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Friday, March 31, 2017

David Beasley is new head of WFP

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva have announced the appointment of David Beasley of the United States as the new Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), report NaijaAgroNet.

Beasley with this appointment succeeds Ertharin Cousin, also of the United States. Just as NaijaAgroNet reports that the Executive Board of World Food Programme, has confirmed its concurrence with the appointment.

The Secretary-General and Director-General express their deep appreciation to Ertharin Cousin for her leadership of WFP over the last five years.  She has led the Programme during an unprecedented time of multiple humanitarian crises, leveraging partnerships and innovative tools to reach those furthest behind. Both wish her every success in her continuing endeavors.

NaijaAgroNet reports that David Beasley brings to the position extensive experience with key governmental and business leaders and stakeholders around the world, with very strong resource mobilisation skills. He was elected at the age of 21 to the South Carolina House of Representatives (1979-1992) and Governor of South Carolina (1995-1999), as one of the youngest in the State's history. During his term, he led delegations on economic development and trade missions to countries throughout Asia, Europe and Africa, tripling foreign investment and creating jobs. He received a Profile in Courage Award in 2003 from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

A 1999 Fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and Partner in the law firm, Beasley, Ervin and Warr, he served as Senior Adviser to companies such as Merrill Lynch and General Motors. Since leaving office, he has travelled to more than seventy-five countries and war-stricken regions such as Kosovo, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, South Sudan and the Middle East leading peace-building missions and development efforts through working with foreign leaders. He is also involved in numerous civic and charitable projects, including humanitarian efforts in Asia, Africa, North and South America, Europe and the Middle East.

Born in 1957, he attended Clemson University and holds a J.D from the University of South Carolina and a BA Law Degree from the University of South Carolina School Of Law.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Protecting palm trees from Red Palm Weevil

The Red Palm Weevil is has been described as one of the world’s major invasive pest species and is the single most destructive pest of palm trees, reports NaijaAgroNet.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), over the last three decades the beetle has spread rapidly through the Middle East and North Africa, affecting almost all countries in the region.
“It has also reached some European countries, including the United Kingdom, and parts of Central America and the Caribbean,” FAO lamented.

The weevil , NaijaAgroNet reports, threatens date- and coconut-producing palms, as well as ornamental palms. Millions of dollars are lost annually, which has caused significant socio-economic impacts on the date palm production sector and the livelihoods of farmers in affected areas.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that containing the pest’s spread is the focus of a Scientific Consultation and High-Level Meeting to be held on 29-31 March at FAO’s Rome headquarters.

The event is hosted by FAO in collaboration with the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM).

Isaac Oyimah 
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Grass Cutting scam: I've no power to give contracts – SGF

 ​The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal has said he does not award contracts as every contract must go through official process, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Lawal made this known while reacting to media reports Friday that he has been invited by the Senate to explain how fake firms got N1.3 billion contracts for grass cutting in the north east of the country as part of the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).

Director of Press at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Bolaji Adebiyi, in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet, noted that the headlines of the news reports were in variance with the body of the story.

Warning that the general public should not be misled into the believe that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has the authority or power to award contracts, stressing that this indeed, is not the case.  

“As with all awards of contract in government, the PINE projects under investigation, went through what is referred to as due process in public expenditure,” Adebiyi said.

The alleged contracts scam, he also said, were awarded only after the requisite clearances were obtained from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).  

“It is expected that these clearances are obtained only when all conditions precedent to the awards of contracts are met.  Apart from the BPP huddle, the Tenders Board of the procuring agencies, in this instance, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has to approve of the contracts before they are awarded.  At no time were these processes compromised in the award of contracts by PINE.  It must be emphasized also, that the SGF is not even a member of the Tenders Board,” he said.

Adebiyi maintained that the SGF despite his position in government cannot award contracts, explaining that he is not even a member of the Tenders Board.

“All contracts must, indeed, pass the acid test of obtaining clearance from the Bureau of Public Procurement and the scrutiny of the Tenders Board,” he insisted.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that PINE contracts were usually awarded following strict compliance with public expenditure and procurement processes.  

