Continued from yesterday
Part 2: Checking the flaw
Based on the issues identified regarding inadequate pesticide laws and regulatory lapses in Nigeria, here are some recommendations to address these challenges. By implementing these recommendations, Nigeria can work towards establishing a comprehensive and effective pesticide regulatory framework that ensures food safety, protects public health, and promotes sustainable agricultural practices.
- Enhance Collaboration and Partnership: There is a desperate need to foster a culture of collaboration and cooperation between regulatory bodies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to ensure meaningful engagement in the development and implementation of pesticide regulations. Regulatory agencies and CSOs should establish regular dialogues, joint initiatives, and knowledge-sharing platforms between regulators, CSOs, farmers’ associations, community organisations, and consumer groups to incorporate diverse perspectives and enhance the effectiveness of regulations.
- Strengthen Regulatory Capacity: Both the federal and state governments need to prioritise and allocate sufficient financial resources and budgets to regulatory agencies like NAFDAC, NESREA, FMARD, NARS, etc to make them independent and enhance their capacity in terms of personnel, equipment, and laboratories for pesticide testing and enforcement. Provide comprehensive and continuous training programs to regulatory personnel to enhance their technical knowledge and enforcement capabilities.
- Promote Transparent and Accountable Governance: The new Secretary General of the Federation, having resumed office, should ensure transparency and accountability in the regulatory process by implementing clear guidelines and mechanisms to prevent conflicts of interest and undue influence from agrochemical companies or other external entities. There is a need to develop and enforce strict ethical codes of conduct for regulatory officials to prevent the acceptance of personal gifts, donations, and/or appreciation that compromises their mandate and understanding of their roles. Bribes, lobbying or any form of unethical practices that compromise the integrity of pesticide regulation should not be encouraged – pesticides and food are public health issues. They can be a security threat.
- Review and Strengthen Existing Laws and Regulations: CSOs and government need to conduct a comprehensive review of existing pesticide laws and regulations to identify gaps and inconsistencies. Especially those that put business profit and ease the business entry of toxic chemicals that can be abused into Nigeria. Caution cannot be thrown to the wind with haste in the check and approval of chemicals especially highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) going into our food, water, soil, air and bodies. With the average life expectancy in Nigeria falling towards the mid-40s, more caution needs to the placed on food safety laws and enforcement. We need to amend and strengthen existing legislation to address the identified flaws, close loopholes, and ensure alignment with international best practices for food safety, environmental protection, and public health.
- Introduce Regulatory Risk Insurance for Agrochemical Investors: To cover the investment loss of investors who after a product registration (within the 5 years registration period), are forced to deregister, recall, remove and destroy a now ban pesticide product in Nigeria (following a NAFDAC or FMARD decision for public and environmental safety reasons), the Federal government through the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) should design an insurance policies like the Regulatory Risk Insurance. This will provide coverage for losses or damages that may result from changes in government policies, laws, or regulations that affect businesses and investments.
This type of insurance can help protect agricultural businesses from financial losses due to unexpected regulatory changes that may affect their operations, such as restrictions on pesticide use, land-use regulations, or changes in import/export policies. It will also give NAFDAC and FMARD more confidence to take bold actions that prioritise the safety and health of Nigerians, without fear of possible reprisal attacks and threats to their personal safety.
- Enhance Inter-Agency Collaboration: There is a National Council on Chemical Management (NCCM) in Nigeria, chaired by the Federal Ministry of Environment. The council needs to wake up to their call and meet regularly using online platforms where budget provisions and logistics are not available. The relevant government should all be proactive and establish effective communication channels and coordination mechanisms among themselves; covering all regulatory agencies involved in food safety, environmental protection, and pesticide regulation, as well as CSOs and consumer protection groups.
We all need to foster inter-agency collaboration to harmonize efforts, streamline regulatory processes, and improve enforcement and monitoring of pesticide usage.
- Promote Public Awareness and Education: All relevant MDAs at national, state and local government levels need to launch public awareness campaigns to educate farmers, consumers, and the public about the potential risks of pesticide usage, safe handling practices, and the importance of adhering to regulations. There is a need to promote sustainable agricultural practices and the use of alternatives to pesticides through training programs, workshops, and extension services. Traditional leaders, farmers’ associations, market groups, cooperative groups and local government councils and state land and agricultural commissions need to also play a key role in this regard.
- Engage International Partnerships: NAFDAC, NESREA and other regulators FISS specifically, need to seek collaboration with international organisations, development partners, and countries with robust pesticide regulatory systems to leverage their expertise, resources, and best practices. The relevant regulator should seek technical assistance and capacity-building support to enhance Nigeria’s regulatory frameworks, enforcement mechanisms, and monitoring systems from such groups, not the promoters and markets for products.
Easier said and done, some may dare to say regarding the implementation of the above recommendations. However, far from it. These recommendations are far from rocket science and most need little or no resources, just friendly communication, building relationship, handholding one another and deliberately putting Nigerian lives and interests first. After all, if we do not protect Nigeria who will? The West?
By Donald Ikenna Ofoegbu, Lead Coordinator, Alliance for Action on Pesticide in Nigeria (AAPN)