By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has reeled out how it has simplified operations to conform to the realities of the demand of recent developments.
The Agency made this known in a communique while debunking the recent allegation of shoddy practices by the Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON).
The communique issued by the Management, said the simplification patterns which NAFDAC introduced and adopted into the system of its operations, halted any forms of corruption.
On the allegation which went viral on various online platforms, the Agency described the claim as handiwork of mischief makers and scrupulous elements trying to dent the image of the agency in its efforts to improve service delivery to stakeholders.
The communique said the publication titled; ‘APFFLON berates NAFDAC shoddy mode of operation’, was meant to portray the agency in bad light.
NAFDAC, however, said it decided to respond to the publication because the allegations are carefully crafted and baseless falsehood meant to discredit the agency and her efforts to improve service delivery to stakeholders.
“The contents of the publication especially with regards to the comments made by The National President of the Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Otunba Frank Ogunojemite are deliberately calculated mischievous, false and concocted statements that have been carefully scripted to fight back the anti-corruption systems being put in place by NAFDAC Management and to also mislead the general public on the new full ‘end-to-end online processing of the clearance of NAFDAC regulated products at the various airports, seaports and land borders.
“The general public is therefore advised to disregard the misguided statements and outcry of the APFFLON group elements who want to undermine the genuine efforts of NAFDAC as a responsible regulatory Agency that is making all efforts to facilitate trade, curb corruption and comply with the Federal Government’s reform agenda for the various ports.
“Our current drive is to always encourage compliance, be customer-focused and improve the ease of doing business while ensuring that safe and quality regulated products are available for Public Health use.”
Speaking on the innovations introduced into the new system of operations, the Agency said: “In the past, importers and clearing agents were made to physically move from one NAFDAC office to the other to process the clearance of their goods at the ports but with the appointment of the current Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, we fast tracked the implementation of electronic processing of the clearance of goods at the ports from issuance of licenses to the release of imported products at the ports.”
The agency opined that with the new development, the DG had “mandated that all processes within NAFDAC should move from the previous inefficient manual processing to online systems of doing transactions in line with the Federal Government desire to greatly improve the ease of doing businesses in Nigeria.”
It stressed that the machinery was therefore put in place to deploy a fully automated and computerized system for goods clearance at the ports.
“The full automated system was deployed in 2017 with an identified group of low risk importers and clearing agents who used the system for the clearance of their goods at the ports. This enabled them to clear their consignments without visiting the offices of NAFDAC except when invited for meetings,” it stated.
Meanwhile, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to enforce social distancing, the agency said it has reduced the online clearing system to a very simple process of submission and processing of documentation and release, saying
importers and clearing agents were asked to only fill four (4) fields and attach all the relevant documents as provided by the guidelines for clearance of goods at the ports.
“ The four fields where information are required to be supplied are; Email address for receipt of confirmatory token and transaction notification; Port office; SGD Number; SGD Date and then; Attach all their clearing documents. These simple steps were greatly commended by sincere stakeholders who were amazed that processing of documentation and clearance of goods could be simplified to just five steps.
“This system therefore put an end to the previous situation where Importers and clearing agents crowded NAFDAC offices requesting for services. Currently, the only place where a client sees a NAFDAC officer is at the point of physical inspection of imported goods at the ports and/or importer warehouses which for obvious reasons must take place”.
NAFDAC listed the benefits of the new system to include; ability to process documentation and clearance of NAFDAC regulated products at the ports from the comfort of offices and homes using smart phones, tablets and computer systems; ability to submit request on the online platform around the clock with NAFDAC officers processing them on-duty, off-duty, day and night.
The communique said NAFDAC officers are working round the clock to process any transaction submitted at any time, saying this can be attested to by sincere importers and clearing agents; elimination of person to person contact between Clients and staff and the tendency to compromise officers during cases of non-compliance.
“On the list also are provision of document verification and authentication system and pictorial display of inspection and inspected product packaging and labelling. Efficient Tracking system for transaction clearance with the corresponding customer friendly service by NAFDAC officers that enable clients check the status of their requests; transmission of Email Notification of Progress of completed processes directly to clients’ emails at the following stages.
“Others are auto generated Release Notices with Release codes and QR codes that can be verified by the Nigeria Customs Service and Importers using website and QR code technology respectively; which will specially eliminate the previous scenario where some unscrupulous clearing agents fake NAFDAC Invoices, Receipts and stamps and present same to Importers and the Customs; provision of simple step by step Pictorial User manual for the submission and processing of transactions on the NAFDAC portal for goods clearance at the ports; process monitoring and evaluation system with entrenched Key Performance Indicators for monitoring processing time for transactions and handling of complaints.”
The Agency berated APFFLON, saying it is known to have a penchant for discrediting sincere and innovative systems put in place by Government agencies.
It boasted that these systems tend to eliminate all the sharp practices of document faking, compromise of officers, bribery and corruption which used to exist with manual procedures that created room for contact with officers.
NAFDAC debunked allegation of website malfunctioning, saying its portal is a very simple user-friendly platform as clearly explained, saying many licensed clearing agents employ unprofessional semi-literate staff to process clearance of goods, “they do not have emails or cannot even use a simple computer system. The era of unprofessionalism is over as NAFDAC is going ahead with the modernization of all processes within the Agency.
“Processing of clearance of goods cannot commence with NAFDAC until declarations are made to the Nigeria Customs Service with the generation of the Single Goods Declaration (SGD) form which is transmitted to NAFDAC via the Nigeria Customs Service Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS). NAFDAC requests for SGD Reference Numbers for the processing of NAFDAC regulated products at the ports. For clarity, an SGD Reference number is generated upon payment of Customs duties as a unique identifier for processing of consignments. So, we do not understand how NAFDAC processes prevents the payment of Customs duties.”
On the allegation by APPFLON National President, accusing NAFDAC of using touts to extort people at NAFDAC offices, the agency said the allegation is gross display of misinformation. “We do not understand how touts can be used in a process that is completely online. A system where we have records of importers resident within and outside Nigeria who clear their consignments without any physical presence in our offices. NAFDAC does not in any way use camp boys and no non-NAFDAC staff is permitted into the NAFDAC Port offices except on invitation.
“NAFDAC has in various fora sensitized importers, clearing agents and other Ports stakeholders on the efforts being made to completely automate/computerize her processes. This we have done and would continue to improve on.”
The communique further said that NAFDAC is a customer focused agency and will always receive and accept constructive criticisms but will not accommodate criticisms that are clearly deceitful and misleading to the general public. “We have previously received some recommendations for better service delivery from credible importers and clearing agents which we have entrenched and we are continually committed to embracing more suggestions and recommendations that would keep improving the way we carry out our mandate, functions and activities.
“Also, our officers have been trained to be professional in carrying out their assignments ethically and have a mandate to ensure that they are Customer focused and Agency minded in all dealings. The performance of officers are continuously monitored through the generation of reports by the platform to ensure ethical best practice is upheld”.