The incidence of rejection of food exports from Nigeria by some European countries and the United States of America may soon become a thing of the past if collaboration between the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC and other government agencies at the ports is strengthened.
The Director General, NAFDAC, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, made the assertion at the official commissioning of the New NAFDAC Office complex for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport/NAHCO, Lagos where she lamented that over 70 per cent of food exports from Nigeria are rejected abroad with huge financial losses to the exporters and the country at large.
A statement by the Resident Media Consultant to NAFDAC, Sayo Akintola, on Sunday, quoted the DG as saying that the deplorable state of export trade facilitation for regulated products leaving the country has continued to be a serious cause for concern for her Agency, adding that a trip to NAFDAC Export warehouses within the international airport will explain unequivocally the major reason for the continuous rejection of Nigerian exports abroad.
She, however, noted that the Agency is responding to this great challenge by initiating a collaborative adventure with the government agencies at the Ports towards ensuring that goods are of requisite quality and meet the regulatory requirements of the importing countries and destinations before such are even packaged and hauled to the ports for shipment.
According to her, this raises the need for a more enhanced regulation of export – packaging, pre-shipment testing and certification to provide some quality assurance and to minimize rejects.
To save our national reputation in the international commerce, Prof Adeyeye called on all stakeholders in the export trade to see this as a call to duty and collaborate with NAFDAC for the sake of country and our collective future.
‘’The mandate to safeguard the health of the populace through ensuring that food, medicines, cosmetics, medical devices, chemicals, and packaged water are safe, efficacious and of the right quality in an economy that is overwhelmingly dependent on importation of the bulk of its finished products and raw materials could never have been actualized without effective presence of NAFDAC at the ports and land borders’’, she said.
She recalled that this informed ‘’our push through the resilience of the past Director, Prof Samson Adebayo on assumption of duties, for the immediate return of NAFDAC to the ports that eventually happened in May 2018’’, stressing that ‘’with gratitude for the approval of the President and the various arms of the Government, the results of our presence at the ports are available for everyone to see’’.
She, however, commended the Nigeria Customs Service for the symbiotic relationship that exists between its management and the Agency, saying ‘’without customs, we will not be able to do a lot of what we have been able to do. The collaboration between Customs and NAFDAC is huge. NAFDAC is a complex organization. We are scientific. We are police and we work with DSS. We work with Interpol and FBI because of the few stakeholders that are unscrupulous. NAFDAC collaborates with Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services, to ensure that due diligence is done because over 70 per cent of the products that leave our ports get rejected. Considering the money spent on getting those products out of the country, it is a double loss for both the exporter and the country)’’.
‘’Without the police we cannot do much in terms of investigation and enforcement. We have over 80 policemen with us in NAFDAC. They help us a lot when we are doing raids or investigations as the case may be’’.
In pursuit of its mandate, she further explained that the Agency has embarked on the optimization and customization of its processes, stating that the Ports Inspection Data-Capture and Risk Management System (PIDCARMS) is presently deployed in all of the nation’s ports and land borders to automatically capture and process data for imported regulated products from the Nigeria Customs Information System (NICIS).
The DG said the Agency is also working assiduously with relevant stakeholders towards implementation of Traceability for pharmaceuticals in Nigeria, recalling that a Traceability Pilot was conducted successfully For COVID-19 Vaccines distribution and a scale-up is being done as soon as feasible, for medicines and other regulated products.
‘’The Traceability Information System was developed from PIDCARMS, which underscores the integrative system of NAFDAC.
These efforts will further boost our regulatory oversight in monitoring the importation and distribution of medicines to ensure that spurious, substandard, and falsified (fake and counterfeit) products are minimized and are eventually blocked out from our supply chain’’.
‘’Similarly, our Post-marketing Surveillance initiatives that involve the Ports Inspection Directorate are gaining global recognition, and we intend to do much more for our nation, especially for future generations’’, she said. She stated that the Agency has extended the frontiers of the fight against substandard products through the procurement of more Truscan devices to further boost on-spot checks for quality of products at the ports, shops, market spaces and anywhere else.
According to Prof. Adeyeye, NAFDAC as a customer-focused and Agency minded organization under her leadership has ‘’steadily engaged in improving service delivery in the course of carrying out our mandate as enshrined in the NAFDAC Act Cap N1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, which empowers us among others, to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, chemicals, medical devices and packaged water (known as regulated products)’’.
She said these efforts have paid off as NAFDAC has recently been recognized as a world class regulator, with the conferment of the WHO ML3 Status and with continuous improvement of our processes and procedures progressing towards becoming a WHO Listed regulatory Authority (WLA) status to the satisfaction of our customers.
In a bid to deliver on its mandate in spite of the various challenges, she said ‘’we have spent the last few years of my first tenure in the onerous task of building new and upgrading obsolete infrastructure to make them befit to our status, and to provide a safe and comfortable working environment for our staff for maximum output’’.
The NAHCO Office Complex, according to Prof. Adeyeye, is one of the two facilities commissioned same day as part of her efforts to position the Agency as a global regulator that is fully equipped to undertake its regulatory oversight in compliance with Global best practices. She had earlier in the day commissioned the Ogun State NAFDAC office complex in Abeokuta with pomp and ceremony. Seven NAFDAC state office complexes have been completed by the DG across the country in the last five years while many others are at different stages of completion.
The NAHCO Complex presently houses fully equipped and befitting Office Spaces for staff, some of whom run a 24-hour surveillance service, a Press/Conference room that can sit forty persons, a temporary mini-warehouse equipped with temperature-sensitive storage facility, as well as light-duty vehicular equipment for safely moving items till such are ready for release or seizure for destruction.
‘’My heart broke one day in early 2018 when our former director of Port Inspection Directorate sent me a picture of our staff at the Apapa port working from inside their car with a big umbrella because it was raining so that clients can come in and take care of their business. I was shocked’’, she said in a voice laden with grief, stressing that ‘’with this monumental edifice with maximum comfort and tools, all that has become a thing of the past for our staff’’.