The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders ( NAGAFF) has criticized the approach of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administrations and Control (NAFDAC) in discharging its functions in the ports, even as it has applauded the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and some other agencies of government in the ports for their efforts in executing the presidential order on ease of doing business at the ports.
In a press statement sent to Platform Reporters on Tuesday, the association maintained that its position on the Executive Order to enhance ease of doing business in our entry points remains the same for the reasons that such Executive Order is basically an indictment of Agencies of the Government for failing to implement and enforce all extant laws and regulations guiding international trade and ports operations and management in Nigeria.
The statement reads: However this is not the time any more to blame anybody or organization for the fact that the poor state of our ports is the making of all stakeholders and the Government agencies assigned to the ports and border locations.
Having said this, we must acknowledge the efforts of the Comptroller General of Customs Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority Hadiza Bala Usman, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council Barr. Hassan Bello, the AIG Maritime of Nigerian Police and the Director General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria Osita Abulome to have invited stakeholders to discuss the best way to go in addressing human element factors obstructing ease of doing business in our ports.
We regret to state that despite the fact that NAFDAC officials are deployed at the entry points in our country to interdict the influx of fake and substandard pharmaceutical products and chemicals, the leadership of NAFDAC have not for once engaged the stakeholders on how best they could achieve their mandate and statutory duty effectively and responsibly.
It is in the public domain that Mr. Kingsley who may be heading the Enforcement Unit of NAFDAC with his office at Mobil Road Apapa is usually seen whenever Customs Enforcement of the Area Commands of the Nigeria Customs at the seaports, airports, land borders and Federal Operations Unit are handing over suspected fake products to NAFDFAC.
The question, we should ask is why the Customs always hand over intercepted products to NAFDAC when their officials are found all over the entry points. This will show the Government the level of corruption occasioned by connivance on the part of some of the NAFDAC officials to allow the various breaches of their statutory duty.
The expectation of NAGAFF is that by now, NAFDAC should have been able to key into the new concept of ease of doing business by engaging the freight practitioners on the best way to interdict fake and adulterated pharmaceutical products into Nigeria.
They should be able to engage freight agents and other stakeholders over their concerns and worries about achieving their mandate with a view to adjusting to the concept of ease of doing business in their segment. It is apparent that NAFDAC may be more interested in revenue collection than their regulating and controlling responsibilities.
In the opinion of NAGAFF, it is strategic in-line with ease of doing business that every Agency of the Government should operate from outside the port and to be jointly invited for Customs examination at a particular time so that they can indicate their interest in a particular import before release is carried out by the Customs.
Under the principle and practices in the banking operation, the word “Know Your Customer” (KYC) is very strategic on matters of regulation and control of regulated products by the Government regulatory agencies i.e. NAFDAC and SON. It shall be most appropriate and procedural that after Customs examination and accounting for the revenue therein by the Customs, any of the regulatory agency of the Government who has interest in any cargo should follow it to the owners warehouse to conclude its regulatory functions.
This has to happen because the ports and borders are not meant to warehouse goods. And it will also afford the regulatory officials of NAFDAC and SON etc to interface with the actual owners of the goods.
To us at NAGAFF the status of NAFDAC at the ports/border should be conferred to SON equally for the reasons that SON has more scope to cover on matters of quality and standards of products imported into Nigeria. The need for fairness and equity cannot be overemphasized.
This is very necessary with a view to stopping SON Enforcement Unit from intercepting containers on the city roads based on intelligence reports. It is no longer news that the statutory duty of SON has been in breach for the reasons that they are not present at the ports during Customs examination.
NAGAFF is sincerely appreciative of the efforts of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority Hadiza Bala Usman for her courage to enforce port operating orders, the political will of the CGC to clear the city roads and highways of unauthorized patrol teams, the AIG Maritime is not also taking it lightly with any Police officer intercepting cargo from the ports and of course the leadership of Nigerian Shippers Council as a Commercial Regulator battling with terminal operators and shipping companies over arbitrary charges.
It shall be most appropriate and professional for the freight agents and the importers to imbibe the spirit and letters of rule of law and ports regulation. In other words the operating word shall be compliance, compliance and compliance to the rules of engagement. All matters in relation to false declaration, wrong description of imports and exports, under-declaration and under-valuation of imports shall have to stop forthwith.
NAGAFF is also advocating and advising NAFDAC and SON to apply the law for the good of the public by adopting the principles of corrective measures in carrying out their statutory duties because laws are made for man and not man for the law.
It is also important that they realize that they are not revenue collecting Agencies of the Government like the Customs but regulatory Agencies for quality assurance and standardization. However we must emphasise that it is simple for all persons to understand that the role of SON/NAFDAC in a society is strategic to lives and properties, and therefore, the need to support them is axiomatic and very important to our nation.
Stakeholders who may be complaining about the stringent nature of SON/NAFDAC laws may be out of it because SON/NAFDAC do not make laws but rather with a mandate as an executive arm of the Government to implement extant laws. While urging them to apply the laws for the good of the society, it is a responsibility on the part of the stakeholders to comply with all extant laws and wherein those who feel dissatisfied should approach the National Assembly for redress.
This is the way to go instead of taking laws into our own hands. This release is being endorsed to the appropriate Government leadership as a working document including Mr. President.