There's plastic rice in town or not, depending on whom you listen to. But take our word for it, be careful
Reports of plastic rice in circulation in the Nigerian market, have caught on like wildfire. The rice bears the label 'Best Tomato Rice'.
A misnomer, if ever there was one.
For days, people testified that the rice was sticky when cooked. Residents of Lagos also swore that the rice smelt and tasted like shit.
The Comptroller of Customs in Lagos, Haruna Mamudu, told the local and international press that his agency had confiscated 100 bags of the fake rice.
"We have done a preliminary analysis of the plastic rice. After boiling, it was sticky and only God knows what would have happened if people consumed it", Mamudu said.
The Customs chief warned "economic saboteurs who see yuletide season as a peak period for their nefarious acts to desist from such illegal business activity".
According to another senior Customs official, the bags of plastic rice were smuggled into Lagos from China.
The AFP reports that the bags of rice "had no date of manufacture and were intercepted Monday in the Ikeja area of the sprawling city".
Everyone was wary of eating plastic for rice at Christmas in a city of some 20 million people; one where rice is the biggest staple.
Not a few thanked God that the LAKE Rice (a collaborative effort between Lagos and Kebbi States) had been ushered into the market at just the right time.
A couple of Lagosians even confessed that they had bought and cooked the said plastic rice. They described the rice as 'sticky with a funny chemical smell'.
So we all prayed never to buy or come across the damned plastic rice with its rubbery, sticky, shitty stench.
Well, until Thursday when Health Minister Isaac Adewole said no such rice exists. In other words, our apprehension over some plastic rice was unfounded and premised on a zero foundation.
"I have just been briefed by the Director General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Plastic Rice reports. Preliminary test results reveal there is no evidence backing claims", the minister said in a tweet.
He added that: "tests conducted; floating - negative, cooking - normal, odour normal, color - off white rice grains, moisture - 13.0, pre-ashing - normal.
"NAFDAC will release detailed findings to public as soon as it concludes investigations. We urge all Nigerians to remain calm for now".
Why would Customs declare the rice to be made of plastic and a federal minister will declare the same rice fit for consumption? Whose words should we go with? Who should we believe?
Why would Customs announce that the rice is poisonous without first taking the product to NAFDAC for laboratory tests?
There's something wrong when two government officials issue contradictory statements on a particular subject within hours of each other.
Especially because we are talking food and the lives of people here.
Surely, this could all have been better handled by all concerned agencies of government.
This was shoddy work all around--yet another evidence that we can't get the simplest of things right in this country.
In the coming days, we'll expect better communication from government on this issue. It's just too serious to be trifled with.
We can't afford to die from eating plastic rice in a recession.