… They Collect Levy Without Training Us — Shop Owners
… We Have Designated Training Centers — AMAC Officials
Operators of some small-scale businesses in Abuja have alleged that the Food Safety Unit of the Environmental Health Service Department of the Abuja Municipal Area Council collects money from them for annual food handlers training without organizing such trainings.
AMAC’s Environmental Health Service Department had in recent times mandated businesses owners to pay for the biannual food handlers screening and annual food handlers training.
“The reason for the medical screening certificate and training is to ensure acceptable health status of the food handlers and protect the health of the general public,” a copy of the demand notice seen by THE WHISTLER read.
The cost of medical screening and certificate for each food handler is N5,200, while the annual cost of training for each handler is N5,000.
The affected business owners are expected to pay within seven days of notice and a default would attract a fee of N250,000.
But supermarkets and other petty shop owners have accused staff of the Food and Safety Unit of fleecing them because they are not captured in the food handling law of the FCT.
A sales person (name withheld) who oversees the operation of One Direction Supermarket who spoke to THE WHISTLER claimed that no training has been organized for them since the food safety unit started collecting the bill.
He said, “More than ten AMAC departments come to us for levy. They come with huge bills. Some are like N30,000 and above and N50,000. The business is not moving. You can see the shop is drying up and we are getting tired.
“We pay them and they don’t even care about the turnover. So, the owner of the shop is scared that we may be shot down after the rent of this year expires. We are working for AMAC, we are not working for ourselves. “
On food handling he said the last bill they paid was N20,000.
“They just come and give us certificates, they just collect the money, they don’t train and they just issue certificates. Nobody has trained me but they have been collecting the money.
“This year they have issued invoices but we are yet to pay. We paid N30,000 for the sign post alone, ”he added.
Another super market located at Yahuza Plaza in Gwarinpa that is ten-month-old also lamented the food handling bill and other levies.
“They first brought the food handling bill around August 2021 when we started operation. They brought another one in February this year and they even threatened to shut down the shop if we don’t comply, ”Mercy, who oversees sales at the supermarket said.
“We asked them to show us the section of the la that captures supermarkets or at least show us the kind of businesses captured in the law and the food they sell, but they failed to do the needful.”
When the WHISTLER visited AMAC’s Environmental Health Service Department at Apex Plaza, the consultant who spoke to our reporter said the responsibility of the unit is to protect Abuja residents from food poisoning as a result of bad handling of food.
He insisted that the unit organises yearly training for those businesses that fall in the food handlers category, adding “we have designated training centers.”
The consultant also denied fleecing of unsuspecting businesses as he claimed that the law affects “restaurants, gardens and even supermarkets.”
When he was asked to provide the law, he said the gazette was not at his disposal.
Another staff of AMAC in charge of the training who spoke to THE WHISTLER denied the allegation.
She said, “We started training since June last year. We have been doing it subsequently and we have close to a thousand food handlers. If they don’t get any message. it is either their number is not going through or maybe they write the wrong number.
She also said supermarkets who sell snacks are expected to pay the food handling levy.