Inside UNIDO’s EU funded food safety train

By Sunday Oyinloye

Nigeria like other  African countries is faced with food safety issues which have  caused deaths and diseases as well as rejection of some foods at the international market due to safety concerns. If a country cannot export foods as it wishes due to safety concerns, that would probably tell on the economy and the overall wellbeing of that nation. This has been the experience with Nigeria, a country producing food, the bulk of which  it cannot export due to safety and standards reasons.

In order to address the situation, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO) in the framework of the National Quality Infrastructure Project for Nigeria(NQIP)  funded by the European Union has embarked on Food Safety Awareness Campaign in some states in the country.

The aim of the project is to strengthen the capacity of the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Food Safety Management Committee to modernize  Nigeria’s food safety control and management system.

The food safety campaign train was recently in Ilorin the Kwara State capital and on board were all the critical  stakeholders in the food chain. The stakeholders were farmers , officials of the Kwara State government from the Ministries of Information, Agriculture, Trade , Local Government, Environment, Journalists, small and medium scale enterprises involved in food processing /manufacturing, operators of canteens, restaurants , snack shops, representatives of food distributors and retailers, transporters, representatives of consumer groups among other stakeholders.

Before the awareness proper started, there was pre-event meeting with the Secretary to the State Government and other key state officials. The food campaign train stopped at the state owned Radio Kwara ,Ilorin  where the team had the opportunity to feature on live programme. Students on Industrial Training at the station were also addressed by the team who charged them to be advocates of the campaign. Before leaving Radio Kwara, the team met with  the management, led by AbdulateefAdebowaleAdedeji..

The team later visited Nigerian Television Authority, Ilorin  where it was received by the management led by MrsKandeAbdullahi .At the state Ministry of Information,  the occupants of the train were received by the Commissioner, Mahmud BabatundeAjeigbe who promised that state owned media outfits would be used for the sensitization programme.

Visit to media houses was a  strategy to seek the support of the media which is critical in the food safety campaign effort. The team from Abuja was well received by heads of the media houses and the staff who were given hand bands, T-shirts and face caps as part of awareness campaign. They did pledged their support for the programme.

In all the places visited, MrsAnthoniaOkpara who stood in for the Minister of Health, Professor IssacAdewole, UNIDO National Expert for Food Safety in Nigeria, Mr. John FunshoTehinse, UNIDO Media consultant, Mrs. Moji Makanjuola, and  Mrs. Mary Esemaof the  Federal  Ministry of Health took time to educate the people about the importance of food safety and why the team is on awareness drive.

The next day, the Conference Hall of the Secretary to the State Government was filled to capacity as stakeholders and government officials brainstormed on ways of ensuring  food safety from the farm to the table. It was indeed a good interactive session among all the stakeholders as they freely asked questions from the from UNIDO National Expert for Food Safety in Nigeria, John FunshoTehinse who made a presentation titled: ‘’Vision for Nigeria’s Food Safety System and overview of the proposed reforms”

The Safe Food Awareness train later moved to the Government House, Ilorin to pick the State Governor, AlhajiAbdulfatah Ahmed who entered with some of his cabinet members. The governor pledged his total support for the Safe Food Awareness campaign  stressing that everything would be done to ensure the success of the programme in the Kwara State.

The last stop of the train was Princess Hotel, Ilorin which  was also filled with stakeholders who came from across the state to attend Food Safety Awareness Training Workshop. Again, Tehinse presented two papers. One, “Food Safety Control System in Nigeria”. Two  “Reforming the Nigerian Institutional Framework for Food Safety”.

The stakeholders did not allow the Food Safety Awareness Campaign train to leave Ilorin until they asked all relevant questions on how to make food safe from the farm to the table. They also suggested that the train should move to all the 16 local government areas of the state when next it visits Kwara.

Some stakeholders who spoke with Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable commended UNIDO, European Union, and the Federal Ministry of Health for the campaign adding that it should be sustained and taken to the grassroots.