A group of eminent researchers and journalists have formed a Coalition Against Paraquat (CAP), to sustain advocacy against paraquat importation and use in Nigeria, as concerns mount over the safety of the toxic herbicide.
Godwin Atser, Digital Extension and Advisory Services of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in a statement issued to newsmen made this known on Monday in Abuja.
The coalition comprises nine scientists and media practitioners with a wealth of experience in advocacy and a deep understanding of paraquat.
The statement quoted Prof. Johnson Ekpere, a member of the coalition as saying: “The group’s main role is to act as a watchdog and sustain advocacy efforts while supporting the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to follow through with its paraquat deregistration plans.’’
Dr Bukar Usman, Director, Veterinary Medicine and Allied Products of NAFDAC, had earlier released a gradual phase-out plan for paraquat
Usman, who announced the plan, disclosed that the agency had stopped new registration of paraquat and those already in the process could only get two years instead of the usual five years.
“By the end of December, NAFDAC will no longer process the renewal of registration of the product, while the total ban will be concluded by 2024,” he said.
Explore, speaking on behalf of the group said it also planned to “contribute to awareness creation and advocacy; to the development of target information kits; meeting public and private sector influencers and opinion leaders to ensure that paraquat is finally off the shelf in Nigeria.”
He called for the deregistration of paraquat became heightened in December 2019, when commissioners for agriculture, permanent secretaries in the ministries of agriculture and other stakeholders urged NAFDAC to put the product out of the Nigerian market.
He added that maintaining such concerns as raised about the product was too grave to be ignored.
The statement said weed scientists under the aegis of Weed Science Society of Nigeria (WSSN) rising from their its 47th Annual Conference also added their voice to the calls, stressing that safer and more effective alternatives to paraquat abounded.
Members of the coalition include Prof. Johnson Ekpere, former Executive Secretary, Scientific, Technical and Research Commission, Organisation of African Unity (OAU/STRC), now African Union (AU); Prof. Mohammed Kuta Yahaya, a professor of Agricultural Extension and Development Communication.
Others include Ms Ayoola Kassim, an award-winning producer at Channels Television; Prof. Simon Irtwange: Chairman, Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme, FMARD, and Prof. Lateef Sanni, President, International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC).
Other members are: Prof. Udensi Udensi, a weed scientist and agronomist at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Ms. Grace Yussuf, Deputy Editor-In-Chief in charge of the Agriculture and Environment Desk, the Newsmen among others
The statement quoted a report titled: “The Rural Appraisal on the use of Paraquat in Nigeria”, authored by Prof. Udensi, who is a weed scientist, describing paraquat as “one of the most highly acute toxic herbicides being marketed in the last 60 years.”
He said: “Paraquat remains one of the pesticides responsible for more fatal poisonings than any other pesticide substances.”
“Workers who are exposed to paraquat over a long period have been found to be at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life.
“Scientists have listed safe and effective alternatives to paraquat to include glufosinate-ammonium commonly traded as Lifeline, Slasha Gold, Basta, and Fascinate,’’ the statement said.