By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has linked the current challenge of internal security within the country to uncontrolled influx and use of psychotropic medicines such as Tramadol and other chemicals.
The agency warned that henceforth, it will not hesitate to drag any importer or clearing agent found to be involved in fraudulent activities at the country’s ports before the court.
The Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, gave the warning 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 (NCS), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and multinationals, amongst others.
As part of the agency’s efforts at strengthening its quality control systems, Adeyeye disclosed that NAFDAC had intercepted a large consignment of over 200 containers of fake and substandard pharmaceuticals that were intended to be cleared from the nation’s 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.
A statement issued on Sunday by the Resident Media Consultant of the agency, Mr. Sayo Akintola, quoted Adeyeye as having warned clearing agents and importers operating at the nation’s ports that the era of fraudulent activities is over in view of the need to safeguard the health of the Nigerian populace and the economy.
On the growing concern about the influx of unregistered products, Adeyeye blamed the uncontrolled influx of fake, substandard and unregistered products which negatively impacted on the society in terms of public health and safety, security, and terrorism on the absence of NAFDAC at the nation’s ports from 2011 as a result of an order by the then Minister of Finance.
She said: “The challenge of internal security within the country was traced to uncontrolled influx and use of psychotropic medicines such as Tramadol and chemicals that could be diverted for terrorist activities,” adding that the issue led to the redeployment of NAFDAC officials back to the ports in 2018.
Speaking on the activities of NAFDAC since its return to the country’s ports of entry, the DG said that NAFDAC is conscientiously working towards assisting stakeholders to achieve regulatory compliance by ensuring that all regulatory 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 March 1, 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 improve services to Nigeria importers and ensure that only safe and quality regulated products are available for distribution.
Adeyeye, however, said that NAFDAC would not tolerate any unprofessional act from any of its stakeholders, be it importers or clearing agents.
She also stated a situation whereby agents and possibly with the connivance of importers engage in falsification of NAFDAC documents will not be tolerated nor treated with kid gloves any longer.
She urged importers to always ensure that they make it their responsibility to initiate clearance of their goods.
‘’We shall take all legal means as an Agency set up by the Law of Nigeria to prosecute any erring stakeholder,” she said.
The NAFDAC boss further advised importers to desist from entrusting the entire process of clearance of their consignments to 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.
On the innovations introduced by the agency, Adeyeye said that NAFDAC has deployed various devices that will ensure auto verification of documents presented to the Agency during clearing, adding that this will enable the Agency to verify the true status of clearance of regulated products ‘’and ensure that we reward clients with low risk profile’’.
The NAFDAC DG 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 further stated that she has 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 licences to be processed on the portal,” she said.
The Agency, she said, also went further to ensure that its electronic licences are integrated with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Form M portal so that with just an Approval Reference number you are able to activate your NAFDAC e-licence 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 said that this has eliminated person-to-person contact with clients and ensured better regulatory control over NAFDAC regulated products.
She added that the agency has done over 30,000 transactions released end-to-end automated on the PIDCARMS portal since 1st May 2020 till date.
‘’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.
The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), and Director General of MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi, were represented during the webinar meeting.