Just as Adebiyi declared that all PINE projects were properly and satisfactorily executed, while the beneficiaries have continued to express their appreciation to the Federal Government for PINE intervention, which in several instance, has accelerated the return of normalcy to hitherto ravaged communities.

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Pix: SGF Babachir David Lawal

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Amid Chinese outbreak: FAO, WHO say surveillance, laboratory testing, clean markets to contain changing H7N9 virus

International organisations are rallying round China in reinforcing control amid outbreak of avian influenza, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Experts also said that a resurgent outbreak of a new strain of avian influenza that could be lethal 
for humans underscores the need for robust and rapid detection and response systems at animal source.

NaijaAgroNet also reports that this could reduce the risk associated with virus spread and impacts on public health, according to Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Equally, NaijaAgroNet reports that human cases of the H7N9 virus, first detected in China four years ago, have suddenly increased since December 2016 and it is estimated, that as of early March 2017, there have been more reported human cases of influenza A (H7N9) than those caused by other types of avian influenza viruses (H5N1, H5N6, etc.) combined.

As during previous waves, most of the patients infected reported a history of visiting live bird markets or coming into contact with infected birds. Since 2013, China has invested heavily in surveillance of live bird markets and poultry farms. However the surveillance of this virus has proven particularly challenging as until recently it has shown no or few signs of disease in chickens.

"Considering the potential for mutation of avian influenza virus, constant surveillance by national Veterinary Services of the different strains circulating in animals in their country is essential to protect both animal and human health", explains  Matthew Stone, Deputy Director General of the OIE.

"To protect human health and people's livelihoods, it is essential to tackle the disease at its source in poultry: efforts need to target eliminating H7N9 from affected farms and markets," said Vincent Martin, FAO's Representative in China.

"Targeted surveillance to detect the disease and clean infected farms and live bird markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry value chain - from farm to table - is required. There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control."

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Diarrhoea kills 800 children daily - UN

Over 800 children under five years die every day around the world from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, reports NaijaAgroNet.

With the population growth, increased water consumption, and higher demand for water largely due to industrialization and urbanization, NaijaAgroNet gathered have gravely paved the way to draining of water resources worldwide, in addition to conflicts in many parts of the world also threaten children’s access to safe water.

As said by UNICEF in its Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, the above factors force children to use unsafe water, which exposes them to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhoea.

“Many children in drought-affected areas spend hours every day collecting water, missing out on a chance to go to school. Girls are especially vulnerable to attack during these times,” UNICEF official said in a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet.

The poorest and most vulnerable children, NaijaAgroNet reports, will be most impacted by an increase in water stress, as millions of them already live in areas with low access to safe water and sanitation.

The report also noted among others that globally, women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water every day.

UNICEF further said that the impact of climate change on water sources is not inevitable, UNICEF says. The report concludes with a series of recommendations that can help curb the impact of climate change on the lives of children.

For UNICEF Executive Director, Mr. Anthony Lake, such measures should include governments need to plan for changes in water availability and demand in the coming years; Above all, it means prioritizing the most vulnerable children’s access to safe water above other water needs to maximize social and health outcomes.

Climate risks, he said, should be integrated into all water and sanitation-related policies and services, and investments should to target high-risk populations; Stressing that businesses need to work with communities to prevent contamination and depletion of safe water sources.
Lake equally charged communities to explore ways to diversify water sources and to increase their capacity to store water safely.

“In a changing climate, we must change the way we work to reach those who are most vulnerable. One of the most effective ways we can do that is safeguarding their access to safe water,” Lake said.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

600m children to live with limited water resources by 2040 - UNICEF

An estimated 600 million children will be living in areas where water demand far outstrips supply by 2040, according to a UNICEF, reports NaijaAgroNet.

This, UNICEF also said reflects that 1 in 4 children worldwide will be suffering from water scarcity in the next 23 years.

UNICEF, NaijaAgroNet noted in the report entitled, Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, looked at the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years.

UNICEF Executive Director, Mr. Anthony Lake said that water is elemental; without it, nothing could grow.

