AAPN raises the alarm over inflow of banned, expired pesticides into Nigeria

A section of the vegetable farm in Taraba state

Alliance for Action on Pesticide in Nigeria (AAPN), a coalition of NGOs, academia and experts who seek to increase awareness and demand improved regulation of pesticides market in Nigeria has raised serious concern over the inflow of banned and expired pesticides entering Nigeria largely unhindered through its ports. Local retail markets where these products are retailed are barely checked.

The group in its communique at a stakeholder dialogue on pesticide regulation and use in Nigeria in Abuja recently said 40% of all the pesticide products registered in Nigeria have been withdrawn from the European market or are heavily restricted.

According to the group that 40% represents 57 active ingredients in 402 products that are still in use in Nigeria, many of which belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) which are especially dangerous for human health, animals and the environment.

It revealed that 25 registered products in Nigerian have been proven carcinogenic, 63 to be mutagenic, 47 are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, 262 products show neurotoxicity and 224 show clear effects on reproduction.

It further raised concern that 65% of the active ingredients (26 out of 40) used by farmers in Nigeria as sampled in the field study belong to the group of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), adding that two of these pesticides were found to be carcinogens and two are mutagens, five are known endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs), 11 are proven neurotoxin and 12 are proven to affect the human reproduction system.

“The human and environmental impact of this situation continues to mount: in a recent incident, 270 people were confirmed dead in Benue state due to the poisoning of a river with a pesticide banned in Europe

“Despite the urgency of the situation, the government and the responsible regulatory agencies, like NAFDAC but also other related departments and agencies like NESREA and NAQS, are not being seen to take urgent and swift action in line with best practices that would be led by the precautionary principle.

“They are not working in a coordinated fashion. They appear to be overwhelmed, under-funded and lack the necessary manpower to comprehensively address the challenges related to pesticide use in Nigeria,” the group alleged.

It cited example of NAFDAC giving a time frame of 2024 for the banning of Paraquat instead of taking immediate action after Coalition Against Paraquat (CAP) have over the years engaged it with scientific evidence on the need to deregister Paraquat, and ensure the immediate phase-out of Paraquat from the Nigerian market.

The group further lamented the rate at which farmers rely on and use highly hazardous pesticides due to the advice they receive from agrochemical retailers and extension officers and also due to the shortage of biopesticide products and the lack of knowledge and advice on how to manage pests, weeds and fungi through nature-based approaches and processes.  

“Farmers also lack the necessary safety training for proper pesticide use and cannot afford the needed personal protective equipment. Many farmers are not literate in English and therefore cannot understand the safety instructions on pesticide products if there are labels at all.

“Farm Extension officers of both government and private sectors are in short supply and existing farmer education does not focus on reducing pesticide use and the introduction of organic practices. 

“The participating organisation in the meeting, therefore, agreed that NGOs, experts, farmers and concerned consumers need to come together to speak with one voice on the need to improve the regulation of pesticides in Nigeria with the view to reduce their use by promoting alternative approaches to farming. They agreed to the immediate formation of a coalition on pesticide regulation in Nigeria,’ it said.