian consumers,? the circular stated.
Checks conducted by Daily Sun at some of the customs formations in Lagos indicated that the officers had been put on round-the-clock watch for possible interception of the products on arrival.
Specifically, the Marine Units of the service are said to have been warned on the need to keep extra vigilance on the waterways following unconfirmed reports that the importers may have got wind of the red alert.