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NAFDAC debunks causing port congestion with e-certification processes

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The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has discredited the report linking the congestion at the ports to its e-certification processes.

This follows a publication in one of Nigeria’s daily newspapers on December 28, 2019, titled: ‘Port congestion worsens as NAFDAC conducts e-certification’, which the agency termed its contents as “completely untrue and baseless”

The regulatory agency said the contents of the publication, especially with regards to those made by the National Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Babatunde Mukaila was in a bid to mislead the general public on the clearance of products at the various seaports.

The agency noted that as part of the ongoing modernisation reforms by the Federal Government of Nigeria at the ports, it has assiduously worked towards the automation and digitisation of its processes and licenses respectively.

This, according to the agency, has resulted in the development and deployment of NAFDAC e-licenses for utilisation in the clearance of its regulated products.

“Prior to the deployment of the e-license on September 9, 2019, NAFDAC had held sensitisation workshops for importers and Authorized Dealer Banks (ADBs) in 2018. This was to prepare importers of NAFDAC regulated products on the need to digitise any documents that were not in electronic formats while the processes for the issuance of new NAFDAC licenses was automated and processed on the Federal Government Single Window for Trade, which is a one-stop portal for various agencies operating at the ports.

“In the past, NAFDAC documents were physically scanned and attached to the Central Bank of Nigeria Form M platform. As a result of this, the ADBs and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) were not able to verify and authenticate submitted NAFDAC documents. This gave room for unscrupulous importers to forge and use expired NAFDAC licenses to process their Form Ms.

“With the commencement of the e-license era, NAFDAC integrated her licenses with the Form M platform such that importers are no longer required to scan and attach NAFDAC licenses, but only input their Approval Reference Numbers, which would be auto-verified by the Form M platform during processing. As a result, many importers who were used to utilising unapproved licenses could not process their Form M,” NAFDAC explained.

The agency noted that it is against the Federal Ministry of Finance Import Guidelines, Procedures and Documentation requirements under the Destination Inspection Scheme to ship any consignment without opening Form M, which it said cannot be validly opened when “you do not have a valid licence from the agency regulating the product.”

NAFDAC added that those in this predicament have been violating this import procedure for years and are now caught up because of the integration.

“It is, therefore, misleading, deceptive and baseless for any importer or agent alluding the congestion at the Ports to the e-certification processes of NAFDAC. Indeed, this is a means of perpetrating evil and attempt to continuing in dirty and unscrupulous procedures in the clearance of regulated products. Their attempts can be considered as frustrating trade facilitation,” the agency lamented.

The agency stressed that there are unanswered questions from the statements made by ANLCA National Secretary, which are: “What are the consignments said to be stuck at the ports doing at the Ports?”, noting that according to the Import Guidelines in A1, “Any person intending to import physical goods into Nigeria shall in the first instance process e-Form M through any Authorized dealer bank irrespective of the value and whether or not payment is involved. The interpretation of this statement is that no consignment should leave the country of origin without an approved Form M.”

The agency added that it is imperative to note that the CCVO, which should be issued for the consignment before leaving the port of origin should have an e-Form M information, noting, “how was the CCVO issued when there is no approved e-Form M?”

It continued: “These are questions begging for answers. It is worthy of note that any compliant importer of NAFDAC regulated products having approved NAFDAC e-licenses and has followed the approved Federal Ministry of Finance Import Guidelines, Procedures and Documentation requirements under the Destination Inspection Scheme will not complain about NAFDAC’s Introduction of e-licences.”
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