“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water -- endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures. This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now,” said.

According to the report, 37 countries, including Nigeria, are currently facing extremely high levels of water stress, which occurs when more than 80 per cent of the water available for agriculture, industry and domestic use is withdrawn annually. Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water.

For Nigeria, the greatest challenge, NaijaAgroNet gathered, is the availability of physical infrastructure to harness rainfall and ground water effectively.

UNICEF’s Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Kannan Nadar, pointed out that there are huge variations in rainfall between north and south Nigeria, making it all the more important to better plan and manage water resources to minimise the impact of floods and drought.

“In Nigeria, as we work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of reaching everyone with access to safe, functional, affordable and accessible water, we must manage water resources more efficiently to meet the needs of Nigeria’s growing population and economic development,” Nadar said.

NaijaAgroNet recalled that population growth, coupled with increased water consumption, and higher demand for water largely due to industrialization and urbanization, are draining water resources worldwide. Conflicts in many parts of the world also threaten children’s access to safe water. 

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Overcoming depression according to Yudala

Overcoming depression according to Yudala: Commentary@ITRealms: Have you ever heard people refer to some illnesses as “White people problem”? Treating some ailments as trivial be...

ITREALMS ... everything news digitally!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Poisonous Fanta, Sprite: Health Ministry attributes saga to environmental differences

… Defends NAFDAC, insists Coca Cola products safe for consumption
The Federal Ministry of Health (FMH) has offered defense on behalf of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) over the alleged poisonous Fanta and Sprite in the controversial difference environmental setting of benzoic acid limit introduced in these soft drinks in Nigeria, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The latest response arose from the recent court judgement on the case filed by Fijabi Holdings and another versus Nigeria Bottling Company and NAFDAC, in which NAFDAC was mandated to direcdt all NBC and other bottling company to imprint a notice that taking the soft drink of Fanta and Sprite with Vitamin C is poisonous.

Director, Media and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs Akinola Boade, on behalf of the Minister of Health, Dr. Isaac Adewole, after a joint meeting of NAFDAC, Standards Organisations of Nigeria (SON) and NBC, attributed the difference in standards of these additives to environmental conditions.

In a press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet at the weekend, the Ministry said due to the different environmental conditions obtainable in the United Kingdom (UK) and Nigeria, the standard for benzoic acid was set at a lower limit of 150 milegrame or kilogramme (mg/kg) for UK.

While in Nigeria, the Minister said, “it was set at 250mg/kg even below than that of Codex.”
He explained that as at time of production of that batch of drinks in question, Codex limit was 600mg/kg.

The minister pointed out that NAFDAC and SON regularly monitor the manufacturing practices of food industries and conduct laboratory analysis to ascertain continuous compliance with required national standards.

NaijaAgroNet was told that there was a routine inspection conducted at Nigeria Bottling Company by NAFDAC officers, last December, 2016, which was pronounced “satisfactory.”

Food products being imported into a country, the Ministry explained, must comply with the relevant standards of the destination country.

“NAFDAC has processes in place to ensure products imported into the country are evaluated to ascertain compliance with required Nigeria industrial standards.

The claimant, FMH said, did not obtain NAFDAC certification before export, otherwise, Fijabi would have been advised on the required standard of the destination country.

The Ministry further declared Coca-Cola products manufactured in Nigeria safe for consumption; “Yes, the Coca-Cola products manufactured in Nigeria are safe for consumption.”

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Discovery: Immune cells preventing diabetes, hypertension

Scientists at The University of Manchester, Lund University and University of Salford have discovered that immune cells which are reduced in number by obesity could be a new target to treat diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension that affect overweight people, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Latest collaborative study, NaijaAgroNet gathered, between the three universities, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the researchers from immunology and cardiovascular backgrounds investigated a type of immune cell called eosinophils.

Eosinophils, experts say, are present in a layer of fat tissue called the PeriVascular Adipose Tissue (PVAT), which surrounds blood vessels and helps to maintain normal blood vessel function by reducing artery contraction.

