The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC), has warned clearing agents and importers operating at the nation’s ports to desist from fraudulent activities, stressing public health must be safeguarded.
The warning was gave by the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye in Abuja at a virtual sensitization workshop organized by the Agency for stakeholders in the Export and Import Trade activities at the nation’s ports which included the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Mine, and Agriculture NACCIMA, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria MAN, Nigeria Customs Service, Standard Organisation of Nigeria SON and Multinationals amongst others.
Prof Adeyeye emphasized that the agency would not tolerate any unprofessional act from any of its stakeholders be it importers or clearing agents, as she emphasized that the economy must be be protected at all cost.
She added that the disturbing development where agents and possibly with the connivance of importers engage in the falsification of NAFDAC documents will no longer be tolerated, nor treated with kid gloves.
In a statement by the Resident Media Consultant to NAFDAC, Sayo Akintola on Sunday, February 14, 2021, Prof. Adeyeye was quoted as saying, ‘’We shall take all legal means as an Agency set up by the Law of Nigeria to prosecute any erring stakeholder’’.
She urged importers to always ensure that they make it their responsibility to initiate clearance of their goods. The NAFDAC boss advised importers to desist from entrusting the entire process of clearance of their consignments to the agents, stressing that whenever the agents run into trouble with the regulatory authorities, they would always want to cut corners, leaving the importer in the lurch at the end of a botched transaction as a result of failure to meet the requirements of the Agency.
As we try to enforce compliance among our clients, Prof. Adeyeye explained that NAFDAC has deployed various improvements in its processes that will ensure auto verification of documents presented to the Agency during clearing, place in the hand of stakeholders the ability to verify the true status of clearance of regulated products ‘’and ensure that we reward clients with low-risk profile’’.
The NAFDAC DG, however, advised all importers and clearing agents to ensure that they complete every clearing transaction with NAFDAC up to the point of generation of NAFDAC electronic Release Notices.
She reiterated her commitment to the modernization of NAFDAC’s processes and institutionalization of international best practices in the way activities are conducted in the Agency.
‘’I wish to appeal that you comply with the fast-changing updates currently ongoing in NAFDAC. These include the current issuance of electronic NAFDAC Invoices, NAFDAC Receipts, First Endorsement Notices and Release Notices.’’
Prof. Adeyeye said ‘’we are conscientiously working towards assisting stakeholders to achieve regulatory compliance by ensuring that these requirements are made transparent and accessible to stakeholders through the availability of Regulations, Guidelines, Tariff, and process requirements on the NAFDAC website.
‘’I have also ensured that we maintain transparency and continue the implementation of the Quality Management Systems in our Ports processes. This has led to a review and update of existing Standards Operating Procedures (SOP) and implementation of strategic QMS activities for ISO 9001-2015 certification and entrenchment of WHO Global benchmarking (ISO 9004) across all the Airports, Seaports, and land borders.’’, she said.
The NAFDAC boss added that she has also gone further to ensure that the Clean Report of Inspection and Analysis (CRIA) scheme was strengthened for the purpose of establishing the quality and safety of regulated products before they are shipped from China and India to Nigeria.
She disclosed that the Agency has since 1st March 2020; when it commenced the new phase of the CRIA scheme, prevented the export of over 40 pharmaceutical and food products that failed laboratory analysis into Nigeria.
She vowed to continue to strengthen the scheme to better improve services to Nigeria Importers and ensure that only safe and quality regulated products are available for distribution.
As part of strengthening our quality systems, she further disclosed that NAFDAC had also intercepted a large consignment of over 200 containers of fake and substandard pharmaceuticals that were intended to be cleared from the nations’ ports and borders.
According to her, these products could have been consumed by Nigerians with adverse health implications; but were intercepted with collaborative efforts of the Nigeria Customs Service, other security and sister agencies.
The growing concern with regards to the influx of unregistered products, she said, has brought to light the increasing need to continually improve compliance among ports traders and to also ensure that all stakeholders within the Port community work to achieve a safe and healthy society.
She, however, blamed the uncontrolled influx of fake, substandard, and unregistered products which negatively impacted on society in terms of public health and safety, security, and terrorism on the absence of NAFDAC at the nation’s ports from 2011 by the order of the then minister of finance.
‘’The challenge of internal security within the country was traced to the uncontrolled influx and use of psychotropic medicines such as tramadol and chemicals that could be diverted for terrorist activities’’, she said, adding that NAFDAC’s absence at the ports was highlighted as one of the factors and as such there was a dire need to return the agency back to the ports in 2018 as part of the efforts at strengthening regulation and control at the Ports shortly after she resumed office as DG NAFDAC.
With this return, Prof. Adeyeye said she directed that all NAFDAC processes that affect trade must be automated and readily available to stakeholders.
‘’This is evident in the online processing of approvals, certificates, permits, and authorizations issued by NAFDAC. We, therefore, fast-tracked our activities on the National Single Window for Trade which made NAFDAC electronic licenses to be processed on the Portal’’, she said. She added that the Agency also went further to ensure that its electronic licenses were integrated with the Central Bank of Nigeria Form M portal so that with just an Approval Reference number you are able to activate your NAFDAC e-license for Form M processing.
According to her, the Agency has gone a step further to ensure the availability of the Ports Inspection Data Capture and Risk Management System (PIDCARMS) as a full online processing portal for the clearance of goods at the ports.
The NAFDAC DG enthused that this has eliminated person – to – person contact with clients and ensured better regulatory control over NAFDAC regulated products.
‘’I am happy to state that from wherever in the world, you can process the clearance of your products with NAFDAC without visiting any formation of NAFDAC or Port offices.’’, she said, adding that there have been testimonies of persons in the United States, United Kingdom, India, South Africa who have processed their port clearance documentation with NAFDAC and released their goods without physically appearing at any NAFDAC office except where their clearing agent conducts a physical inspection of the products at the ports – ‘’which is the only time you meet any officer of NAFDAC’’.
‘’Many in the past thought that this was not possible but today, we have done over 30,000 transactions released end – to – end automatedly on the PIDCARMS portal since 1st May 2020 till date. All these achievements could not have been achieved without the leadership of the directorate by Professor Adebayo who does not settle for mediocrity but driven for excellence’’.
In their goodwill messages, both the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col (rtd.) Hameed Ibrahim Ali and Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi commended the NAFDAC DG for the initiative and synergy amongst government agencies saddled with the responsibility of facilitating import and export trade activities at the nation’s ports.
The Nigeria Customs Service boss who was represented by Deputy Controller General, Saidu Abubakar, noted that ‘’this kind of synergy will go a long way in facilitating trade and also create an avenue for reducing major issues that affect our stakeholders’’.
Mr Adeyemi Folorunso who stood in for MAN DG, noted that the sensitization webinar organized by NAFDAC would help to sanitize the nation’s ports. He said the workshop would go a long way in curbing fake and counterfeit products in the Nigerian market, stressing that this would invariably help boost the association’s members’ market shares with genuine products.
He, however, pledged MAN’s continued partnership with NAFDAC with a view to safeguarding the health of the nation.