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Online clearance processes designed to curb corruption, says NAFDAC

THE National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has emphasised that the new full end-to-end online processing of the clearance of regulated products at airports, seaports and land borders is part of its drive to fight corruption in the system and ease the process of clearance.

This was in reaction to an online publication by the Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), which berated NAFDAC’s new mode of operation. According to the agency, the allegations are falsehoods meant to discredit NAFDAC and her efforts to improve service delivery to stakeholders. The contents of the publication are concocted falsehoods carefully scripted to fight back the anti-corruption system 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.

In the new system, the agency stressed that its online clearance system has been reduced to a simple process of submission and processing of document and release. This, it insisted, is because of the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to adhere strictly to safety measures like physical and social distancing guidelines being enforced throughout the country. Unlike in the past where 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, implementation of electronic processing has fast tracked the process from issuance of licences to the release of imported products at the ports. The era of unprofessionalism is over, Prof Moji Adeyeye-led NAFDAC said, adding as it was going ahead with the modernisation of all processes within the agency.

In a statement, the Director of Public Affairs of NAFDAC, Dr. Jimoh Abubakar, said: “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.

“She 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. Machinery was therefore put in place to deploy a fully automated and computerised 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. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to enforce social distancing, NAFDAC reduced the online clearing system to a very simple process of submission and processing of documentation and release. Importers and clearing agents were asked to only fill four fields and attach all the relevant documents as provided by the guidelines for clearance of goods at the ports. The inputs required are – Email address for receipt of confirmatory token and transaction notifications, port office, SGD number, SGD date and then attach all their clearing documents.”

As far as NAFDAC is concerned, the benefits of electronic processing of clearance are numerous, among which are the processing documentation and clearance of NAFDAC regulated products at the ports from the comfort of offices and homes using smart phones, tablets and computer systems; submission of request on the online platform around the clock with NAFDAC officers processing them on-duty, off-duty, day and night; transmission of email notification of progress of completed processes directly to clients’ emails. Others are: elimination of person to person contact between clients and staff and the tendency to compromise officers during cases of non-compliance; 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; and process monitoring and evaluation system with entrenched key performance indicators for monitoring processing time for transactions and handling of complaints, among other benefits.

“APFFLON is known to have a penchant for discrediting sincere and innovative systems put in place by government agencies because 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. The NAFDAC portal is a very simple user-friendly platform as clearly explained above and because 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.

“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). The publication also stated that the APPFLON National President accused NAFDAC of using touts who extort people at NAFDAC offices.”

NAFDAC said it has, at various fora sensitised importers, clearing agents and other ports stakeholders on the efforts being made to completely automate/computerise her processes. It therefore, advised the general public to disregard the misguided statements and outcry of the APFFLON group elements, who according to the agency, “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.”

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