Also, NaijaAgroNet gathered that the current research by the researchers found that eosinophils were considerably reduced in the PVAT in obesity in mice, and that the PVAT function was severely impaired, contributing to type 2 diabetes and hypertension. “This is not something that has previously been observed,” the study noted.

The lead researcher on the Wellcome Trust-funded study, Dr Sheena Cruickshank, said that this type of immune cell is present in many parts of the body and was once thought to just act in parasitic infections and allergies, but it’s fast becoming clear that they have a significant effect on lots of aspects of health and immunity.

“Our study showed that in fact the secretions from eosinophils have a profound effect on how the blood vessels operate and when they are missing, as in obesity, serious health problems can start to develop,” she said.

The role of the eosinophils, she said, also opens up new opportunities to investigate treatments for type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

She stressed that PVAT from fat that lack eosinophils could quickly be rescued by addition of eosinophils, demonstrating that there is the potential for a treatment based on restoring this function.

NaijaAgroNet equally reports that the researchers observed that the eosinophils influenced the release of nitric oxide and a protein called adiponectin, which control healthy PVAT function. This appears to be a unique function of these immune cells. The researchers are particularly excited by how quickly the eosinophils could restore PVAT function, showing just how potent they may be.

“These immune cells have been traditionally overlooked but this study shows for the first time that they have a direct role to play in processes in the body beyond the immune system. They seem to be incredibly important in a number of processes and this presents us with an exciting new area to investigate for a whole range of illnesses,” she said.

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Nigeria’s steady progress in agriculture, a potential history

Viewed from the historian’s perspective, a significant advance in a nation’s fortunes can seem to occur almost overnight and be driven by destiny. The reality of course is quite different.  Meaningful change is most often the long-term product of a series of small, connected, deliberate actions whose importance may not be immediately apparent.

One of those low-key events that one day could be endowed with historical significance took place in Nigeria last month, when senior officials from the national government and the African Union Commission, joined by agriculture experts from across the continent, gathered in Abuja to consolidate Nigeria’s National Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP). Similar blueprints are being drawn-up across sub-Saharan Africa to ensure countries stay focused on the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and their commitments, re-enforced in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, to place African farmers and agriculture businesses at the center of the continent’s economic development. 

If there is anywhere in Africa where a surge of agriculture investments could change the fortunes of an entire country, it is here. Moreover, success in Nigeria would send a strong signal to the rest of the continent that agriculture offers our most promising path to sustainable and equitable economic growth.

Agriculture’s emergence as Nigeria’s number one economic opportunity comes as falling oil prices are taking their toll on this oil-rich country. Nigeria urgently needs a more stable foundation for providing income and employment for a fast growing population that, by 2050, is likely to be larger than that of the United States.

Agriculture already accounts for 70 per cent of employment in Nigeria, but only 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an indicator that the sector is underperforming. Every year, Nigerians still spend billions of dollars on food imports, a huge economic opportunity forfeited to farmers and food companies outside of the country.

Part of the reason for the shortfall is that Nigeria has 84 million hectares of land suitable for farming, but less than half of this  area is planted with crops and most of the farming is accomplished with inefficient, outdated methods and without basic inputs. Irrigation, which is becoming more important as climate change disrupts rainfall patterns across the country, is available on only 220,000 hectares, when there are enough water resources in the country to supply three million.

But if the recent meeting is any indication, agriculture may finally be getting the attention it deserves in Nigeria. Under the leadership of Chief Audu Ogbeh and his predecessor, Dr.  Akinwumi Adesina, who went on to become president of the African Development Bank, over the last few years, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has pushed through several ambitious initiatives.

For example, Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer. And there are now a number of new income opportunities for poor smallholder farmers and local agriculture entrepreneurs around producing and processing this hardy root crop. Cassava is now being processed into high quality flour that can be used as a substitute for expensive wheat imports. It’s providing a source of fish feed for Nigeria’s rapidly growing aquaculture industry. Cassava can also provide an industrial starch with surprising usefulness in areas like paperboard and plywood manufacturing.

