BY Eguono Odjegba
THE National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has rejected the toga of idleness by a leading freight forwarding association in Lagos, recently.
Seme Coordinator of NAFDAC, Dr. Nurudeen Audu, who made the disclaimer also debunked report that operatives of the agency are involved in stop and search activities along the Lagos Mile 2/Seme expressway.
Consequently, he advised the general public to treat whoever poses as NAFDAC official anywhere on the highway as impostor, and should challenge those involved, raise alarm or better still, call the attention of the police.
Reacting to Vanguard Maritime Report on its alleged idleness, following recurring long queue of trucks at the examination bay in Seme, Audu said the agency has nothing to do with the queue as its job in the joint examination of goods by all accredited security agencies begins only when the Nigeria Customs Service invites it for the participatory examination, and endorses the report for purposes of customs release.
According to Audu, “I don’t think it is correct to say NAFDAC is lazy and or is asleep while Customs is making all the seizures. To start with, there is hardly any examination, scanning or physical in which we are not represented, because Customs cannot go it alone and as soon as they, Customs, extends invitation for joint examination, NAFDAC is there. If there have been cases of pile up of trucks awaiting examination, it will be unfair to attribute the problem to NAFDAC.
“On the issue of seizures, again those complaining are getting it wrong, as far as I know in Seme here, the seizures are collaborative efforts”.
This is even as he labelled substandard and unapproved products found in Lagos markets and beyond as smuggled goods; assuring that the agency will never aid the entry of unregistered and counterfeit products into the country. He said, “As you may be aware, most smugglers don’t follow government approved routes, they ply illegal bush paths and the creeks through the sea. They load their wares into big boats at Cotonou and the adjoining sea and ferry these things to Mile 2 in Lagos through the lagoon.
“There are lots of creeks adjoining the lagoon, the smugglers utilize these and they are in hundreds.
The smugglers are active during night; they will spread havoc into the nation’s economy. “NAFDAC don’t work at night, and when you finish your job by evening around 6pm or 9pm, what you don’t expect through these inimical movements by night result in the assemblage of unregistered products at the market in Lagos, which scatters far and wide.
“When I came to this place there were nine checkpoints belonging to NAFDAC. I scrapped all of them, it is not our jurisdiction to be on the road and be flagging down trucks. Once we finish with you at the examination bay, we are done with you, whatever comes next, I will take responsibility because the trucks passed through me during the joint examination at Seme.
“NAFDAC has a Standard operating Procedure, SOP, which clearly define our role and maps out our limits and it is my responsibility to ensure that we are guided by our SOP. So any report about my men mounting road block along the expressway cannot be correct, we don’t. Let the public know that NAFDAC does not maintain checkpoints; anyone who stops you in the name of NAFDAC is an impostor. Challenge that person, raise alarm and attract the police of customs.
“It is also not true that NAFDAC does not make seizures and that we are just onlooker at our station, that statement is incorrect. The border post is customs border post and by virtue of our SOP, we have a duty to maintain a harmonious relationship with the customs as landlord and other sister agencies. In the whole export/import trade in Nigeria, in fact all over the world, the customs is the custodian of the border and seaport and airport. When we carry out joint cargo examination and we discover any unlawful items within our exclusive list, we identify same but don’t forget the whole process and checks is under customs custody. The offensive items are isolated by us but in the custody of customs, who later formally hands over to us. So if customs are making announcements about seized items under NAFDAC jurisdiction, this does not mean always that customs made the seizure, very often, they are collaborative efforts. We respect our landlord and we are guided by NAFDAC standard operating procedure, SOP.”