National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) says it is automating all its port operations to reduce human interference and minimize corrupt tendencies in a bid to speed up cargo clearance in accordance with the tenets of the Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government.
Professor Samson Tunde Adebayo, Director of Port Inspection Directorate (PID), NAFDAC, stated this while reacting to various operational challenges listed by members of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Western Zone, who visited him at NAFDAC Yaba office in Lagos last week.
Some of the challenges listed by ANLCA were high product registration charges, delays in unblocking consignments, overcrowd in NAFDAC office causing time delay, among others.
Prof. Adebayo noted that it was the charge of the Director General of NAFDAC, Professor Mrs. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye, to them to ensure that every process in NAFDAC was automated to drastically reduce human interfaces and minimize corruptive tendencies.
On high fees for product registration, Prof. Adebayo was reported to say the charges were actually on the high side and unsustainable considering the processes involved in carrying out the registration of a product which required payment of travelling tickets, accommodation and feeding of three officials permitted to carry out the GMP abroad within one week. ‘’It is impossible to do more than three products per trip, to be thorough. When the costs of flight tickets, accommodation, feeding etc are put together, it becomes very clear that such increases are not sustainable,’’ said Adebayo.
As a member of the committee that worked on the tariffs review, he promised to canvass for a realistic tariff with the NAFDAC management.
On the issues of delay in unblocking consignments when queries sorted out, the Director explained that the process has been automated to the extent that once all payments and queries were attended to, the consignment was automatically released. ‘’What is likely to cause delays may be some administrative procedures that are not perfected before expecting releases,’’ he said.
Adebayo stated that physical inspection of products labeling, markings, languages violation/lapses are now electronically relayed from terminals for analysis at the Yaba headquarters for approvals for release to be granted.
On consideration for borderline products involving clarifications from Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and NAFDAC, the PID Director informed the visitors that an inter-ministerial approval has been granted by the office of the Vice President for the commencement of an electronic Form ‘M’ platform, with effect from Monday, 9th September 2019. He said the platform was to address noticed lapses in differentiating where products are to be classified, in cases of ambiguity.
While welcoming partnership with ANLCA in the campaign against fake drugs through the international borders to safeguard the health of the nation, Adebayo said NAFDAC officials were not police officers but were trained as professionals to direct importers, exporters and customs brokers to be compliant and imbibe the ideals of international best practices.
He advised ANLCA to enlighten their workers who interface with NAFDAC officials in the ports to always endeavor to follow the laid down procedures and stop faking their cargo documents and explained that the issue of network breakdown was regrettable.
On the issue of irregularities in labeling and inconsistencies in documentations, he said that NAFDAC has built its tracking of products capabilities to end this.
Earlier in his address, the Zonal Coordinator of ANLCA Western Zone, Comrade John DanKatsina Ofobike enumerated some operational challenges encountered by members of the Zone when interfacing with NAFDAC officials/offices in the course of delivering cargoes to their clients.
He called on the NAFDAC management to resolve all these challenges and ensure that members of the association were not left out in the policy formulation and implementation by the organization.