Similar efforts are underway to bring jobs to rural areas by attracting investments in maize, rice, sorghum and livestock production. For example, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) has generated US$273 million in loans for some 454 projects. They include a new rail-shipping venture that is connecting struggling livestock producers in the north to consumer markets in the south.

Despite the promising progress, agriculture in Nigeria still needs far more investment. For example, a lack of storage and processing options causes many poor farmers to lose nearly half of their harvest to rot or pests.  Also, while fertilizer usage is up and local seed production is rising, many farmers in Nigeria still lack access to improved crop varieties and basic inputs. 

That’s why it’s so critical to develop a new agriculture investment plan that shows Nigeria is committed to ensuring agriculture can flourish as a business. Numerous studies have shown that, along with increasing food security, economic growth driven by the agriculture sector is far more effective at pulling people out of poverty than growth in any other sector.

If Nigeria ultimately realizes its ambitions for agriculture, historians of the future may point to an investment meeting that occurred in Abuja in February of 2017 as the juncture when farming and food production became an engine of opportunity for Nigeria and helped rally similar efforts across the continent. And those falling oil prices that capture the headlines of today? Maybe they will be relegated to a footnote.

*Contributed by Kehinde Makinde is the country lead for Nigeria at the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

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Pix: Dr. Agnes Kalibata, AGRA president

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Oily diets: How technologies can reduce health risks

It is a well-known fact that too many fats and oils in your diet can increase one’s risk for a number of potential health challenges including obesity, heart disease or cancer.
In continuation with its knowledge-sharing series, Yudala – the largest online and offline retail chain examines these health risks and identifies how new technology is helping a lot of people reduce the risks associated with excess oil in food.

Oils in the food we eat – or what is often referred to as dietary lipids – play a very important role in maintaining general body health. This is true especially for the oils that provide essential fatty acids.

Fats and oils provide energy, absorb certain nutrients and maintain core body temperature. Furthermore, they serve as a back-up source of energy to fuel one’s workout when carbohydrates are not available.

However, large amounts of fats and oils in our diet can prove detrimental to health. In addition, the types of fats and oils you take in each day can ultimately affect your health status. Three areas of particular concern in regard to this are obesity, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer.

Food-based fats and oils are predominantly triglycerides, that is, three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. The chemical structure of the fatty acids determine whether the fat is monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated or trans.
The more saturated a fat is, the worse it can be for your health. However, eating too much of any kind of fat can still be bad for you, as they can lead

Obesity often refers to a state in which your percentage of body fat is abnormally high. When you consume more calories than you can readily burn, the body stores the excess as adipose tissue or fat. If this situation extends over a period of time, you can become overweight and eventually obese. Dietary fat supplies more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates. It is, therefore, easier to become obese when you eat large amounts of fats and oils. Obesity itself can be dangerous to your health, as it is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, gall bladder disease and hypertension.

Heart Disease
Fatty foods often contain cholesterol. Admittedly, we all require some cholesterol in the body for optimal health. Nevertheless, too much of it can cause problems. Excess cholesterol in your blood can lead to heart disease as this type of fat can get deposited along the walls of your arteries. As cholesterol builds up in the blood vessels, there is less room for blood to pass and this makes the heart to pump blood harder. Saturated fats, often found in the same foods with cholesterol, increase your levels of Low Density Lipo-protein (LDL) or what is commonly known as bad cholesterol, while unsaturated fats have the opposite effect. The more saturated fats and cholesterol you consume, the greater your risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Excess oil consumption of oils has been identified as a risk factor for breast cancer, colon cancer or lung cancer. Although the exact mechanism of this relationship is still under investigation, diets that derive more than 30 percent of daily calories from lipids, particularly those containing high levels of saturated fats, might increase your cancer risk.

The foregoing makes the coming of new technologies such as Air-Fryers which address this particular issue a welcome development for many.

A revolutionary kitchen appliance, the Air Fryer uses heated hot air technology to not only fry food but grill, roast and bake them as well using less than 1 tablespoon of oil. Widely considered as the healthiest cooking appliance, Air Fryers have the ability to deliver perfect results, i.e. the appropriate amount crunchiness and crispness without using a lot of oil.

