Following investigation on the massive use of calcium carbide to ripen fruits by farmers and fruits sellers nationwide, the Nigerian Fruits Sellers Association says it has taken steps to check the menace across fruits markets in the country.
Daily Trust visited the biggest fruits market in Zuba (one of the markets at the centre of the investigation) at the outskirts of Abuja from where most fruits are supplied to Abuja city to find out if the traders are still engaged in the act.
The union officials explained a number of measures they have taken to forestall the application of calcium carbide – a substance said to be carcinogenic and causes other terminal illnesses – to forcefully ripen fruits.
Shefiu M. Yahaya is the chairman, Fruits Sellers Association Zuba Fruits Market branch. He said the investigation by Daily Trust on the use of carbide to ripen fruits and the attendant consequences of consuming such fruits was an eye opener for them.
He stressed that until they saw the report, most of them didn’t know that it has serious consequences on the health of consumers, adding that if they had known they would not have allowed it because they too would be affected.
Alhaji Yahaya stated that since they saw the report, a number of measures were adopted to address the situation in Abuja markets.
According to him, carbide sellers, who until now were selling round the fruits market have been asked to leave. Daily Trust can confirm that some of the places where the products were initially sold during the investigation are now empty.
Besides asking carbide sellers in the markets to leave, the union has now proscribed the use of carbide by members and a taskforce has been set up to check erring members.
Yahaya said any member found guilty will be sent packing from the market and handed over to the law enforcement agencies for prosecution stressing that they will not allow anything that will jeopardise the health of Nigerians.
On his part, Alhaji Tijjani Y. Keffi, the secretary of the Zuba Fruits Sellers Association said he met with all the leaders of the various sections of the market so as to ensure that their message on the prohibition of the use of carbide is followed to the letter.
This, he said, was to restore sanity and ensure that no one broke the rule as whoever did would be sent out of the market and handed over to security agencies for prosecution.
Alhaji Tijjani said to ensure full compliance every truck load of fruits into the market was properly inspected by the taskforce before being allowed into the market, adding that so far members are cooperating to ensure sustainability of the market and their business.
At the national level, there are ongoing sensitization campaigns at the major fruits markets in the country by the national leaders to halt the use of carbide.
Husseini Mohammed Dankarami who is the Assistant National Secretary of the Nigerian Fruits Sellers Association said immediately after reading the Daily Trust story, the national leaders swung into action and sent circulars to all their branches instructing members to ensure that no vehicles with carbide ripened fruits was allowed into any of the markets.
But Mr Dankarami expressed concern that they have little control over those who connived with some farmers to supply the fruit directly to them at home but stressed that a joint taskforce comprising teams from the health ministry, security agencies and NAFDAC will help track such dealers.
Also speaking, Abubakar Daura, the national public relations officer of the association reiterated that the investigative story was a wakeup call to them to sanitize the business, adding that they have so far traveled to Jos, Bauchi, Kaduna with Kano and Lagos in the pipeline to ensure compliance with the directive against carbide use on fruits.
He said the current tempo will be sustained nationwide to track defaulters and punish them accordingly.