The hot air technology in Air Fryers work in such a way that food is not only cooked without oil, it also expels excess oil from the food itself. Meat ingredients, for instance, end up with less of their original fat inside the food. This technology makes sure the hot air released from the appliance is equally distributed to each and every part of the food. So, the meal prepared by a fryer will be perfectly cooked and allow you to eat a healthy delicious meal. Interestingly, Air Fryers can also heat up frozen meals or reheat left-over foods to its original

If you are looking for an air fryer, then you need to first set up your budget and keep important factors in mind before making a purchase such as the features, specifications, price, and other important aspects before finalizing any model.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends minimizing or completely eliminating trans fats from the foods you eat in order to reduce your cancer risk.
Getting an Air Fryer today may be a brilliant step in achieving this…

*Contributed by Gideon Ayogu/GEE 
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

NBC appeals judgement over benzoic acid in Fanta, Sprite

The  Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) has gone to the Appeal Court over the recent Lagos High Court judgement over an alleged poisonous benzoic and ascorbic acids as ingredients in Fanta and Sprite, especially when used with Vitamin C, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Sources at NBC, told NaijaAgroNet that the judgement delivered on February 15, 2017 in a suit involving Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited & Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo v. Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) & National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Lagos High Court dismissed all claims against NBC and held that the company had not breached its duty of care to consumers and that there was no proven case of negligence against it.

Also, in the same judgement, NaijaAgroNet gathered, the court had directed NAFDAC to mandate NBC to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same become poisonous if taken with Vitamin C.

This order, NBC said, was premised on the fact that the products contain the preservative, benzoic acid.

“NBC has since appealed this order,” our source said.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Poisonous Fanta, Sprite: Court berates NAFDAC, Nigerian Bottling Company, awards N2m damages to Fijabi

A Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere suburb area of Lagos State, has berated and ordered the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to compel the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc to ensure a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles indicating that both soft drinks are poisonous when taken with Ascorbic Acid, also popularly known as Vitamin C in Nigeria, reports NaijaAgroNet.

A copy of the judgement making a round and available to NaijaAgroNet, the court held that NAFDAC failed Nigerians by declaring, as fit for human consumption, products discovered by tests in the United Kingdom as turning poisonous when mixed with ascorbic acid.

Delivering the landmark judgement in Lagos, Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, awarded a cost of N2 million only against NAFDAC, as outcome of a suit filed by a Lagos-based businessman, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, against NBC Plc and NAFDAC.                      

 Adebo had urged the court to declare that NBC was negligent to its consumers by bottling Fanta and Sprite with excessive levels of benzoic acid and sunset additives, in addition to ordering NAFDAC to carry out routine laboratory tests on all the soft drinks and related products NBC bottles to ensure their safety for consumption.

In the amended statement of claims filed before the court by Mr. Abiodun Onidare on behalf of Mr. Adebo and his company,  it was alleged that in March 2007, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company bought large quantities of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and soda water from NBC for export to and subsequent retail in the United Kingdom.

But when the consignment arrived in the United Kingdom, health authorities in that country, precisely the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council's Trading Standard, Department of Environment and Economy Directorate, raised fundamental health issues on the contents and composition of Fanta and Sprite.

Findings by the United Kingdom health authorities were also corroborated by other agencies in European Union countries, which found the products to contain excessive levels of sunset yellow and benzoic acid, which are known to be carcinogenic.

On account of the irregularities and carcinogenic substances present in the drinks, Mr. Adebo and his company could not sell the Fanta and Sprite. This caused huge losses for the company, as the products were seized and destroyed by the United Kingdom health authorities.

The claimants equally alleged that NAFDAC did not carry out requisite tests to determine the safety of the drinks for human consumption. They averred that being registered as exporters with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, they could legally export NBC products to any part of the world and that the bottling company was aware that the products purchased were meant for export.

In addition to other reliefs, Mr. Adebo and his company sought the sum of N15,119,619.37 as special damages and N1,622,000 being the money NBC admitted receiving from the claimants.

In its amended statement of defense, filed before the court by Mr. T. O. Busari, NBC admitted supplying the products, but contended that they are meant for local distribution and consumption, as it does not produce for export. It argued that Coca-Cola is manufactured and bottled by various Coca-Cola franchise holders in most countries of the world, including the United Kingdom.

The company denied that it was negligent, as it has stringent quality control procedures to ensure that its products are safe for end-user consumption.

NBC also rejected the allegation that the damages claimed by the businessman and his firm were caused by negligence or any fault on its part.  It argued that the levels of the chemical components in its soft drinks are safe for consumption in Nigeria and that the claimants are not entitled to the recovery of damages arising from their illegal exportation of products meant for local distribution.

NBC further contended that the claims made by Mr. Adebo and his company were speculative, frivolous and vexatious and should be dismissed with substantial cost. NAFDAC did not file any defense.

To prove his case, Mr. Adebo personally testified. While being led in evidence by Mr. Onidare, he tendered 12 exhibits. NBC's Sales Operation Manager, Mr. Micheal Nwosu China, and its Head of Central Laboratory, Mr. Abiodun Adeola Falana, both testified on the bottling company's behalf and also tendered 12 exhibits.

In her judgment, Justice Oyebanji said: “It is imperative to state that the knowledge of the Nigeria Bottling Company that the products were to be exported is immaterial to its being fit for human consumption. The court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria bottling company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of color or creed. 

“It is manifest that NAFDAC has been grossly irresponsible in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company. In my respective view, NAFDAC has failed the citizens of this great nation by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption products, which in the United Kingdom failed sample test for human consumption, and which become poisonous in the presence of Ascorbic Acid ordinarily known as Vitamin C, which can be freely taken by the unsuspecting public with the company's Fanta or Sprite.                                             

“As earlier stated, the court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that consumable products ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of race, colour or creed.”

Justice Oyebanji also held that by its certification as satisfactory, Fanta and Sprite, without any written warning on the products that it cannot be taken with Vitamin C, NAFDAC would have caused great harm to the health of unsuspecting Nigerians.                                       

“The court, in the light of the damning evidence before it showing that NAFDAC has failed to live up to expectation, cannot close its eyes to the grievous implication of allowing the status quo to continue as it is.
“For the reasons herein adumbrated in this judgment, the court hereby orders as follows:
“That NAFDAC shall forthwith mandate Nigeria bottling company to, within 90 days hereof, include on all the bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks manufactured by the company, a written warning that the content of the said bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same becomes poisonous if taken with Vitamin C.

“In consideration of the fact that this case was filed in 2008 and that it has been in court for nine years, costs of N2 million is awarded against NAFDAC. Interest shall be paid on the costs awarded at the rate of 10% per annum until liquidation of the said sum,” ruled Justice Oyebanji.

Isaac Oyimah with additional reports from Sahara Reporters/GEE
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Water, fundamental for food security in North Africa, Near East

Access to water is a fundamental need for food security, human health and agriculture, and its looming scarcity in the North Africa and Middle East region, reports NaijaAgroNet.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said in Cairo, that this is a huge challenge requiring an "urgent and massive response."

Accessible fresh water in the region, he said, has fallen by two-thirds in the past 40 years.

“It now amounts to 10 times less per capita availability than the worldwide average, underscoring the need for a significant overhaul of farming systems, he said.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that a recent study by FAO showed that higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.

The rising sea level in the Nile Delta, FAO said, is exposing Egypt to the danger of losing substantial parts of the most productive agriculture land due to salinization.

"Competition between water-usage sectors will only intensify in the future between agriculture, energy, industrial production and household needs," he said.

Graziano da Silva attended a high-level meeting covering FAO's collaboration with Egypt on the ‘1.5 million feddan initiative', the government's plan to reclaim eventually up to two million hectares of desert land for agricultural and other uses.

He expressed his strong support to the Egyptian Authorities and committed to back programmes aiming at addressing water scarcity and promoting climate resilient agriculture.

The Director-General's visit to Egypt included meetings with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Investment and International Cooperation, as well as the Secretary General of the League of Arab States.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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